Ways to Keep Your Kid Entertained While in a Rear-Facing Car Seat


girl in car seatKids get bored, especially when in the car, which can result in whining, fidgeting, and even crying. And far too often, parents turn their rear-facing child around because they think a forward-facing child will be happier.

We know that the absolute youngest a child should be forward-facing is 2 years old, but kids can get testy, bratty, and bored before then. So, along with my own solutions, I asked around and came up with a great list of ways we can keep toddlers rear-facing and happy and safer all at the same time.

Yes, it's possible!

Utilize older siblings -- have them sing, make funny faces, or even just talk.

Talk to your child. Even if they can't see you, they'll enjoy it, and if they're old enough to answer back, this is definitely entertainment enough.

Provide drawing options, like one of the Magnetic Doodling boards, so there are no crayons to drop and coloring on the car seat.

Very securely attach a portable DVD player to a headrest*, or have one installed on the roof that has a swivel option so it can face a rear-facing child.

Have safe snacks and drinks available. Bonus if your older children can help ration the toddler's supply.

Buy a safe (soft) mirror so you can see your kiddo, and they can see you (well, the back of your head and maybe part of your face in your rear-view mirror) as well.

Sing loudly to music.

Let them play with a Gameboy, iPad, or other handheld entertainment device.*

Provide soft and safe toys of all kinds, but don't attach any to the carseat itself.

Have car-only toys and books, so they're more special and interesting.

Time trips to a time your child is happiest, well-rested, and fed ... or when they're bound to fall asleep, if that works better. Each kiddo is different.

Give them some air flow. Sometimes that alone can be soothing.

Make sure there's not light in their faces regularly. Try out sunglasses or the static-cling or suction-cup (not roller bar) type of window shade.

*Some things can pose a risk if they go flying around in an accident, or even in the case of having to slam on the brakes. However, the risk to a child being forward-facing is so much more significant that I'd rather you hand your kiddo a cellphone than turn them forward-facing too soon.

When all else fails, remember that most babies and toddlers go through phases where they hate the car, but just like many other things they hate, their health and well-being take priority. Try to limit car rides if nothing else works, or even consider testing out a different car seat (if possible) because sometimes it's the seat they hate. Also remember that once baby gets a little older, you can put the car seat up to 35 degrees upright, instead of the 45 degrees infant seats require, which can help make them much, MUCH happier all on its own (though check your manual -- a few car seats don't allow this). Remember often the reason kiddos "are happier" being flipped around is because it's novelty. Novelty that is dangerous, and often they become unhappy again relatively soon.

What other ways do you help your kids stay happy in the car?


Images via Christie Haskell; Amazon.com; Amazon.com; Amazon.com

baby gear, car seat safety


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Lindsay Smalley Uhrig

Music is what helped us. My daughter was a car seat hater from day 1. Moving her from an infant seat  to a more upright rear-facing convertible as soon as we could helped somewhat. But young toddlers generally don't have the ability to entertain themselves for long periods of time. For her 2nd birthday she was given a kids CD "Wee Sing" and that really changed things for us.  She stopped complaining in the car and we ended up doing several 8 hour long road trips with her rear-facing until age 5.

nonmember avatar Shannon

Actually, my car seat inspector would not install my new cars eat with that mirror on the headrest because they do shatter. He also removed the headrest altogether because the way rear facing is designed to work may throw the babies head against it. Causing head and neck trama, potentially.

nonmember avatar Amanda

Are all those handhelds not possible projectiles?

amand... amanda_mom89

I'm getting the girls (my 2 1/2 year old stepdaughter and my 6 month old) a dual screen portable dvd player for christmas. I'm so excited!

Also my SD has an aquadoodle and leaptop that stay in the car.

Coral Biron Karrass

sunglasses are a major must for us, I just keep them in the car on the back area where the top teether is located. I think the color wonder books and markers are great for the car too so the car seat or car don't end up colored. I do all most eerything on the list though andthe best thing ever was getting DD a new car seat. We got a Radian and she loves loves loves this seat and is happy to get in it every time.

Nicho... NicholasMama608

The DVD player and a bucket of car toys is what hellped me the most when DS was rear facing.  He rear faced until 3yrs old.

nonmember avatar CPST

@Shannon, that person who checked your seat was wrong. Are you sure they were a Certified Child Passenger Safety technician?
The head rest does not pose those risks to rear facing children.
Where did he get his information from?

nonmember avatar Crunchy Con Mom

The drawing idea seems pretty unsafe. For most kids young enough to still fit in a rear-facing seat crayons, paper and colored pencils are all choking hazards. If mom is driving, she can't be constantly pulling crayons out of her kid's mouth.

Personally, we switched to front-facing before my son was two because despite trying toys, movies, talking, singing, air conditioning, etc, my son still screamed bloody murder the entirety of ever car trip. I think the screaming was distracting enough to me as the driver to balance out the safety advantage of being rear facing. So we made that judgement call. The other option for us would've been to never drive with our son in the car ever, which would've meant my husband doing all of the grocery shopping etc and my son and I essentially never leaving our apartment.
I am glad though that for some moms these simple solutions work-definitely worth trying to find out!

tis.u... tis.unnatural

The only thing I've found that will keep my rear-facing, car-hating (mega emphasis on hating) 14-month-old happy in the car is letting him watch Elmo's World on my cell phone, something I said I'd NEVER do before he was born. Ah, how we learn... :) The only problem is when I need to use the GPS on the phone to get somewhere.

Thanks for another great article on extended rear facing! I never knew it was a thing before I read one of your articles several months ago, and now my son will be rear facing for a LONG time!  

KamiB79 KamiB79

I don't have any in rear facing seats anymore.

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