It’s a fact of life that starting around age 2-2 1/2, curious toddlers become enamored with unbuckling their car seat while you’re driving. It’s one of those unofficial milestones–the unbuckling the car seat stage. Look what I can do, Mom! Dad! Ta da! “Is there anything you can buy to prevent my child from unbuckling?” I was recently asked that question at a childproofing symposium I was leading.
The answer is…unfortunately, no. There’s really nothing you can or should buy to essentially lock your child into his car seat. In fact, here’s the stance about aftermarket products like these that manufacturers, such as Britax, state on their Website:
Do not use any aftermarket products (e.g., mirrors, sun visors, toys attached to the seat, etc.), as they could affect the performance of the child seat in the event of a crash and could become dangerous projectiles in a collision.
And in this case, there may be an instance in which you need to get your child out of her car seat quickly. So, the best you can do for this problem is to engage your child by, for example, keeping special small, squishy toys in your car for your child to play with that are for the car only. Another distraction idea: One mom at the symposium recommended putting in a DVD. That sounds like a good idea if your car has a DVD system, but keep in mind that watching TV while riding counts towards your child’s screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting TV time to 1-2 hours of quality programming for kids age 2 and over: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Media/pages/The-Benefits-of-Limiting-TV.aspx. I know first hand how addicting TV can be for kids. So I hesitate to actually recommend that strategy. I think putting a fun song in the CD player is better. You can also try to reason with kids this young and begin to state ground rules such as “I won’t drive the car until your car seat is buckled because that’s what we need to do to be safe.” Kids thrive on praise so a little, “Thank you for buckling your car seat like a big girl,” probably couldn’t hurt either.
When my kids were younger, we often pulled over in a safe spot until the car seat got buckled again. And sometimes, we had to sit and sit until finally, my daughter gave in, only to have to pull over again until the we heard the magic “click” of the buckle. It’s an exasperating time, but you’re not alone. Most every parent I know went through it.