Before I became I mom, I never imagined I could spend so much time buckling my kid into stuff. From diaper changing stations to highchairs and strollers, I'm the buckler, and my kid is the buckled. Unfortunately, my toddler hates to be restrained, and every month it seems she devises a new trick in her attempts to foil me, leading me to look for car seat hacks for getting your kid buckled in fast and safely. Lately, she's been going straight as a board, arms flung overhead, anytime I try to strap her into her car seat. While impressive, it's also a huge pain in the neck.
Of course, if a toddler throws a fit about being stuck in a highchair for breakfast, you have some wiggle room: the kid can eat on the floor, at least until the coffee kicks in and you're better able to handle them. When it comes to car seats, however, the situation is 100 percent non-negotiable. A rear-facer is absolutely the safest place a baby can be, and parents have things to do. To ease the back pain that inevitably results from bending in half while trying to fold your kid into their titanium container every time you need to visit the darn grocery store, Romper recommends these car seat hacks.
1. Know Your Car Seat
"Almost every car seat is simple once you figure it out," explains Lisa Strickland, a car seat safety technician. She suggests meeting with a certified child passenger safety technician — you can find a CPST in your area, usually at a hospital or fire station — and reading the manual to make sure you really understand the ins-and-outs.
Before my child was born, I practiced buckling a teddy bear into the seat. Little did I know, however, that a real-live baby (not to mention toddler) would be much more wiggly. Still, understanding my car seat was an important first step, and the key to your child's safety.
"Car seats are very often used or installed incorrectly," Strickland writes in an email to Romper. "The most common errors I see are the straps being too loose (you need to not be able to pinch any slack at the shoulders), the chest clip being too low (it belongs on the chest, about even with the armpits or nipples), or the seat not being installed tight enough (you need less than an inch of movement at the belt path once installed)."
Luckily, your manual can tell you everything you need to know.
2. Employ The Power Of Distraction
OK, this obviously works for everything, but it's an easy trick to forget. My pediatrician once advised me to keep a few favorite toys in the car that are just for road time and/or eating at restaurants. Keep your child's hands busy while you buckle them in by handing them a toy they forgot they owned. (Be advised, you may have to switch them out as kids get older and develop longer memories.) Just be sure the toy isn't too heavy — that would make it a projectile in the event of a crash, and that can be dangerous.
"Anything in your car can become a projectile in an accident," Strickland explains, speaking specifically about those mirrors people use to watch their kids while driving (as a tech, she doesn't recommend them). "So a seemingly-harmless mirror that weighs 1 pound, in a 30 mile-per-hour crash, becomes 30 pounds of force. Should it dislodge, it can hit the child in the face or head, causing damage."
Same goes for plastic toys and coffee mugs.
If you're anxious about anything — be it stuffing your kid into a car seat or putting them down to bed — your child will pick up on your anxiety, according to the Child Mind Institute. So if car seats have become a struggle, take a deep breath, and try not to feel too much dread in advance. Kids go through phases, and as the old saw has it, this too shall pass.
4. Accept That Sometimes, Everything Is The Worst
Alison Wilkinson over at Babble wrote a brilliantly funny piece called How To Get Your Kids Stapped Into Their Car Seats In 49 "Easy" Steps that's hilarious in that way only parents can understand. Occasionally, the tantrum will be so bad, and the car seat project so difficult, you will feel like you're trying to climb Mt. Everest, not go to IHOP. Accepting that sometimes everything is just the worst will help you handle this brutal fact of parenting. Try to keep a sense of humor. You'll get where you're going eventually — you'll just probably be late.
5. Let Your Toddler "Help"
To be clear, I absolutely don't recommend letting your toddler buckle themselves into their car seat. It's not safe. Mind games, however, are generally safe and sometimes necessary. Explaining to a toddler that you need their help with the buckles might work some much-needed magic cooperation-wise, according to Fatherly. Just be sure to triple-check everything and re-buckle as necessary.
6. Invest In Gadgets
7. Practice Yoga
There's no getting around it: having a kid takes its toll on a parent's aging body. The constant lifting and hoisting and twisting basically guarantees you'll be visiting the chiropractor at some point, but to stave off the inevitable, keep yourself flexible and strong with some yoga or Pilates. Yoga may be especially handy when you're bent at the waist, fishing out buckles from beneath a screaming child. The deep breathing techniques will probably help some, too.
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