How to occupy little one in car trips?
January 26, 2013 4:41 AM   Subscribe

One year old is very inquisitive and very active. I need to drive twice a week with a one hour duration each way. With a dislike of being in the car (or just being confined), little one has figured out how to undo the seat belts. Without getting new car seats, are there any good mobile toys or anything to keep this mind (and hands) happy? Stores are full of colourful toys which last all of 2 minutes. Was contemplating something along the lines of an easier version of rubik's cube. Open to all suggestions. Thank you. (Also welcome suggestions for iPad apps - preferably ones that require some thinking rather than just play music.)
posted by oink to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I strongly recommend looking out the window and talking about what's out there. Recorded stories at most.Let the world provide the visual input and give your little one an opportunity to recognize h/h surroundings, mark & measure time and distance independently, have space in h/h for random thoughts & flights of fancy. I promise you, putting in the time and effort and persistence at age 1 to make car trips a time for *not* filling every moment with entertainment will make all car rides, all roadtrips, very very pleasant. It will make going out for a solo drive or solo walk a great way to think things through when your child is growing/grown. I know you're asking for a solution to an immediate, age 1 problem, but try and take the long view when solving it. Do you want your child to handle boredom with stuff, or with imagination?
posted by headnsouth at 4:53 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The kid is probably still facing backwards (now recommended up to 2 years), so yeah, visibility of what's around the car is probably not so good, in any case the kid is not seeing the same things as the driver/parent so talking about surroundings won't work. And that means it really is damn boring back there...
Have you tried music? Our 17 month old loves to listen to opera music or the Nashville soundtrack and rattle her maracas and 'sing' along...also snacks, like cheerios, keep her occupied for maybe 10 minutes...Haven't found good toys, although she likes her stacking cups. Those can fall out of the seat however, making them not so great for long rides.
posted by The Toad at 5:08 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

This could be more messy than it's worth but a story an aunt of mine loves to tell is of how when her child was a toddler, the way she and her husband got a few minutes' peace was to spread out a layer of Cheerios on a tray in front of him. He would become absorbed in picking up the Cheerios one-by-one to eat them, which thanks to his manual dexterity not being well-developed yet took significantly longer than it would in later years.

Arrgh, The Toad beat me to it.
posted by XMLicious at 5:14 AM on January 26, 2013

My kiddo likes books in the backseat. The longest lasting are the ones with a physically interactive component, like the ones with buttons you can push to play a little tune (put some packing tape over the speaker if it's too loud), or the current favorite, a book shaped like a bus with wheels that he can read and drive around.
posted by chiababe at 5:15 AM on January 26, 2013

My little one started liking the Twinkle little star apps when he turned one. He can play the peekaboo game and find the star. I don't give it to him on car tides though because he likes to push the iPad button which closes the game. I'd day we have most luck with books in the backseat and a set of toys in front seat so I can hand a new one back to him when he loses one ( without having to fish stuff off the floor).
posted by aetg at 5:26 AM on January 26, 2013

Both my kids loved playing with a Magnadoodle in the car. Just be sure to get one where the "pen" is attached with string, so it can't get lost.

As far as apps go, 123 Color and most of the Toca Boca and Bamba apps are our favorites. Here are some more of my suggestions from a previous thread.

And books. Lots of books.
posted by belladonna at 6:34 AM on January 26, 2013

Which seat is he in? I would suggest buttoning a shirt over the harness buckles so that he can't undo them.

DD really enjoyed some of the drawing apps that they have out for toddlers, as well as any of the Park Math apps. As bad as it sounds, Nick Jr had some good ones for that age.
posted by checkitnice at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Redundant technology is great for children, an old MP3 player loaded with suitable tracks will keep him going...noise making buttons are a must! In terms of apps, baby toy on android is great, its also the only one with a screen lock I've been able to find.
posted by welovelife at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2013

Is it possible to time the trip for nap time? Mine were still taking two naps a day at that age.

If it is, then perhaps the pavlov thing will eventually take over and he'll fall asleep as soon as he hits the car seat for that drive.

Otherwise, you can also put kids' videos onto the ipad. I loved the Signing Time series and it's seriously useful at that age.
posted by wenat at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Occupy his attention in the car" is not a safe solution to the problem of "he can undo his own carseat buckles." It is so incredibly important that he stay buckled in, and he is too young to be trusted not to do it if he is capable of it. Occupying a one-year-old in a tight space is just not fool-proof enough, and you may not know when he undoes his buckles. (I hope you pull over when he does.) Their attention spans are just not an hour long, for anything, no matter how engaging.

One idea: Over his regular long-sleeve shirt, put adult-size wool socks on his hands that go all the way up his arms. Over that, put on a fitted wool sweater. The friction of the sandwiched wool tube of the sock will be so strong that he won't be able to pull them off. And he won't have the finger dexterity to undo the buckles.

He will probably scream if you do that, possibly the whole way. But he is so little that there is no way to keep him from doing this except to make it physically impossible -- either by covering his hands, or buttoning his shirt over the buckles, or getting a new car seat that doesn't have buckles that can be undone by a 1-year-old.
posted by palliser at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't imagine *anything* that would be sufficiently distracting to a child that age for two hours per day. I have a very high-focus kid, and 20 minutes was always a huge victory around then. I had to be able to pass back novel toys every little while.

Is there any way to find childcare (or wherever it is that he's going) closer to home, and take your commute without him? (Or get housing closer to where you need to be during the day?) Putting a kid in a car is about the most dangerous thing most parents are likely to do, statistically, and that's a *lot* of exposure to that risk, even when belted in...

Good luck finding enough hoops to jump through! You may be in a position to give parenting classes if you can solve this one!
posted by acm at 7:56 PM on January 26, 2013

I really think you should get a new car seat. I have a child obsessed with buckles (2yo) and even though he knows exactly how to undo the buckles he is not at all able to because the pressure required to release the buckles is far greater than he can manage. Take the LO to the store try out different models and see which ones stay done up. FYI we use the Britax Marathon.

To answer your question as asked: kiddie music and timing the drive for nap time. The super annoying Fisher Price cd's with adults singing in kiddie voices ("sing along favourites" or something like that) worked liked magic for us.

Oh, and also the Phantom of the Opera sound track. He really like the low mens voices from Music of the Night. Parents singing along also really helped.
posted by saradarlin at 12:52 AM on January 27, 2013

Though I don't think anything will be more fun than the sweet, sweet feeling of freedom in the backseat.
posted by saradarlin at 12:54 AM on January 27, 2013

Ducttape over the buckles until you can get a new carseat with a more difficult buckle. It'll be a pain to rip off but wound round the buckle, it defeats toddlers for some time.

Baby Signing Time is crack for my one year old. I have it on my iphone videos and she will calm down for 20-30 minutes with it on long drives. She doesn't watch it outside of car rides now to make it even more calming/addictive when she does get to watch it.

You can get Fisher Price iphone/ipad covers that make them pretty toddler-proof, and there are back of the seat holders or again - ducttape! to put it at a decent height for viewing. There are these giant screw-on or suction arm things that allow you to move it around a bit like this that I have considered getting, but mostly I just give it to her inside a cover.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:02 AM on January 27, 2013

an easier version of rubik's cube

There's always the Rubik's Soft Cube, if that's the path you really want to go down.

posted by hanov3r at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2013

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