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How to… keep kids happy in the car

November 16, 2017


We’ve all had those days – the kids won’t get into the car, don’t want to be buckled up, and then spend the whole trip crying, whining or worse. Whether it’s a five-minute or five-hour journey, your nerves will be jangled, and your day feels ruined. Therefore, I am proud to be partnering with Babyshop to raise awareness and share my insight on this topic with all parents.

So how can we make these situations less stressful for everyone?

The UAE’s recent law enforces the use of car seats and seat belts, which means that we all need to be buckled up, or the driver faces fines and penalty points (not to mention the dangers of children being unrestrained in a vehicle).

However, if you’re interrupting play time to take your kids to the supermarket, or have to leave soft play before they’re ready to go, you might face difficulties actually getting them in the car. And there’s no-one as determined as a toddler, who will go rigid, or floppy, or wriggle out of your grasp to avoid being strapped in.

Prior to getting into the car and putting them up on car seats, make sure that you are well equipped with entertainment gadgets and safety appliances such as a pillow for car seat, a baby backseat mirror, a backseat organiser, a soft book, a soft toy, a teething toy, a sunshade for window – you can find a variety of those at all Babyshop stores as well as online on babyshopstores.com.

Secondly, give them advanced warning of when you’re going to leave (imagine how you’d feel if someone snatched your book out of your hand or turned off a movie you’re watching in the middle), then make the destination sound as exciting as possible. I sometimes resort to promising treats if my daughter gets in the car nicely, and behaves when we’re grocery shopping. I have started pointing out police cars and saying that “Mummy will get taken away by the police if you’re not strapped in”. Not great parenting, but it works.

Offering a choice can diffuse a tantrum, so asking if they want to get into their seat themselves or be lifted in, or letting them choose from two toys to play with once they’re buckled up can help, and makes them feel in control.

Being silly together can also improve the mood, like making funny faces or singing. And don’t underestimate the power of distraction – by asking what colour the car next to you is, or if they can see the cat on the pavement you might buy yourself enough time to get them in that car seat.

Once they’re in, entertainment is key. We use an organiser for the back of the seat in front, which we’ll put toys, stickers and books in, plus the iPad for longer journeys. Kids will know there’s something to look forward to when the car is moving. Putting on their favourite songs can be useful too, even if hearing the Moana soundtrack for the 574th time makes your heart sink…

If you’re going on a long road trip, games like I-Spy can help, and kids will love surprise packages, so put inexpensive toys in paper bags, and write on where they can be opened. Providing little ones with felt-tip pens gives me anxiety, but crayons are less threatening to your car upholstery, or try puzzles to keep them busy.

Above all, getting your child involved in the lead-up to the journey and the trip itself makes a huge difference, whether it’s them being part of the car seat buying process so they can choose the colour they like, or asking older children to spot road signs and help navigate.

Simple things like putting a pacifier on a clip so they don’t drop it (there’s nothing worse than hearing the dull clunk of it hitting the floor), or using an extra mirror that clips onto your rear-view mirror so you can check on them without turning around will add up to a less stressful trip. And if all else fails? Snacks. But don’t forget the wet wipes…


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