Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Using a Car Safety Seat after the First Year
Car trips can and should be a pleasant time for you and your
child. This is an excellent time for pleasant conversation
and for teaching your child acceptable and appropriate
behavior in the car. Correct placement in an approved child
restraint device is the safest mode of travel, even for
short trips, for your child. If your child is over 1 year
old and has not ridden in a car safety seat before, follow
these guidelines to help your child get used to the safety
- Introduce the car safety seat to your child in a calm,
matter-of-fact manner as a learning experience. Allow
him to touch it and check it out.
- Remind your child nicely about the rules of behavior
before the first ride and between rides.
- Your first rides with the seat should be short practice
rides, perhaps once around the block, to teach your
child the expected and acceptable behavior. Point out
interesting things that your child can see. Make it a
positive experience for both of you.
- Praise your child often for appropriate behaviors. (For
example: "Mike, you are sitting so quietly in your
seat. Mommy is proud of you. You are a good boy....)
Catch 'em being good. You cannot praise your child too
- Include your child in pleasant conversation. (For
example: "That was sure a good lunch. You really like
hot dogs." or "You were a big help to me in the store."
or "It'll be fun visiting grandma....")
- This is also a good time to teach your child about the
world. (For example: Callie, see that big, red, fire
truck? Look at how fast it is going. What do firemen
do? The light on the top is red. What else is red?")
What you teach needs to be geared to the age of your
- With your frequent praise, teaching, and pleasant
conversation, your child will remain interested and busy
and will not spend his time trying to get out of the
seat. He will give you his attention.
- Ignore yelling, screaming, and begging. The instant
your child is quiet, praise her for being quiet. You
also should not yell, scream, and beg. Remember to
remain calm and matter-of-fact. Keep your child busy in
conversation and observations of her world. Do not let
your child out of the seat while you are traveling.
This only teaches your child that yelling, screaming,
and begging will finally get mom or dad to let her do
what she wants.
- Older siblings should also be expected to behave
appropriately. If the young child sees an older sibling
climbing or hanging out the window, he will want to do
it also. Older siblings should also be included in the
conversation, praise, and teaching.
- Provide one or two toys that your child associates with
quiet play, such as books, stuffed animals, or dolls.
It may help to have special quiet riding toys that are
played with only in the car. This decreases boredom.
Remember, the young child's attention span is very
short. Do not expect your child to stay occupied for
more than a couple of minutes. Anticipating a short
attention span will prevent thrown toys, temper
tantrums, crying, or fussing.
- Reward your child with 5 to 10 minutes of your time in
an activity that your child likes immediately after the
ride. For example, you might read a story or play a game,
or your child might help prepare lunch or put away the
groceries. Do not get into the habit of giving your
child favors or presents for her good behavior. She
enjoys time with you and it's less expensive and more
rewarding for both of you. Remember, catch 'em being
good and praise your child often.
- If your child even begins to try to release the seat
belt or to climb out of the car seat, immediately tell
him "No" in a firm voice. On your first few trips,
which should just be around the block, stop the car if
necessary. Also, state the rule once, clearly, "Do not
take off your seat belt." Discipline may be necessary
if your child tries to get out of the seat.
- Remember, without praise and attention for good behavior
in the car, your child will learn nothing from the
training trips. The combination of praise and
attention, with occasional discipline, can and will
teach the behavior you want in the car.
If your vehicle has an airbag on the passenger side of
the front seat, do not place your child in the front
seat. The airbag can actually hurt your toddler. Bear
in mind, though, that the vast majority of toddlers hurt
by air bags were NOT properly restrained in a car seat.