The school holidays are almost here, but how do you ensure that the journey to your holiday destination is stress-free for everyone?
Here’s how to make your baby or toddler drowsy:
- Start the journey an hour before normal nap time. Allow time to run about and let off steam before getting in the car. The chances are that your toddler will play for the first part of the journey, and then fall asleep for the rest of it.
- If your child is likely to be restless, a foot massage before setting off can trigger the sleep reflex.
- Leave on time. There is nothing worse than being late. Your child will soon pick up on stress levels, which can increase wakefulness and anxiety.
- Travel at night so that your child sleeps through most of the journey. Pyjamas and a duvet will help your child to settle when put in the car.
- Clothes made from natural fibres are more comfortable than synthetic ones. A natural lamb’s wool fleece can relieve stiffness and provide a warm and cosy place to sleep. A folded blanket placed under bent knees can make a car seat more comfortable for your baby or toddler.
- Ensure that comfort objects are available when needed. They will make the journey less stressful and help your child fall asleep more easily.
- Use motorways whenever possible. The steady movement of the car will increase drowsiness and reduce the likelihood of motion sickness.
- To promote sleepiness, keep the car cool (not warmer than 70°F). If travelling in the day, put up a portable blackout blind or sunscreen in the passenger window to reduce temperature and glare and to shield your child’s skin and eyes from the sun.
- Offer slices of fruit, cucumber, carrot sticks and grapes to promote drowsiness. Avoid sugary snacks or caffeine-based drinks such as cola, which increase energy levels and the need to urinate.
What to do if your child refuses to sleep on a long journey:
- Ensure that favourite soft toys and books are available, but offer new ones to provide interest and excitement.
- Favourite travel toys for babies include activity centres with wheels to turn, a toy telephone, a book filled with textured, sparkly surprises or a box or bag containing safe, interesting objects. Objects wrapped in paper will also keep little hands busy. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest.
- A sticker book is ideal for entertaining toddlers. Stickers can be stuck on the window or the seat without any harm being done. A toy catalogue is great fun to look at and your toddler can colour in the things they would like to have. Action figures and magnetic boards with letters or numbers are also good choices.
- Colouring and activity books are great distraction tools for toddlers, but if crayons are a problem, try an ‘Etch-A-Sketch’. Your child can draw on the wipe off-mat with the magic pencil and start again without having to change the paper. Be sure to have a collection of favourite sing-along songs on the car stereo system.
- Older children enjoy ‘I Spy’, picking out letters or numbers on car number plates and classic travel games such as connect the dots, hangman and tic-tac-toe. Magnetic or electronic games such as chess and snakes and ladders can also make the journey zoom by. But, if you are looking for peace and quiet, an MP3 player with headphones or a portable DVD player may provide the answer.
- Books about the geography, history, animals and plant life of the destination will also keep older children busy, but if car sickness is a problem, avoid books with small print.
- If fidgetiness becomes a problem, dispensing healthy snacks at regular intervals or picking out picnic areas can give your child something to look forward to as well as the opportunity to stretch legs, get some fresh air, and enjoy a change of scenery before setting out on the road again.
Alternating seats can also break up the monotony of the journey and prevent arguments between siblings. A sponsored silence can work wonders when the squabbling starts and help everyone reach their destination in a more relaxed and happy frame of mind!
By Dr Lin Day, Baby Sensory (www.babysensory.com)