Driving alone with your toddler can be a stressful mission. Children are smart learners, and at a certain age, they’ll start paying attention to how you put them in and take them out of their car seat with their seat belt. Eventually, they’ll want to try unbuckling themselves from their seat harness, but unfortunately, they often pick the worst times to do it – like while you’re still driving. If it’s just you and your toddler alone in the car, this may demand that your attention be split between the road and your child, which may lead to a dangerous scenario.
In this article, we’ll explain why it’s dangerous to let your toddler unbuckle their car seat while you’re driving and how you can prevent them from doing so.
The Dangers of Your Toddler Unbuckling Their Car Seat
You might be used to your toddler unbuckling themselves from their car seat harness, but don’t rely on the hope that they’ll quickly grow out of it. Your toddler unbuckling themselves is not only a nuisance, but it’s dangerous for both you and your child. Not only can your unbuckled toddler distract you while you’re driving and cause an accident to occur, but accidents can happen even when your full attention is on the road. Whether or not your toddler is secured in their car seat can greatly affect the outcome.
Car seats are only effective when they are used properly, which means that the car seat is installed according to the car seat manufacturer instructions. Your child is secured into that seat. CDC states that in 2018, of the children 12 and under who died in a car crash, 33% were not buckled in properly. They also state that 59% of car seats are misused in a way that can reduce their effectiveness.
How to Keep Your Toddler From Unbuckling Their Car Seat
Now you know that it’s worth being proactive to prevent your child from unbuckling their car seat harness. With some time and effort on your part, your toddler will eventually understand that they are meant to be secured in their infant car seat while the car is moving.
Before taking action to stop your toddler from unbuckling their car seat, make sure that this behavior is just mischief and is not due to discomfort. The car seat buckle may be uncomfortable to them, or they may be experiencing motion sickness in the car. Try to monitor your child’s behavior that leads up to the unbuckling of their car seat, checking for signs of discomfort. Check the harness straps and do the “pinch test” to make sure your child is comfortably secure.
If your toddler really is just “being a toddler,” there are ways to regulate your toddler’s behavior and tools to stop your toddler entirely from being able to unbuckle.
Here are 5 ways to keep your toddler from unbuckling their car seat.
Toddlers, like adults, often learn better from repeated experiences. Try going on slow drives around the neighborhood with your little one, and when they unbuckle themselves from the harness, pull over. The habit of pulling over alone will let your toddler know that if they don’t stay buckled in their car seat with their seat belt and chest clip, the car doesn’t move. Once you pull over, let your toddler know that what they did is not okay.
This may take a few tries and a few practice drives, but eventually your toddler will understand and develop the good habit of remaining buckled into their car seat while you’re driving.
2. Keep Your Toddler Distracted
Another good strategy is to turn your child’s focus away from their car seat by keeping them occupied with something else. Bring their favorite toy along for the drive or sing songs with them. Even simply talking to your toddler might be enough of a distraction to prevent them from thinking about their car seat.
3. Offer Rewards
Toddlers eventually learn the value of rewards, so finding a system that will reward your child for their good behavior may encourage them to leave their car seat buckle alone. For example, telling them that if they leave their seat buckle alone for the entire car ride you’ll stop and get them an ice cream cone might be incentive enough for your toddler to stop unbuckling their car seat harness.
Conversely, you may need to let your child know that there will be consequences when they unbuckle their car seat.
4. Teach Them Responsibility
You can use your toddler’s newfound awareness of their car seat buckle as an opportunity to give them responsibility. When you put your toddler in their car seat, get them to actual buckle themselves in. If they’re older, give them the responsibility of making sure that everyone in the car is buckled up in a harness before you drive off. This may better help them understand safety and the importance of remaining buckled while the car is moving.
5. Use a Car Seat Clip
It’s best to use your child’s habit of unbuckling their car seat harness as an opportunity to teach them good behavior. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work – toddlers can be stubborn. If all else fails, car seat clips or a buckle guard is your best bet for keeping your toddler from unbuckling their car seat.
A buckle guard can prevent your child from pushing down on their chest clip and unbuckling their car seat harness. Your toddler may not like it at first, but at least you’ll always know that they’re safely secured in their seat.
Keeping your toddler from unbuckling their car infant seat can be a difficult task, but it’s important to help your toddler break this habit. Not only is it a nuisance for you to constantly try to get them back in their car seat, but it puts both of your safety at risk. By using the methods above, you can teach your toddler the importance of safety and instill good habits that will carry them through other parts of their life. Be sure to lead by example and buckle your seat belt before driving as well.