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Car Ride Hacks for Toddlers

Toddler Car Ride Hacks. Make your next trip stress free!

So tell me, is there anything more frustrating than hearing your toddler in the backseat whine? For me, it definitely tops the list… I think in part to the fact that I’m driving and feel helpless to make the whining stop. Car ride hacks can help banish the whine and help you get to cruising in peaceful serenity… or the closest you can when you’re stuck in traffic.

Maybe you’re a zen mama who can power through those whines with grace. Perhaps you calmly talk your child through their struggle and you’re able to make it to your destination without a meltdown. If that’s the case, then you probably don’t need any hacks for making your car trips easier…

However, if you are like me and you are constantly on the lookout for some car rides hacks to make life easier! Read on to hear some of the best car ride hacks for toddlers that I have found!

Screen Free during the Car ride Hack

So Princess L rarely gets screen time to start with, but one thing that never happens in the car is getting to hold a screen. Why? Because I realize that it is a slippery slope. Kids are great at entertaining themselves if afforded the opportunity to learn how to do so. I want my little one to be able to ride in her car seat without the aid of a device to entertain her. Giving her the opportunity to self regulate and work through some problems on her own back there is good.

There are huge research and studies that back up the idea of limiting screen time for our toddlers. Attempting to be a screen-free parent means I have had to come up with some creative hacks for car rides. Most of these involve letting my little one attempt to solve her boredom herself. Let’s jump into it some ways that help keep your little one entertained without the use of a device!

The Toy Basket

If you don’t have a toy basket in your car, you now have an excuse to make a Target trip. While you are there, just make sure to pick up a basket like this one while you’re there.

Life with a toddler seems to include a lot of stickiness. For this reason, I prefer to use a plastic bin for wipe ability. Additionally, I also like to keep the basket in the passenger seat where I can grab something and then hand to her in the backseat. Depending on what I’m handing to her, I sometimes need to wait until we are stopped at a stoplight.

Gray plastic bin with dimensions: 14.06 x 11.54 x 8.66 inches

A toy basket will help keep your car organized and tidy- one of my favorite hacks for making your car ride smoother! However, the question is what toys specifically should you keep in the basket you may wonder.

The best car toys for a smooth ride

This magnetic writing board has been one of the best purchases I think I’ve made when it comes to toys, ever. Princess L loves the magnets and I usually write a word or her name on the board after I buckle her up. The magnetic board helps to keep her entertained in the car longer than any other item I have ever found.

Magnetic drawing board that fits on lap. Includes stamps and pen to write with.

Other good toys are stuffed animals and dolls. They don’t make noise (usually) and are good for imaginative play. If you are thinking about putting a toy that lights up and makes noise, be prepared. With this in mind, toys with batteries are 59.76% more annoying to listen to while driving, per my research I conducted by myself. I avoid these at all costs, and you should too.

Have a bookworm on your hands? Me too! I found its best to keep a combination of favorites and some books that don’t get read as often. Also, I’m very guilty of putting my least favorite book in the car so that way I don’t have to read it at home 😬 . Books that have flaps or have some other fun elements about them are ones that usually the ones we gravitate towards for car rides.

Looking for another fun toy idea to get your toddler’s brain juices flowing? This HABA magnetic game that fits nicely in their lap, allows them to work on their fine motor skills while also introducing them to a fun STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) activity.

HABA Magnetic game allows user to use a wand to guide a magnetic ball through a colorful maze.

Generally, it is also helpful to let your little one pick out a toy from home to carry with them in the car. My little one enjoys running over to her toy basket in the living room or picking out one of her doll babies to come along for a car ride.

Toddler Snacks for A Car Ride

When you’ve been busy running from one errand to the next, trying to get stuff done, you might have been too busy to notice snack time creeping up on you. It has happened to me!

Keeping snacks inside your diaper bag, and accessible to you at all times makes life so much easier. When your child has an unmet need (like being hungry) it’s totally understandable for them to have a tougher time in their car seat. Having a snack readily available is a tip for toddlerhood regardless. However, it’s definitely worth being included in a list of car ride hacks.

Snacking in the car seat has some pros and cons. Pros include keeping your little one happy and making for a smoother car ride. Cons include small morsels of food that inevitably find their way into every nook and cranny of the car seat. (We actually bought this car seat just to able to have the ability to easily remove the padding and machine wash it regularly. We love it!)

Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat.

To keep from handing my little one a plastic bag, I like to keep snacks in small plastic containers. The best snacks are ones you don’t mind cleaning up. For me, this is raisins, animal crackers, or the Gerber Baby Crunchies. Not exactly the healthiest of snack foods. Any advice for me on things Princess L can eat in the car seat that requires no assistance? Let me know in the comments!

Munchkin Snack Packer Catcher, 2-Pack.

When All Else Fails

Nevertheless, when the toys won’t occupy your little one, the books are boring, and the snacks are lame- it is time to bring out the big guns. Bust out your toddler’s favorite soundtrack or songs. Music is a universal way of relaxing everyone. Do you know how you want to jam to your favorite song in the car? Your toddler probably does too! Sing along and try to get them perked up with their favorite tunes.

When all else fails, and perhaps most importantly, I have found talking actually works. I think a lot of times, my little one is just getting awfully lonely back there. How often am I saying, we’re halfway home! Almost there, honey!

When Princess L is letting me know life sucks in the car seat and nothing else is working, I ask her to grab her tongue, touch her toes, and pat her tummy. I try to make a game out of it for her and interact the best I can.

In short, car rides aren’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to do it screen-free. But you’ve got this with these simple car ride hacks to make your life easier!

Please share with me tips and tricks you have found that make your car rides smoother. I would love to hear them!