Top tip for travelling in the car with babies and toddlers
Aoife Lee is a certified parent coach and is also a busy mum of three – Charlie who is 12, Katie who is 9 and Jamie who is 3 years old. As a parent herself, Aoife knows how difficult and challenging it can be on a daily basis to tackle the different personalities and stages that children reach, as well as their different ages and needs. But having supported families for the last 20 years, on both a one to one basis as well as providing parenting wellness talks to large corporations, she is passionate about helping parents the country over and understands the woes we all experience.
Here, Aoife offers her top tips on travelling in the car with babies and toddlers, as well as offering her advice on dealing with those dreaded car seat woes.
If you missed Aoife’s IGTV on Kaliedy’s page, you can watch the video at the very bottom of this blog.
Travelling with Toddlers
It’s a breath of fresh air that we can finally start planning the summer months again, whether it’s a staycation across the country or a long overdue visit to see and stay with family or friends. Having my own gang, I know that for a lot of families, travelling with babies and toddlers is not always an easy task. And for the last 12 months, a lot of babies and toddlers will have missed out on regular car journeys, making the sudden change possibly even more daunting for parents. Here are my top tips for making that journey a more pleasant one for the whole family.
Preparation is key
The more prepared we are, the more confident we will be as parents about packing the car and heading off on a long car journey. The main aim in preparing is to strike a balance between parents being prepared, and preparing the children for what lies ahead too. The more calm and relaxed you feel as a mother or father, with plans to take everything one step at a time, will prove useful.
Look at your schedule
Whether you’re going on a short or longer journey, I recommend considering the time of day that you are going to travel. Consider the needs of your children and where they are at with their schedules – what time they need to nap, what time they need to eat, what kind of form they’re in., which will help the journey flow a little easier. I always find that going early in the morning is good as it can coincide with a nap in the middle of the journey.
Be prepared to stop along the way
Be prepared to stop along the way. This is where looking at your schedule will prove useful. Factor in some time to stop and breast or bottle feed your baby. Try and be familiar with the settings along the way so that you’re stopping somewhere where you are comfortable, safe and have a little bit of privacy. You don’t want to be under pressure so the more comfortable you feel when you stop, the better. The earlier you set off on your journey, the less likely it will be that you will need to stop as it gets to dusk or dark. If you have a baby with colic, or a toddler in the middle of toilet training, these stops will be crucial and the more time you give yourself to make those stops, the less pressure you will feel.
Pack the essentials
Pack all of your nap essentials, particularly if you have a smaller baby. That includes blankets, soothers, bottles or teddies. And for all children, it is useful to have an easy access bag. Something nice and wide for the parent to be able to access everything they need – whether that is snacks, baby equipment, nappies and wipes or a change of clothes. Nobody wants to be rooting through a roofbox or suitcase when they could have it all easily accessible on the floor of the passenger seat.
As children grow, it can be useful to have their own backpacks with their own essentials. They can pack their own bags with some toys or books and activities that they can reach for themselves, giving them a little bit of independence and frees the parent’s responsibilities up slightly too.
Our kids have so much at home and you’re limited to how much you can bring in the car pr pack in the boot, so I always find it useful to go to the local euro shop and pick up some cheap and cheerful never before seen items, giving children the novelty ‘wow’ factor, whether it is crayons or toy cars, anything you know your child might like. In the weeks prior to travelling, put away some stuff that they’re not going to see for a couple of weeks so when you do produce them in the car or when you reach your destination, it can be fun and interesting for them. Kids love surprises and if we can produce something on hand it will bide you some time.
Snacks and Drinks
When it comes to the snacks and drinks, the more accessible they are the better. Children will potentially graze for the entire journey so be sure to prepare snacks or meals – the more you can have them on hand the better. You don’t have to stop, but you do need to be mindful of them eating and that they’re safe and that you are able to keep an eye on them.
Car Seat Organiser
When you consider all the activities, books, snacks and drinks that you might need to have on hand, I do recommend finding a car seat organizer. Just place it on the back of the car seat and within that there are lots of different pockets, lot of it is displayed and makes items for children easily accessible. It has always proven a hit with my own children!
First Aid Essentials
While you will most likely pack a bigger bag of first aid items for when you reach your destination, having something for the journey can be helpful just in case – something to pack the thermometer, some liquid paracetamal and some cleansing wipes. For children who tend to have queasy tummies, look at packing some anti sickness bands for their wrists.
Car Seat Woes
It doesn’t take a long journey for kids to resist the car seat. We have all seen or experienced the arched back, the absolute determination and strength of our toddlers when they don’t want to sit in the car seat. But it is part and parcel of them growing up, it’s part of their temperaments and personalities. As they get older they become more independent and with that comes different challenges. Trying to get them in the car seat is just one of these.
How to deal with car seat woes:
- Keep calm. The calmer we can be as the parent, the better the situation will be. We all have an expectation of our toddler doing what they’re told but this isn’t always the case. Kids pick up on our stress energy and emotions and they’ll feed into it.
- The more kids are aware of what is happening next, the better they cope. Name the stages and be specific: “We are going to get you in to the car now, what do you want to bring to the car with you? What book do you want to read first? Often with toddlers it is about control, they want to do things by themselves, so letting them get into the seat themselves can help.
- Give yourself time. The more pressure you’re under, the harder it is. Give yourself an extra five or ten minutes to get your children into the car. Let them potter about the car if it’s safe to do so, maybe while you’re packing the boot.
- Acknowledge feelings. When we acknowledge children’s feelings, they feel validated. When they are upset, tell them that you understand: “I know you don’t like the car seat, I know it’s not comfortable and let’s see how we can make it better.” If you tell them that they’re fine and to just get on with it, children can struggle with that. Naming the frustration can often diffuse the situation.
- Praise and encourage. As kids get older, they might reach the stage when they can put the belt on themselves, give them the extra time to do that, it’s something they are in control of, and then praise and encourage. Be specific for what you’re praising them for so that they know.
- Be patient. Changes won’t just happen overnight but persevere and be consistent and stick to the same messages. Children cope better when they know the plan and we name the stages. Remember all of these woes are common and are all part of growing up!