Car rides are not our family’s favorite adventures. Pip hasn’t ever exactly loved the car, and each age has posed different challenges for car time. The best method for surviving car rides is to schedule the ride around a nap, so she snoozes as we go. But of course, this isn’t always possible. I mostly drive with her from day care to our house (about 15 minutes) and in trips to visit my dad (an hour’s drive).
A big part of car ride success is making sure her belly’s full before departure, because no one likes to go around even a little hungry, especially a 14 month old. I tank her up before we leave day care but sometimes she’s been missing me and just wants my attention, so having to be separated (by the front seat) can be upsetting for her. We’ve developed some go-to survival tactics to get us through the car rides.
* Music! We love music in our family and in our house, and popping in Pip’s favorite CD is a great distraction technique. I love seeing her little head bob back and forth as the music goes. Her current favorite song is “Six Little Ducks” which we’ve played on repeat for many trips. Another great go-to is “If All the Raindrops” which she’s been able to sing the “ah ah ah” part for a while now.
* Singing! Sometimes listening to music isn’t enough, so I end up shutting off the radio and singing to her myself. She happens to think I am an opera singer so I gleefully give her her own concert (we’re still working on saying “bravo” and “encore, encore!”). Our current favorite is “Wheels on the bus” which I know about 457 verses to, tyvm.
* Books! Pip is an avid reader (hee!) and I make sure I have a stack of books up front with me that I can pass to her to read as we drive. (This goes the same for toys.) Since I know most of the books by heart, I sometimes chime in and talk about what she’s reading as she points and chatters on.
* Mums! These little snacks dissolve in your mouth so I feel “OK” giving them to her while we drive. I only give her half at a time and of course watch in the mirror. This has the added bonus of filling her belly to make her more comfortable if necessary. And since she nibbles, it can occupy one or two solid minutes (ha!).
* Beep Beep! Pip has recently learned that cars make the noise “beep beep” so while she presses her toy car key buttons and shouts it out, I find a quiet stretch of road and beep beep the car horn for our entertainment.
* Stories! I’ve found recently that rambling on at loud volume also distracts Pip as we drive. I’m sure to use her name a lot as I babble, so she knows I’m talking to her. Often I just ramble on about what I’m seeing and how much longer it is until we get home.
* Information! OK, that’s kind of a lame bullet LOL buuuut I think it helps to always tell her where we’re headed, how long it will take, tell her that mama’s going to go drive us and also tell her when we arrive. I like to use “here we are, home again” in a sing-song voice, the same phrase my mom would say to us when we pulled up in our driveway. :)
* Cuddles! I’m always sure to dispense extra cuddles before and after a difficult car ride. I hope this reassures her that I’m always with her and hearing her.
On the few occassions where Pip’s gotten beyond distraction and into full out crying bouts, I never hesitate to pull over and soothe her. Her comfort is my utmost priority, which is why I’ve gotten off highways, stopped in neighborhoods, pulled into bank parking lots, to get out and comfort and usually nurse her until we both were ready to continue on. I hate it when she’s upset or stressed so I am only too grateful that I can easily address her distress and get us back to singing… or even better, sleeping. :)
For some creative ideas on how to get a toddler into the car seat, check out Dionna’s post at Code Name: Mama.