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The Hood Magazine

Traveling with Toddlers

02/28/2019 11:21AM ● By Digital Media Director

By:  Melissa Pitz, LifeScape

Long car rides have been our family nemesis for years. From the back of our suburban, I hear complaints such as “I’m too hot, I’m too cold, it’s too sunny, it’s too dark, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m bored, etc., etc., etc.” Sound familiar?

As an occupational therapist and mother of three, I know that 10 minutes of sensory prepping before getting in the car can help the hours in the car be a little more tolerable. Below are a few strategies to try on your next adventure.

1.      Examine your child’s location in the car. Where are the vents pointing? Can they reach the things they need? Does the luggage around them make them feel crowded or overwhelmed? Can you provide a shade on their window?

2.      Prior to getting in the car, help your child exert energy. It’s very easy to give your child electronics to occupy them as you load the car but helping them burn some energy will make them a calmer traveler. Similarly, use pit stops as an opportunity to hit up a local park, or play a game of freeze tag. Exerting large muscle groups (think pushing, pulling, climbing), can help a child be in a calmer state for your trip.

3.      Select low-sugar drinks and snacks to prevent a backseat sugar-high. Provide a water bottle with enough water to quench their thirst, but not so much that you will need to stop every five minutes for bathroom breaks or diaper changes.

4.      Have the child dressed comfortably in clothes that will not get too warm. It’s much easier to deal with the complaint of being too cold by providing them a blanket or turning down the AC than wrestling your child out of their sweatshirt.

Consider your child’s unique needs. Would he or she benefit from sunglasses, noise-canceling headphones, traveling around nap time, little toys/fidgets, books, etc.? Remember any item you give your child will have to be something he or she can use without assistance from a parent; therefore, stay away from toys that are easily dropped or require assembly.