Are We There Yet? Distracting A Toddler On A Car Journey!

If there’s one thing that strikes fear into the heart of any parent, it’s the thought of a car journey with their kid(s). All of that time trapped in a metal box with the inevitable crying, moaning, whinging, arguing and “are we there yets?”. And that’s just the missus.

At this time of year – by which I mean the summer holidays – there’s little option but to pile the entire family into the car. It doesn’t take long for the kids to get bored at home during the six week break, so parents are forced to drive further afield in the search of blissful family adventures – or at least to pass a few hours.

Unfortunately, without teleportation technology – which I’m led to believe is still a few years away – physical travel is required to get from A to B. Whether it’s a day trip, a short break or a family holiday, chances are you’re going to have to go on a car journey and deal with the unexpected consequences.

Luckily, Toddler L has always been pretty decent in the car. With factors such as both sets of grandparents being 3+ hours away, she’s just got used to driving for prolonged periods of time. That’s not to say that the car journey is blissful, it just means she’s more used to it and we’ve figured out how to best prepare for the trip ahead.

Toddler Sleeping on a car journey

For us, the ideal goal of any long car journey is to get the sprog to fall asleep. The faster, the better. The longer, the even bettererererer. We often coincide these longer car journeys with Toddler L’s naptimes in an attempt to get her to doze off in the car. So, for example, on recent holidays to Hampshire and Dartmoor, we’ve set off around 10.30am in the knowledge that her morning nap is around 11.00am.

But then there’s also the converse. Sometimes – such as on the way back from a toddler class – the last thing I want is for her to fall asleep in the car as that would ruin her planned naptime when we get home. This means that I’ve had to develop an arsenal of techniques to distract her – whether that’s to stop her going to sleep or to keep her happy(ish).

I was recently asked by DisneyLife to share some of the ways that we plan a car journey to help keep Toddler L entertained. Here are five of the most tried and tested:

Offer Food

If there’s one thing which distracts, entertains and placates a toddler, it’s food. For something so small, it’s pretty crazy just how much and how often they eat. These days, when we go on car journeys, we always do so with snacks at hand. Be it a Nakd Bar on the way to a toddler class, or a set of 84 food containers – all filled with something different – if we’re heading up to see the grandparents. We try to think about small, healthy, easily edible food. Offering last night’s spag bol probably isn’t advisable.

Sit In The Back

Sometimes, the only way to keep a toddler happy is to get in the back with them. To clarify, that’s on the assumption that someone else is driving and not you – I don’t condone that kind of reckless back-seat driver behaviour. This is a technique we’ve employed a number of times, particularly on long car journeys when we’ve already used Plan A, B, C and D. Being in the back gives you the ability to interact more with your toddler – sometimes all they need is to see your face, hold your hand or bite your finger in order to turn that frown upside down.

Relegated to the back of the car with these two trouble makers for the journey home.

A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on

Open / Close Windows

A recent distraction technique I’ve discovered is using the rear windows. This works well if your toddler is whinging, but comes into its own if they are about to drop off to sleep. If we’re coming back from a toddler class and I don’t want her falling asleep because it’d mean she wouldn’t nap at home, then this is my go-to method. This can be employed in one of two ways – (1) open the window fully in order to surprise them with the wind, or (2) make the window ‘dance’ by moving it up and down repeatedly in time to the music on the radio. It’s well worth getting rear electric windows for this reason alone!

Watch Phone / Tablet

Now that Toddler L is that bit older, she’s become more interested in kid’s TV. Not only does she enjoy watching shows, but she recognises characters, learns things from them and enjoys being absorbed within their magical worlds. As modern technology is pretty awesome, she’s able to watch films and kid’s TV box sets through the DisneyLife app on our phones. This means that we can take her favourite Disney characters with us and employ them to distract and entertain when other methods fail. My phone is usually a bit sticky and covered in fingerprints by the end of the journey, but sometimes a bit of Nemo or Mickey Mouse is the only thing to guarantee some quiet time.

Toddler Watching DisneyLife App on a car journey

Get Vocal

The power of a parent’s voice can be something special. At times, a soothing voice can be the only thing to comfort your little one. At other times, it can be completely ignored! As kids seem to have selective hearing, parents have to get creative with our voices in an attempt to get the little ones to listen when in the car. I’ve been known to sing songs, make random noises, do impressions, put on different accents, have fake conversations and mimic what noise Toddler L makes, all in the hope that it will entertain and distract. It’s fair to say that I’ve had a few random looks when we’ve been stationary at traffic lights!

Those are five of the things that I do on a car journey with Toddler L to try and ensure a happy back seat passenger. Do you do any of these? Do you have any other hints, tips and hacks to share? Let me know below!

N.B. I am a DisneyLife Brand Ambassador and this post was created in partnership with DisneyLife who have provided me with a free 12 month DisneyLife membership. 

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  • Some really good tips there Dave, we also have a box (more fancier than a box but you get the idea) full of small toys / bits such as pairs of sunglasses, blankets, happy meal toys etc. Sunglasses are defo a winner though as it takes the little ones ages to get them on and off

  • Rachel Swirl

    the sitting in the back things works for us!

  • Ooh I like these tips Dave, although I’m not sure my voice that ‘soothing’, but I’m yet to try sitting in the back because I’d be squished in the middle between two car seats. Our next purchase will have to be something that holds the iPad in place while they watch a movie, although we’ll probably get the movie wrong, you know how kids are! Great post!

  • Man vs Pink

    C’mon – it’s just the tablet/iphone these days, right?

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