10 Ways to Keep the Kids from Falling Asleep in the Car

Keeping your small child on a reliable sleep schedule is challenging enough without any additional complicating factors thrown into the mix. While some parents swear by the power of a long drive to send a child straight to dreamland, others refuse to let their children sleep in the car because they don’t transition well from the car to their bed. A short spin can lull a toddler into sleeping for a few minutes, but also result in him refusing to nap later in the day. The crankiness that ensues from a skipped nap is enough to make these parents go to great lengths to keep their kids awake during car rides; here are 10 of the methods some parents swear by.

  1. Special Toys – Though it may seem a bit cruel to reserve your kids’ favorite toys for use only during car rides, the excitement of being able to spend time playing with a beloved car or doll may be just enough to keep a little one awake and engaged during his trip.
  2. Sing-along Time – A singing child is usually one that’s elated and excited, and not in the least bit sleepy. While it may mean that you’ll have to swallow your pride and belt out a few silly tunes that your little one is particularly fond of, a few duets while you’re driving may mean a full nap and a happy child in the long run.
  3. Put Your Smartphone to Work for You – While you may be a bit loath to hand your pricey mobile device over to little fingers, there are so many apps designed specifically for toddlers and young children that you’re sure to find one that will stave off the boredom that could cause your little one to doze off.
  4. Enlist the Help of a Sibling – An older sibling can be the best tool at your disposal when you need to keep a youngster awake in the car. Because he can focus all of his attention on his younger sibling by talking and playing with her during the ride, you can rest assured that she’ll be actively engaged so that you’re able to focus on the road ahead without distraction.
  5. Word Games – Older kids that have stronger verbal skills can be entertained with word games like “I Spy” for the duration of a relatively short car trip. Not only will these games keep him awake, they’ll also help to strengthen his speech skills and broaden his vocabulary.
  6. Allow Some Screen Time Flexibility – Limiting kids’ screen time is a very important issue for many parents, but it may be an area where you should consider being a bit more flexible when it comes to car rides. Little ones that are rarely allowed to watch a favorite video may be excited enough by a portable DVD player that they fight any urge to sleep, simply so they can get the most out of the treat.
  7. Books for Older Kids – When a child is just learning to read, he’ll probably want to show off his new skills at every opportunity. Ask your child to read to you while you drive; it’ll keep him awake and give you the opportunity to provide verbal assistance as well.
  8. Snacks and Drinks – If you’re not squeamish about the idea of letting your child have a small snack or drink in your vehicle, it could be an effective method of keeping her awake in the car. Be sure, however, that any food you provide does not present a choking hazard and avoid this tactic with little ones that are still new to solid foods.
  9. Pull Over – When all else fails, you may have to pull over and take a walk to stave off an impending nap. While it may not be wise to do so after dark or in less than ideal weather, a brisk walk may be just what the doctor ordered when a drowsy child is beginning to nod off.
  10. Ask Questions – One way to keep your children engaged and awake is to ask them questions about themselves and the different things they see during the car ride. Have them point out different colors or words that they see on signs, or ask them where various body parts are, like their eyes, mouth or ears. In addition to keeping them awake, this can help them learn about themselves and the world around them.

While preserving that afternoon nap can feel like one of your number one priorities for the day, remember to stay safe while trying to keep your child awake. Distracted driving that is the result of attempting to look at your child, engaging with him to keep him alert, or shuffling through your music library to find his favorite song can be very hazardous, leaving both you and your child in serious danger. Sometimes, it’s better to simply accept that your child is sleeping and deal with the repercussions when you’ve reached your own home safely.

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