12 Ways to Keep Your Baby Happy in a Car

September 13, 2016

Whether your baby loves to ride in the car or screams the moment the car seat appears, it’s important to do some pre-ride planning before driving. Creating a plan and using some items to distract your child will increase the chances you’ll both stay calm during your trip. While not every suggestion will work for every baby, the following 12 tips from CanadianNanny.ca founder and childcare expert, Martha Scully, will give you some ideas to help you develop your own driving routine.

1. Pick the Right Rime to Travel

If you have the option, try to schedule short trips during times when your baby is usually happy and awake. For long distances, try scheduling your trips during nap time, so your child can sleep when you drive. Driving short distances during nap time isn’t a good idea because your child may become grumpy when woken up.

2. Make Sure Your Child Is Comfortable

Babies grow quickly, so it’s important that you make sure your child properly fits into the car seat before you start driving. Also, make sure nothing is pinching your baby or otherwise making her uncomfortable. A favorite blanket or stuffed animal can also help soothe your child while she’s riding in the car.

3. Talk to Your Child While Driving

Your child quickly learns to love the voices of his parents and caregivers. So spend some time talking to your child while you’re on the road. Any soothing noise or conversation will help keep your baby happy. You can also amuse your child by making new and different sounds for him.

4. Use Music to Soothe Your Child

Most children like music, so play the radio, listen to a favorite album or sing to your child while traveling. Keep in mind, infants, just like adults, all have different music preferences. So if your child doesn’t seem interested in one type of music, don’t think that this means she won’t appreciate a different genre.

5. Pack a Few Books

A few small picture books can give your child something to look at while you drive. Soft, stuffed fabric books are also a popular option for infants. If your child is older, try to ask questions about the book to keep him engaged. Ask him to find specific characters in the book. Or, you can have him make up his own story by asking him what’s happening to the characters.

6. Schedule Regular Breaks for Long-Distance Travel

While it’s tempting to omit breaks during long car rides to get to your destination faster, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding a crying infant if you take regular breaks. To reinforce good behavior, try to avoid taking breaks when your child is upset. Instead, wait for him to be calm before stopping. When you stop, take him out of the car seat, offer him a snack and give him a few minutes to enjoy being out of the car before resuming your trip.

7. Keep Teething Toys Within Reach

Teething can make even mellow children unhappy, so be sure to bring some teething toys for your child during car trips. Even young infants without any teeth will appreciate having something to put in their mouths. To avoid the risk of choking, try to wait for breaks to give your child a bottle or other snack. The risk of choking is particularly dangerous because it’s difficult to see if your child has a problem when she’s in the back seat.

8. Use a Child-Proof Car Mirror to Provide a Distraction

Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror, so consider purchasing a child-proof mirror for your car. Many of these mirrors are made specifically for infants and easily attach to the back of a car’s front seat. Another benefit is this allows you to better see your child in rear facing car seats- they can also see you!

9. Pack Some Toys That Engage the Senses

When packing toys to keep your child amused, look for items that light up, make noises or have different textures to explore. Try to bring a few different options because what appeals to your child may change day to day.

10. Give Your Child Something Interesting to Watch

Young infants may not be able to engage with toys or books, so consider hanging some lightweight toys from your car’s ceiling with hook and loop fasteners. The best choices are soft toys that wouldn’t present a choking hazard if they fell by accident.

11. Install Sun Shades on the Back Seat Windows

Bright lights can irritate your baby’s sensitive eyes, and the sun can easily cause her to overheat. Installing sun shades helps to protect your child’s eyes and skin from UV exposure while helping ensure that she rides in comfort. When picking a sun shade, make sure there are no small parts that could present a choking hazard.

12. Bring Your Child’s Sibling When Possible

If your baby has a sibling, bring that child along to sit in the back seat. Your infant may just feel lonely in the back seat, so having another person sitting beside him can make him feel more calm. Be sure to thank your child’s sibling for helping you after successful trips, and make sure your older child has a few treats for longer drives.

Bonus Safety Tip: Be Careful with Food and Bottles

Because infant car seats are rear facing it is often difficult to see your child (even with mirrors see tip #8) so you will not be able to see if they are choking.

happy mom putting baby into car seat


Driving with your baby is often stressful, but planning ahead and putting some of these tips into practice should help your child adjust. Setting a travel routine can help you plan to avoid baby meltdowns, but don’t forget the novelty factor of a new toy, music album or other item when taking longer trips. Just remember to take it slowly and have plenty of patience for your child who is learning to adjust to a new and exciting world.

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