What do you do when your baby or toddler won’t stop crying in the car? It’s hard to calm a baby down while you’re driving. And a crying baby can be very distracting while you’re in traffic. Here are a few ways you can keep your baby or toddler calm in the car and stop the crying.
Don’t overdress your baby in the car seat
Babies and toddlers can get overheated in their car seat pretty easily. Even if you have the air on full blast, sometimes it doesn’t get back to the backseat. And they’re enclosed in the car seat so air doesn’t move around them as easily.
Hot babies are cranky babies. Trust me, I have issues with heat. I’d be crying in the car if I was hot, too.
In the spring, fall, and winter, take off one layer before putting her in the car seat. Usually taking off a coat or sweatshirt is enough.
Summer time means your baby is in already light clothing. So take off anything unnecessary like socks or shoes and hats. Just taking off socks can have a big impact on your baby’s temperature.
Use a mirror if your baby is in a rear-facing car seat
We used this car seat mirror when Toot was a baby. I didn’t actually get it until she was about 3 months old and I wish I would’ve put it in the car sooner!
You’ll love being able to see your baby in the back seat. I was always worried she was crying for some reason that I just couldn’t see because she was rear facing.
If you angle it right, your baby can see you too! Your baby will be more calm if they can see Mommy, even if it’s just the back of your head. Because when you put your baby in a car seat and it’s rear facing, they can’t see you at all! And when they’re that little, they don’t have object permanence so they think you’re just GONE. I’d cry too!
This is probably one of the most important things you can get for your baby to keep them from crying in the car.
Keep bags of snacks in your car
If you don’t already have ziplock bags of Goldfish or baby puffs or some kind of snack in your car, I suggest you pack some. (For babies older than 6 months that can handle solids)
It doesn’t matter if you’re just going to be 10 minutes in the car. When your baby is hungry, she is hungry RIGHT NOW. Babies and toddlers are not patient waiters.
Keep the sun off of your baby with a car shade
Our windows weren’t tinted at all in our old car. Our new minivan does have tinted windows but when we had no tint, we used a sun shade.
You can get a shade that sticks to the window of your car to block sunlight. We had one on the side windows and the back window because if it was around noon, the sun came bearing down on her through the back window.
Once your toddler is old enough, get her some cool sunglasses for the car. Toot got hers in her Easter basket this year!
Play music or sing to your baby
Music is always soothing for a crying baby. Keep a playlist or CD of songs for babies in your car and get used to listening to the same songs over and over. I’m okay with listening to the Daddy Finger Song twenty times in a row if it means my baby stops crying in the car.
If you need some playlists for Prime Music or Spotify, you can borrow ours! They’re in my Mom Resource Library.
And if you want fun and educational things to listen to in the car, check these out.
Tell stories or talk to your baby
Your baby wants to hear your voice in the car, especially if she can’t see you. But she also wants your attention. So talking to her or telling her stories while she’s calm will give her the attention she wants without having to cry and scream for it.
I’ve been known to tell my toddler the plot of movies like Harry Potter or my favorite episodes of X-Files (toned down for a toddler though) or fairy tales. Sometimes I’ll just tell her about my day. I did that a lot when she was a baby and didn’t interrupt me a thousand times. lol
If your baby is still very young, it doesn’t matter how interesting your story is. They just want to hear the sound of your voice.
Point out things on your drive
Once your toddler can see out the window, point out fun things. On our drive to Grandma’s house, we see horses, cows, a dog or two, three duck ponds, and a fountain. On the way to Papa’s house is a picture of grapes (Olive Garden sign), spaghetti (another Italian restaurant sign), and Target. (She knows Target. lol)
Just pretend you’re a tour guide. Toddlers are fascinated by the most mundane things so it’s easy to find something they think is interesting. Even passing trucks and cars are interesting.
Keep their mind occupied, and there will be less crying in the car.
Secure the pacifier or a small toy
Pacifiers get dropped. A lot. Crying ensues. And of course, you can’t reach it while you’re driving.
Get one of to keep it within reach of your baby.
You can also use them to keep a rattle or teether close if you aren’t doing the pacifier thing.
Teach your Toddler how to calm down for a car ride
I’ve learned a lot from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. And one thing is that toddlers need to learn how to self-soothe and control their emotions. You can teach your toddler with the Daniel Tiger method of “Give a big squeeze nice and slow. Take a deep breath and let it go.” This works best for toddlers who are excited and need to calm down for the car.
For toddlers that are upset, try teaching them to count to 5 or 10 based on their skill level. ABCs work too. It brings them away from emotions to something methodical. It also works for older kids and even adults. You can ask them math questions like “what’s 5 + 7?” and it changes their mindset from emotional to factual/procedural.
Keep a “car only” toy
We have a couple of toys that are only in the car. She doesn’t get tired of them immediately because she hasn’t seen them all day. She only gets to play with them in the car.
Make sure they toy is something you can leave with your baby with no worries of choking or breaking it. You can’t closely monitor her while you’re driving.
When she was a year old, we kept board books in the car for her to flip through. Her favorites were the vocabulary books and Brown Bear Brown Bear. They keep her occupied so she doesn’t think about crying in the car.
Use a tablet if you have to
If all else fails (and your toddler is old enough to navigate a tablet) resort to screen time. It’s dangerous to try and deal with a crying or screaming toddler in the car so if you need to put your safety over screen time, GO FOR IT.
We have an Amazon Kindle Fire for Toot filled with Elmo, Daniel Tiger, Super Why, and generic kids games. They work without wifi so we don’t have to worry about her using our data package on our phone. We have the Amazon FreeTime subscription which gives her access to a huge library of ebooks, videos, and apps. It’s only $3 a month if you have Prime so it’s like buying one app a month. It’s so worth it. Try it for free here.
No one will blame you for too much screen time if you’re keeping yourself and your toddler safe in the car. I’d rather have a calm toddler on a tablet than a crying toddler yelling in my ear while I’m in traffic.
If you’d rather go without a screen check out these 5 Screen-Free Toddler Activities.
How do you keep your baby or toddler from crying in the car?
Let me know in the comments below!
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