Ten Tips to Relieve Toddler Carseat Woes

My three year old has been the hardest of all my children to get in his carseat, preferring to take extra time to get in his seat. After making certain that the seat is comfortable, I have a few things that have helped us with the dilemma.

1. Planning extra time. Starting somewhere after age 1, I planned in an extra five minutes to account for him taking his time to get in the seat. Around age 2 1/2, that got bumped to 10 minutes for a while but luckily we worked through that pretty quickly.

2. Going over our plans before we get in the van. “I’d like you to get in your seat right away. We don’t have a lot of time and we need to leave now in order to get to our underwater basket weaving class.”

3. Making a game out of it. “Where are we headed today? To the moon? To Mars? To chase dinosaurs?”

4. Deep breaths. I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are only little for so long and I should enjoy it. When I am stressed about leaving, it just seems to take even more time for him to get in his seat.

5. Food. Even now, my son will often ask for a mint when we get out to the van. I tell him I will get the mint while he gets in his seat.

6. Making certain we have enough home days. My son is a homebody. If we have been going places a lot, he will drag getting into his seat even more. He needs time at home.

7. When he was younger, playfully scooping him up, kissing him, and putting him in his seat (rather than having him climb up himself) prevented a lot of it. That doesn’t work now because he wants to climb up on his own.

8. Go fast. This summer I’ve mentioned that the faster we get buckled, the faster we get the air conditioner on, and the faster we get home to a nice drink with ice in it.

9. Something to do. Giving him a toy or activity to do in his carseat helps. Luckily he is still rear-facing, so it kind of keeps stuff in his carseat rather than all over the backseat.

10. Making certain he has other times to explore the van. It’s pretty exciting, I have to admit. The idea of (pretend) driving somewhere or looking at buttons is appealing. If he has time to do that when we aren’t in a hurry – prime times are when cleaning out the van or when we are sitting in the van while I nurse the baby – he is less likely to want to do it when we are on our way.

Photo Credit: Photo by are you my rik?


This post was previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

About The Author: Mandy

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Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

8 Responses to Ten Tips to Relieve Toddler Carseat Woes

  1. Hannah Gardner  

    So far my one year old doesn’t put up too much fuss about being in her seat, but I’m sure as she gets older it could be a problem. I’m glad I found this article so i will know what to do when that time comes!

  2. Christy

    Those are great suggestions. Thank you. My daughter is not a fan of her car seat, but she loves the car. I think letting her explore the car (when it’s safe of course) might help.

  3. Jessica

    When my niece was around 1-2 years old (she is now 12 years old), she started to unbuckle herself from her car seat. I remember my Sister-In-Law having to pull off the side of the road many times to re-buckle her child in. Now that I’m a Mom of an independence little guy, I’m constantly glancing back to make sure he is still buckled in. He hasn’t unbuckled yet but it is one thing I do worry about. Do you have any advise on how to keep a toddler from doing this?

  4. Jorie

    @Jessica, most carseats I think are too difficult for a toddler to unbuckle themselves (though that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t had a child do it!) My parents and ILs struggle with the carseat buckles actually because I think they are much more childproof now. My daughter is 3.5 and she has had a few good tantrums when she tried very hard to undo the carseat, but she could not manage it.

  5. Helen

    My youngest took what I thought at the time was an unreasoning dislike to his carseat when he was one. Looking back, I wonder if he associated it with being taken to hospital for his ear surgery. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is going on in a child’s mind!

  6. Gauri

    Oh, yeah, I relate so much. My child is a little younger but these are all tips which make a lot of sense, some of which I use already (like snacks); some I will certainly try (explaining before hand; making a game of it; something to play with).

    Thank you and very topical with the new AAP guidelines out 🙂

  7. Momma Jorje

    My 1½yo has started fussing about getting buckled, especially if we haven’t been at a place for very long. She will buck and writhe to get loose. She has recently started asking for milk. (I suppose I’m always a sucker for that request.)

    Recently I’ve gone ahead and let her nurse for a couple of minutes *after* getting buckled into her car seat.

    We have a new truck and I definitely let her play drive and press / turn buttons and knobs while we are waiting for her sister (from school or library).

  8. Mrs. Smitty

    #2, #4 and #9 are my biggest aids. Another is realizing that my toddler wants independence. That means allowing her to climb in herself and buckle herself (thankfully she hasn’t learned to *UN*buckle herself yet). If she asks for aid, I’ll remind her that she’s a big girl and should try once more before asking for help. She’s so much happier to have that small accomplishment, it makes the entire car ride easier.