Your child might be too young to ask ‘are we there yet?’, but they can still get bored on a long car journey. An unhappy toddler can turn a family outing into a miserable nightmare, and can even be dangerously distracting. Keeping your tot comfortable and secure is key to a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone.
The most important consideration is children’s car seats. With a wide variety of seats on the market,shop around to find one that suits your needs: some types of toddler seats are suitable for children from nine months old, and some can be used until the child is 11. These are fitted in the rear seat of the car either using an adult seat belt or the car's built in anchor points.
If possible, buy a car seat in person, try it out in your car, and sit your child in it. Ask a member of staff for help if you're not sure which one is most suitable. They can have either an integral harness or an impact cushion, so experiment to see which seems more comfortable and secure, and which is easiest for you to operate.
It can be difficult to comfort or entertain a toddler in the rear seat when the adults are sitting together in the front, so take regular breaks to make sure all is well in the back. A toilet, drink and fresh air stop, with the opportunity to stretch small legs, should make the next part of the journey go more easily for everyone.
A board book or cuddly toy may help keep small children busy in the back, but be aware that it will probably be dropped into the foot-well, and you may be expected to retrieve it immediately, which can be inconvenient on the motorway. Songs or stories on CD or MP3 can help a journey pass more pleasantly, and even listening to the radio can provide a soothing background that might encourage sleep.
Finally, if it's practical to do so, try driving at night. With less traffic on the roads, you'll reach your destination more quickly, and your child may well sleep through the journey, or at least find it so exciting and different that they stay happy. He or she can travel in pyjamas, ready to be popped into bed at journey's end.
Image by Erik Przekop, used under the Creative Commons license.