Before having a baby, the car was always kind of a non-issue. We drove far and wide regularly, since our families are not terribly close to us, I commuted to and from school and we didn’t think twice about going out of town. But as with most things, it has all changed since Eli joined our family.
At first we didn’t know how he’d handle the car. We had heard that some babies absolutely hated it, while others were soothed by the motion. We tried to find the most comfortable and safe car seat we could to try to help, but also knew that the baby’s temperament would be the most important piece of the puzzle. Thankfully, he was a pretty easy guy when it came to the car, at least at first. But now that he’s older, he doesn’t automatically drift off to sleep, so we have to find ways to keep him entertained.
It’s involved some trial and error, but these are our 5 favorite ways to keep the baby safely entertained on road trips.
1. Music: Whether we play something baby friendly over the stereo or just sing to him (Baby Beluga is the absolute favorite), a little music goes a long way to keeping him content on the drive. We don’t actually own a ton of baby music yet since at 6 months, the baby doesn’t have terribly specific taste in music, but he likes most upbeat pop music. Particularly Kelly Clarkson. I know.
2. Safe toys: This one is tricky for a few reasons. With rear facing carseats, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the toys are completely safe, free of various hazards, since you can’t easily see your baby while they play. We have a few that are safe- no loose parts, no long strings, nothing that he could cover his face with. He loves his duck and his whoozit, both of which we feel totally safe letting him play with when we can’t watch him.
3. Give them some face time: It’s not ideal to have someone sit in the back seat through a whole road trip when there are only 2 adults in the car, but especially toward the end when everyone is getting restless, a change of scenery can help keep us all a little happier. When Eli starts to run out of patience for the car, my husband will usually go sit in the backseat for a little bit, just to remind him that we’re there, and to give and get a few smiles.
4. Mirrors: We received a mirror at our first baby shower that was supposed to help us keep an eye on the baby while driving. I loved the idea of it, but found that there were 2 reasons I didn’t like it. First, it was perpetually falling off our back window, and second, I was always watching it, which meant I wasn’t watching the road. We decided pretty quickly to give up on the mirror, but we found that the baby LOVES to look at himself. So we put up a different mirror (one that doesn’t have any plastic/glass that could crack) on the seat in front of him so that the baby can look at himself. And boy is he ever loving it. He can talk with that mirror baby for hours.
5. Plan your trip around meals/naps and peak tired times: We used to try to plan car trips specifically around naps, but we no longer do that because Eli cannot be trusted to not nap fight in the back seat where we can’t help soothe him as easily. So often we try to plan our trips around times of the day where he’s typically happier (mornings) and around meals so that we can stop halfway through the trip to eat. That gives him a chance to be free from his car seat for a while, to interact with us and get some fresh air. It never hurts if the post meal period is a nap time, but it seems to make everyone happier if we tackle the road trips in chunks instead of as mad dashes to get to our destination before a meltdown.
We freely admit that we are still parenting rookies, so we’re always open to suggestions. How do you keep your baby safe and entertained on road trips?