With summer finally upon us, families everywhere are no doubt making plans for great getaways and long-awaited visits to their favorite people. For many parents, however, loading up the kids and heading off by car is not their idea of a grand time. Keeping the kids entertained or at least keeping the chaos to a manageable level can be quite a challenge.
While a road trip may not be your preferred mode of transportation to get from point A to point B, sometimes you have no choice. Parents traveling with small children can only hope for the best and plan for the worst. The best-case scenario would be that your child likes sleeping in the car, and they’re off to dreamland by the first mile marker.
But sleeping in the car isn’t for everyone. It might come easily for some kids, while others may have a harder time. If your child falls into the latter category, ahead, we’ll share a few tips and tricks for getting your kids to sleep on car rides.
Don’t forget the lovey
Any parent who has ever forgotten their child’s lovey will tell you that the first rule of parenting is “Don’t forget the lovey.” It’s a rookie mistake and likely to be one you won’t make twice. Whether it’s their favorite teddy bear, a blanket, or the empty box they seem to be fond of at the moment, be sure to bring it with you. Without the “thing” that your child love’s the most in the world, there will be no sleep.
Drive at night if possible
If at all possible, try to plan your drive at night and take advantage of your child’s natural sleep cycle. As evening rolls around, they’re probably powering down anyway, so dress them in their comfiest jammies, grab their blankie, and hit the road. Chances are your little one will be asleep in no time.
If night driving isn’t possible, scheduling your drive around nap time could prove equally helpful. Your little one’s regular routine will no doubt lend a helping hand.
Try soothing music
If soothing music is a part of your child’s bedtime routine, it can be helpful on a long car ride too. When paired with the vibration of the road, a little soothing music can work wonders to settle your little one enough to fall asleep. If he/she has a favorite playlist, don’t hesitate to turn it on. If you don’t have a go-to playlist, Moshi has an impressive music library filled with sleepy and soothing musical loops that can help your child nod off in no time.
Get them good and tired before the journey starts
Before taking off on a long journey, do your best to get your child good and tired before hitting the road. Let them run around the backyard, give them plenty of free playtime, or try playing a game. It’s always tempting to offer screen time or some form of quiet activity while you’re getting your bearings, packing, or loading up the car, but giving them a chance to recharge might be counterproductive to a peaceful drive.
Don’t sit with them
Most parents like to divide and conquer; someone drives while someone hangs out in the back with the baby. But while staying close to your baby on a long trip may seem like a good idea, the truth is it could backfire. FOMO is real for kids, so if you’re sitting with your child, he or she will likely think that something big is happening. Their FOMO will kick in, and any chance of sleep will be out the window. A good rule of thumb is to stay in the front seat and only move to the back if your child needs attention or begins to fuss.
Use drive time as an opportunity for story time
Just like a bedtime routine, story time can help your little one relax and wind down enough to catch some zzz’s. Clearly, you won’t be reading from a book, but you can use your imagination to spin a few tales and lull your little one to sleep. And if driving doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, Moshi has a wonderful collection of soothing audio stories that are sure to help your little one drift off.
Make sure they are dressed comfortably
Pretty little lace dresses and little tiny suits are beyond adorable, but it’s important to remember that they can be itchy, warm, and just plain uncomfortable for your child. And as you probably know by now, discomfort and sleep do not go together. If you want to dress your child in something cute, let them hang out for the drive in something comfy and give them a wardrobe change when you arrive.
Driving with your little one in the backseat doesn’t have to be hundreds of miles of crying and chaos. If sleeping in the car is hard for your child, thankfully, there are things you can do to help them wind down. Remember, too, that every child is different, and there may be a bit of trial and error, so don’t forget your patience when you’re packing for a vacation.
For more tips on traveling with kids, check out our survival guide to flying with toddlers.