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How to Convince a Child to Sit in a Car Seat

child sitting in car seat smiling

Car seats are designed for the safety of the small occupants they hold. The hardest part of using a car seat is often getting a child to use one. By following some simple suggestions, you can have your child sitting in their car seat in no time.

  • Tip: Start out any trip in the car by letting your child know ahead of time what is going on. Tell them where you plan on going and that they have to ride in the car seat to do so.

Method 1 of 3: Play and sing

You can make riding in the car fun by introducing playtime. Soft, plush toys make a great reward for riding in the car seat, especially for younger children who like to throw things.

child in car seat playing with steering toy

  • Tip: Make any toys used during playtime while riding in the car seat for the car only. This makes riding in the car seat special.

Step 1: Show your child the toy. Use the toy as a reward for your child after they sit in the car seat.

Tell them they can only have the toy once they are buckled in.

Step 2: Get a few toys for the car.

Some common toys for car rides include:

  • Cards
  • Dolls
  • Soft books
  • Soft blocks
  • Stickers (for older kids)

  • Tip: Develop a reward system using a sticker chart. After earning so many stickers, the child earns a special reward, including treats, prizes, and trips.

Step 3: Sing or tell stories. If toys are not working, consider singing to your child or telling them a story.

Playing music and singing with or to them can provide a great distraction.

In addition, make up a story associated with riding in the car. Additionally, only tell that story when your child is riding in their car seat.

  • Tip: If your vehicle comes equipped with mobile devices, offer to let your child watch a favorite movie while they sit in their car seat.

Method 2 of 3: Distract your child with food

Another great way to get older kids to ride in their car seat is to provide them with healthy snacks and drinks while they are in their car seat. A small bag filled with crackers or another similar treat can provide just the distraction you need to get from point A to point B with your toddler in their seat.

child eating a cracker in car seat

Step 1: Distract with food. Hand your child the food item, a drink, or both as you put them into the car seat.

You should also tell them that they are expected to sit nicely in their car seat until you arrive at your destination.

  • Warning: This method probably won't work if your child has just eaten. Keep that in mind when you need them to ride in their car seat after a meal, and consider an alternate method.

Method 3 of 3: Make your child part of the process

In order to encourage car seat use, you can also make your child a part of the process, if they are old enough. This includes letting them climb into the seat and even buckling themselves up.

Step 1: Getting into the seat. Let your child get into the seat themselves.

If they refuse to get into the car seat, let them know that you have no alternative but to put them in it yourself.

Step 2: Let them buckle the seat. Allow your child to buckle at least the top buckle of the car seat.

This can give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

  • Tip: For smaller children, make sure that the straps are tight enough. Many younger children, especially babies, are comforted by the five-point harness of a car seat.
Image: Parent Central

Getting a child to sit quietly in a car seat and not complain is sometimes a difficult task. With patience and a little know-how, though, you can have them in their seats in no time. If you are unsure about how to install a car seat properly, you can check with your local fire or police station to see if they employ certified car seat inspectors, or visit safecar.gov to find an inspector in your area.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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