5 Tips for Keeping Your Toddler Happy in the Car

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Image adapted via Flickr/ Tammra McCauley

Post originally ran February 5, 2015.

There is something about the idea of taking my toddler out in the car that already gets my anxiety up. He does not like to be strapped down into his car seat, and during some outings, all he does is scream. Then, we get to our destination (even if it's just a short trip to the grocery store), he's all happy when I take him out.

When I put him back in the car the screaming and fussing and yelling start all over again.

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I have come to realize over the past nine years of my parenting life that this behavior is pretty typical for the toddler stage. They don't like anything they have to do — only the things they want to do.

If you're not able to avoid traveling in the car with your toddler, here are some tips I've employed to help keep them happier for the car rides.

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Image via Flickr/ Nathan Put-Fernandez

Bring snacks and drinks

Snacks are like little lifesavers when you have toddlers because they always seem to be hungry, and when they are, they get grumpy fast! Keep a small stash of healthy snacks and juice in the car for the moments when they're starting to throw a tantrum or when you can just feel their “hangry” coming up.

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Image via Flickr/ Tammra McCauley

Keep special books or small toys in the car

Keep a small basket or bag in the car filled with age-appropriate picture books and small toys that your toddler can hold in their hand (like Fisher-Price's Little People toys or small cars). This will work more efficiently if you make sure they don't leave the car. Your toddler will look forward to playing with the “car-only” toys.

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Image via Flickr/ mary mackinnon

Play kids music

Toddlers generally really love music, and there are some songs that appeal more to some kids than others. It may be tunes from typical pop stars like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, so be prepared to listen to those on repeat. Encourage your toddler to quietly sing to themselves and maybe make a game out of making up your own lyrics.

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Image via Flickr/ mliu92

Play a movie for longer road trips

I know iPads and other similar devices get a bad rap when it comes to using for toddlers, but if you'll be in the car on a longer road trip, use one! If it will mean the difference between losing your cool and deeming this the last road trip ever, playing a movie is just worth it.

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Image via Flickr/ StarsApart

Play “I spy” games

There are so many games you can play in the car with your toddler to help keep their focus away from the fact they're being forced to stay still. Playing “I spy” or seeing if you can count how many red cars there are on the road are just two suggestions you can try. In my experience, they work well for toddlers!

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What are your tips for keeping your toddler happy in the car? Share in the comments!

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Toddler Happy in the Car

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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