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So, Your Baby Hates Her Car Seat? Here’s What To Do.

“My baby hates car seats. She cries if I’m not holding her.”

It’s always easier not to deal with the fuss that buckling up properly can generate — and car seats for children can generate a lot of fuss. Toddlers and small children particularly are inclined to start trying to throw their weight around and establish independence, which is developmentally appropriate, but also something of a nightmare for parents who just want to get going. It’s tempting to admit defeat when a baby cries in the car seat. But after our in-depth look into the myths around using car seats for children, we were convinced of one reality: Car seats save lives in a way parents’ arms and laps can’t.

But try telling a toddler who hates her car seat that. Instead, here are some ways to make riding in a car seat or booster seat more palatable for kids.

Tips for getting a baby or toddler who hates the car seat to ride in one

Stop trying to convince.

Kids protest when they know there’s an alternative — don’t offer one. Make car seats a rule, and don’t make exceptions, regardless of how long or short the journey, or the number of co-passengers. When you let kids travel in your lap even once or twice, it gives them a reason to protest the next time you decide to strap them in. If they don’t know another way to travel, that won’t happen and eventually your baby who cries at the sight of a car seat will stop.

Make safety fun.

Children are going to dread anything they must do by coercion. So if your toddler hates her car seat, try making up stories about how fun and exciting safety is, or how her favorite animal or book character loves feeling safe in a car seat. If you can actually get a policeman to tell your child that he’s a good boy/she’s a good girl for riding in a car seat, you’ll ward off years of battles.

Keep the conversation going.

If car seat time becomes silent time, you’re sure to face resistance, especially if your child is in a rear-facing seat. The isolation will make your baby hate his car seat and sitting in it feel like a punishment. If you can, sit next to your child and talk to him. If you are the only adult in the car, make sure to keep him engaged from the driver’s seat. You can describe the places you’re whizzing past – “That’s the store where we buy eggs” – or tell her about where you’re headed – “Isn’t the big yellow slide at the playground your favorite?” — or even sing his favourite songs and nursery rhymes.

Make the car feel like home.

Familiarity, in this case, breeds acceptance, particularly for infants and toddlers who hate the car seat. Bring your child his favourite blanket, his rattle, his toys or stuffed animal, or a favorite playlist. If everything about the surroundings is comfortable and enjoyable, the car seat is less likely to be a bother for children.

Avoid snacking in the seat.

Strap tugging and food splattering don’t make for a peaceful car ride. And with all of the speed breakers and potholes in our cities, even the bluntest plastic spoon could injure your kid. So, while it might save time to grab lunch on the road, it could make car seat time a source of stress. (The exception is for older toddlers and young kids in booster seats, who can handle the snack on their own.)

Create a special car-time game.

This could be a toy that only stays in the car, or an exciting book you read a few pages at a time whenever you’re on the road. Perhaps your toddler who hates her car seat is intrigued by the wild — then create a little jungle in the car with stuffed animals and a wild animal soundtrack. Pretend your baby is a mahout and the car seat, her royal elephant throne. If there is an exciting story, toy or experience that is unique to the car seat, car time can develop its own appeal.

Got any more tricks for dealing with a baby who hates car seats? Tell us in the comments!

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