Getting Rid of Car Seat Tantrums

Help! My kids won’t get buckled! We’re going to be late!

How do I manage getting kids into the car without it turning into some drawn out battle of wills?

I asked readers “Anyone have ideas to help with dawdling while getting buckled up in the car?”
I received some really helpful answers.  If you’ve got a child who throws a tantrum or dawdles while getting buckled, maybe one of these ideas will help.

Tips on taking the battle out of buckling up

Offer a chance, then help-

From Clara: For things that *must* get done, I offer them a chance to do it themselves, and then I help them. “L, go ahead and get yourself buckled.” <nothing> “L, we need to get moving, so I will help you (while I’m helping) and you can show me how you do it when we drive home.”

Make it a game-

From Natalie:…Another thing he loves is to race and win, so as we are heading towards the car we have racing games (“Can you beat Mummy putting Matilda in her seat?”).

Use Imagination and Pretend-

From Tricia: We do the can you beat mommy game too…it’s very effective, but you could also do pretend play. As in, “L, lets pretend we are going on a rocket to the moon. We have a check list, put on your space helmet. (Pretend to put it on.) Is it on? Check! Now we must fasten our seat belts! Is yours on? Check! Now we have to do our count down, 10,9,8,…..3,2,1! Blast Off! Start going as you blast off. You could also do it with a train, boat, race car, or any other mode of transportation. It’s a little more work, but so much fun for your little one.

Tips Especially Helpful for Toddlers:

Keep a few toys in the door of the car that are only used during buckling up time. Rotate these from time to time so they stay exciting.  Hand one of these to your child with great excitement as you set them in their seat.

Ask your toddlers for help and let their hands “push” your to buckle. (I know – this definitely only works for some kids…)

Got any tips for reducing car seat tantrums?  Share them here!

And for an important aside, as I was working on this post, I can across this fantastic Picture Guide to Car Seat Safety from Daily Momtra. Check it out and after you get the kid buckled, make sure they’re safe!

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  1. says

    My daughter loves going places so I give her details of where we’re going to do and what we’re going to do while buckling her in.

  2. Kristy says

    I live in the Southwest, and my saving grace is a carseat cooler that I found on pinterest and made myself. You put five of the hard icepacks in a fabric strip that keeps them on the seat and seatbelt while not in use so that the kiddos aren’t frying when we get back from our trip. The icepacks last up to about six hours, so the trips to the zoo or museum or even the grocery store are totally bearable.

  3. Eric says

    Our second daughter fought the car seat from the day we brought her home from the hospital. Arched her back, cried, and this went on for almost a full year. We thought “wow, she’s stubborn!” Nope … at 1 year of age started taking her to our family chiropractor … after 2 visits, she no longer fought the car seat … poor girl had been in pain that whole year. Our entire family gets adjusted twice a month now … no ear infections, almost never have the flu, colds are minor … oldest daughter hadn’t needed to see the medical doctor in 6 years until middle school physical. Not trying to preach chiropractic (well, maybe I am), but …. if they are fighting the car seat at a young age, they might be trying to tell you something.

  4. says

    I agree with Eric! I worked for a chiropractor in the north east for a while before I became pregnant. I would have NEVER thought to bring a child so young into a chiropractor. After all, really, how much time had they had to screw their back up? Let me tell you what a difference it makes. Or chiro made the offer to adjust my daughter after I had her, and I asked if it was really necessary. He told me to think about it for a moment. The hunched over and squished position they’re in while inside the womb, the stress to their bodies during delivery, and further more the amount their body and muscles need to learn to do EVERYTHING in order to support itself leaves plenty of possibilities for them to throw something out of wack. So, we brought her in a few days after she was born. It was like watching a transformation. She went from only being able to turn her neck 1 way (which was taking its toll on our nursing relationship as well as she would only really latch well on 1 side) to being able to turn her neck both ways at full rotation. They don’t “snap, crackle and pop” an infant or toddler the same way they do an adult, and she has never cried. I think we brought her in once every few weeks for the first few months, and then once a month, and now we only bring her in occasionally. It was especially helpful when she was trying to learn something new (rolling from tummy to back, standing, walking, etc) and seemed to ALMOST be there but not quite. Usually she’d thrown herself out of wack in her attempts to learn and once she was adjusted she mastered whatever she was trying within the next 24 to 48 hours because she was no longer fighting herself to accomplish it. If they’re out of alignment a car seat could DEFINITELY be a cause for a fight as they’re already uncomfortable and, if strapped in correctly, a car seat doesn’t allow them to really move around and try to relieve that stress on their spine. Like Eric, we too have yet to experience an ear infection or any real illness and we’re rounding 14 months.

  5. kelly says

    my son likes the cartoon little einsteins, so we say to get in mommys rocketship its time to go to the store. we do the pat pat pat blast off when we leave and sing the song that they have at the beginning of the show on days he wont cooperate.

  6. sonja says

    I stuck several different animal, car or anything that makes funny noises STICKER on the back of the front seat head rest. As I’m attempting to put my 18 month in the seat, I ask her…”where’s the elephant? What sound does it make?” She’s sooo busy looking and thinking about that, that I can usually get her buckled before she freaks out. Then once she’s in we play “I spy a red truck, a tree, a dog, (anything simple and obvious). She rarely finds the object but I point it out after a moment and she’s thrilled to play the game. This works for my three year old as well!

    • says

      Great ideas Sonja. The stickers are really simple and I could see doing the same thing if your child is rear facing by just putting them on the seat back. Thanks!

  7. Leofwende says

    Once my son was old enough to understand (somewhere around 2.5 or 3), I actually just explained to him simply that buckling up is important because it keeps us safe in the car. I explained that if someone in another car were to hit us, the car seat, seat belt and buckle would keep him from getting hurt. He took that to heart, and has since been our seat belt police, making sure everyone gets buckled and pointing out if anyone is not yet buckled that should be.

  8. Morgan says

    My daughter is 2 and wants to do everything herself, but often gets sidetracked along the way. Seriously, short attention span whaaa??? So I ask her “Can mommy do it or is Chloe going to do it?” and she’s nearly always answer “Chloe do it” and starts to do the task (buckle her seat at the table, climb into her car seat, take of her clothes for bath time, etc.) but when she inevitably gets distracted, I count to 3 with a warning: “OK you have until I count to three to __fill in the blank__, then mommy is going to do it. one… two… three!” and she always jumps right to it by 2 or 3.

    • says

      Nice and simple – that 3 count seems like it gives her the chance to refocus, and if she’s not able to, you’re following up. Thank you Morgan!

  9. Nicky Hategekimana says

    Anna , any good? I haven’t read it yet but sounds a bit relevant?! Xxx

  10. says

    We are having this trouble with my almost 2 year old. She wants to sit in her brother and sisters boosters so bad. She does the help “push” the the buckle and we have tried rotating toys and of course the
    racing game is always fun for my bigger kids. Haven’t tried the pretending yet., but sounds like a lot of fun. One thing that she does love is I let her push the
    button to close the garage.

  11. Beverley Rademeyer Moreland says

    I’m so glad I never had an issue when it came to car seat. They were told its car seat or you don’t go with end if story. It’s never been an issue.

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