Now that you have a wiggly and wild toddler, hitting the road for a quick weekend getaway might sound like less of a vacation and more like "enhanced interrogation techniques". For some toddlers a ride in the car is no big deal, while for others, even ten minutes is a struggle. But any child who has to remain in their car seat for more than an hour or two will most likely be pretty unhappy about it. Hopefully these tips will give you a few ideas for things you can do to keep your little back seat screamer from losing his patience.
1. Pack a small toy box behind the driver's seat.
While the box needs to be small to fit behind the driver's seat, the toys in it can be pretty big. Interactive toys like a xylophone, a see-n-say, or any one of the Leap Frog brand toys are great for travelling with. Smaller toys are good too, but they should be softer. If your little fuzzy-bunny suddenly throws a fit, you don't want her to also throw a small hard object inside the car. Though she may not be able to cause any real damage to anything herself, the distraction to the driver is potentially serious. Some soft small toys that are good for travel are Beanie Babies, finger puppets and cloth books.
2. Bring some gum.
One of the first things I think of when I think of chewing gum is how my mother would always tell me that my teeth would rot if I had it too often. Turns out that though my mom was right back then, times have changed. Now it is actually recommended that you have your children chew sugar free gum with xylitol a few times a day to fight cavities! Also, as you drive up and down mountains your toddler's ears might need help to relieve the pressure from altitude changes and chewing gum is great for that. If your little caterpillar thinks that he is getting a special treat, all the better. Just be sure to cover your car's seat cushions with towels or blankets if your toddler is not used to chewing gum.
3. Bring music and headphones.
If you have any type of mp3 player be sure to download a few fun songs for your funky little chicken to groove to while you roll on down the road. Since you might have a different taste in music than your little one, bringing earphones can be a great relief. Your toddler will probably think they are way cool, and enjoy putting them on and taking them off several times before settling down to listen. This should buy you a good chunk of time to relax and enjoy the scenery.
4. Make a schedule of stops.
One of the worst hazards of road trips for toddlers is diaper rashes. If your toddler makes a mess in his pants and sits in it for even 10 to 15 minutes it can result in a much worse rash than normal. Taking a rest stop every 2 to 3 hours to change your little poopers poopies is a great idea. Since it can be easy to lose track of time when you are on the road, planning where you are going to stop before you leave will help keep you on a good schedule.
5. Have special labor-intensive snacks on hand.
My favorite versions of the labor intensive snacks are food necklaces. Froot loops, popcorn and Cheerios are easy to thread onto a length of string and hang around you little muncher's neck. I only recommend this type of snack for times when you will be able to closely supervise your toddler, because if left unsupervised, even a simple snack necklace could be a hazard for your child. If you are uncomfortable with placing the snack necklace around your toddlers neck, you can also tie it around one of your little piranha's car seat straps. Other fairly tricky snacks are a box of raisins, jello in a Ziploc bag with a small hole cut in the corner for your toddler to squeeze the treat out and sugar free lollipops.
Trick: Iphone toddler games.
One more little trick you can use if you have an Iphone, is to download a free toddler game like "memory" or a simple vocabulary "touch the picture" game. These games can captivate your little passenger's attention for quite a long time. The only problems are, you might want to be playing a game on there yourself, and your toddler could mess up your phone if you don't keep an eye on him.
Having a successful road trip with your little adventurer is not really all that hard for most families. Starting off with a plan, and lots of strategies for helping your little buddy stay occupied is key. Don't forget to bring several sippy cups with water in them for hydration, and a blanket for propping up your toddlers head if she falls asleep. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to other parents of toddlers that you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!