By Lisa Hurt Kozarovich – From Hating Car Rides to Babies Who Need Constant Attention
Kim Swift of Louisville, Ky., still cringes when she recalls her 6-month-old son’s incessant crying during a two-hour road trip to visit family.
“I thought I was going to lose my mind,” says Swift. “I was alone, he had to be in the car seat – there just wasn’t anything I could do. Finally, I started singing a Veggie Tales song, and as soon as I got the first three words out, he immediately stopped. Of course, then I had to sing that same song – nothing else would do – over and over again. As soon as we got home, I bought the CD, and the problem was solved.”
Make sure your baby can see out the car window.
Handling babies and toddlers who hate riding in cars is just one of the everyday dilemmas many parents often face. Here are some tips, offered by parents and experts, for dealing with common problems.
Realize that while riding in cars lulls most babies to sleep, some babies don’t like the motion, says Dr. Norbert Herschkowitz, a Switzerland-based pediatrician and neurologist.
“Motion often brings pleasure or calms us down,” says Herschkowitz, who along with his wife Elinore, authored A Good Start in Life: Understanding Your Child’s Brain and Behavior (National Academies Press, 2002). “However, each baby has a nervous system with its own individual settings, and some babies may have a vestibular system that is more sensitive in general or just more sensitive to the motion of a car. If you have ever felt car sick, you will sympathize with them.”
- Start off with short trips and make them frequently.
- Try to travel when the baby is at his sleepiest or happiest time.
- Make sure your baby can see out the window.
- Experiment to see if Baby prefers to travel lying flat in a car bed instead of upright.
- Use a sunshade to shield Baby’s eyes and allow him to see better.
- Try to determine if there’s a smell in the car that upsets the baby, then eliminate it.
- Play verbal games with your toddler.
- Take along a few favorite toys.
- Play music or sing.
- Make sure he has plenty of physical exercise before a trip.
Sometimes the best advice, parents and experts agree, is simply to be patient. Most babies learn to love their strollers or at least tolerate them. “Some babies require more outlets for their physical energy,” says child educator Elinore Herschkowitz. “They don’t want to be confined, and they don’t like to sit still. Be patient. These children will probably be less fussy as soon as they can move around a little more on their own at home.”
- Test-drive the strollers in the store to see how your baby reacts. Does he like one kind better than another? If he hates them all, you might consider buying a less expensive stroller and plan on using a Snugli when possible.
- Give him a few favorite toys to take along.
- Make sure there is protection from the sun.
- Make sure he’s not over- or underdressed for the weather.
- Begin with short walks and build up to longer ones.
- Experiment to see if he prefers the vibration and motion of bumpy areas or likes a smooth ride.
- Put him in the upright position so he can see better.
- Talk or sing to him during the walk.
- Put receiving blankets around him to help him feel more secure and able to sit up better.
- Put him in the stroller while in the house for a few minutes and play a game, then take him out.
- Walk with someone who has a child the same age.
“If your baby has no interest in books, who cares?” says Dr. Roxy Szeftel, a child psychiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “Sure, there are some kids who have very long attention spans early on, but with most kids 2 to 3 years old, the attention span isn’t that long. It’s nice to introduce them to books, but parents shouldn’t worry if they aren’t interested. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to enjoy reading in the future.”
- Try finding a quiet time free of other distractions. This might be after supper and after toys have been put away for the night or when older children are in another room.
- Keep the reading sessions short to start.
- Stop reading before the child becomes restless and loses interest.
- Incorporate reading into your bedtime routine.
- Focus on the pictures, and ask your toddler to show you which one is the moon or the cat.
- Don’t push books if your toddler isn’t interested.
- Make sure the books are age-appropriate.
- Tell stories instead of reading sometimes.
“Every time I started to walk out of the room, my 3-month-old daughter would start screaming,” says Shelby Connors of Kokomo, Ind. “What worked best for us was to change the scenery every 20 minutes. I’d put her in the Exersaucer in the living room for a while, put her in the swing facing the outside window for a while and later carry her in the Snugli while I did dishes.”
“There are a lot of different ways kids can be stimulated,” says Dr. Szeftel. “Anything related to music is good. Hearing is a very strong sense for newborns and up. Some kids love vibration and feeling the motion; they like pleasant smells and touching things. You have to remember, they’re developing, and they want to do things that are related to where they are developmentally.”
- Give the baby just one toy at a time, and give her the chance to complete a task – for example, building a small tower out of blocks by herself.
- If Baby seems too restless, reduce the stimulation. Try turning off the TV and letting her hear the sounds she can make by banging one block against another.
- Talk or sing to her while you’re doing other activities.
- Provide a stimulating environment with bright colors, various textures and interesting sounds and smells.
- Encourage solo play as much as possible, and praise her for being able to play alone.
- Keep activity areas in each room.
- Rotate toys and books.
- Educate yourself about developmental stages and activities that your baby will prefer at different ages.
- Play a video, but remember this is a downtime activity and shouldn’t be the main activity. Babies and toddlers want more activity.
- Get involved in a baby playgroup.
“We have to learn that there will always be a hierarchy for caretakers, but that doesn’t mean parents can’t successfully incorporate others into the baby’s routine,” Dr. Szeftel says. “A key is to have the other person do something fun with the baby, not only coming into the picture when Mom is leaving.”
- Get others involved in Baby’s routine early on so she learns it’s not just one person taking care of her.
- Try to associate fun times, not anxious times, with other people.
- Let a new person get acquainted with Baby slowly, such as by rocking him while Mom goes to the other room for a few minutes.
- Be aware of development timetables: Stranger anxiety usually begins at about 8 months, while separation anxiety is at about 18 months. These are not the times to introduce new people and routines.
- Give the secondary caretaker special time alone with Baby and make that a routine.
- Give your baby a transitional object, something that’s familiar to the baby, like a favorite blanket or a stuffed animal, to ease separation.