Car safety seats are essential tools in protecting younger children during long or short trips. However, many parents experience difficulties in keeping their children restrained properly and safely in the car seat.
Clever little fingers can often discover the mechanism for opening or unbuckling the car seat, causing additional risk to the child and added worry for parents. Here are some strategies that may help ensure that children remain buckled up and belted in even on longer trips by car.
Loose fitting belts or fasteners are much easier to unfasten than properly tightened restraints. By taking the time to ensure that belts fit snugly and that the child is sitting correctly in the seat, parents can increase the child’s comfort and reduce the likelihood of escape while en route to the destination.
Model Good Behavior
Parents who always buckle up serve as good role models for children. It teaches them the habit and important of buckling up. Explaining the reasons for car safety seats to older children can be effective, but making sure that younger pre-verbal children see their parents buckle up for safety can help reinforce the importance of car safety seats in young, impressionable minds.
Take A Break
For longer trips, schedule stops along the way to let young children stretch their legs and release excess energy. Children typically lack the tolerance, patience, and ability to amuse themselves on long trips. Making allowances for a shorter attention span and greater need for activity can help prevent problems such as getting out of their seats.
Play A Game
Distracting children from their quest to escape the car seat can often prove effective even on shorter trips. Routine is very important during the formative years. Establishing a set pattern of games, songs, or activities during the ride can help children learn to stay safely in their car seats in order to enjoy the fun. Small toys or activities can also provide safe, fun distractions for children during car trips.
Practice For Success
Short trips to the toy store, park, or indoor playground can be good opportunities to teach children to stay in their booster seats. For these exercises, it is usually best to choose a location the child is familiar with and enjoys. If the child leaves the booster seat, parents can pull over and gently, but firmly, return the child to the seat while explaining that the trip cannot continue until the child is safely buckled in. Repeated stops may be required at first, but the toddler will quickly understand that staying in the booster seat will result in a faster trip to the desired destination.
Reinforce Correct Behavior
When the child remains seated and buckled throughout a trip, no matter how short, praise and rewards are in order. Don’t be afraid to make a fuss over your child and applaud his or her achievement. Children who receive praise and positive reinforcement learn more quickly and respond more willingly to car seat training. Parents may want to accumulate a number of small toys, books, and other desirable objects to use as prizes for staying in the car seat. Children often adjust their behaviors more quickly when the prospect of a reward is available.
As with most parenting challenges, patience and consistency are the keys to success in teaching a child to stay safely in his or her booster seat. By providing positive reinforcement, creating a routine for both long and short car trips, and offering incentives for correct behavior in the car, parents can ensure their child’s safety and security even in the event of an accident.