My three year old has been the hardest of all my children to get in his carseat, preferring to take extra time to get in his seat. After making certain that the seat is comfortable, I have a few things that have helped us with the dilemma.
1. Planning extra time. Starting somewhere after age 1, I planned in an extra five minutes to account for him taking his time to get in the seat. Around age 2 1/2, that got bumped to 10 minutes for a while but luckily we worked through that pretty quickly.
2. Going over our plans before we get in the van. “I’d like you to get in your seat right away. We don’t have a lot of time and we need to leave now in order to get to our underwater basket weaving class.”
3. Making a game out of it. “Where are we headed today? To the moon? To Mars? To chase dinosaurs? Etc.”
4. Deep breath. I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are only little for so long, and I should enjoy it. When I am stressed about leaving, it just seems to take even more time for him to get in his seat.
5. Food. Even now, my son will often ask for a mint when we get out to the van. I tell him I will get the mint while he gets in his seat. It’s not used as a bribe. The mint or snack isn’t dependent on his compliance. However, I know it’s harder to concentrate if you are hungry. Dividing tasks also helps him to understand that we are in this together.
6. Making certain we have enough home days. My son is a homebody. If we have been going places a lot, he will drag getting into his seat even more. He needs time at home.
7. When he was younger, playfully scooping him up, kissing him, and putting him in his seat (rather than having him climb up himself) prevented a lot of it. That doesn’t work now because he wants to climb up on his own.
8. Go fast. This summer I’ve mentioned that the faster we get buckled, the faster we get the air conditioner on, and the faster we get home to a nice drink with ice in it.
9. Something to do. Giving him a toy or activity to do in his carseat helps. Luckily he is still RFing, so it kind of keeps stuff in his carseat rather than the stuff falling down.
10. Making certain he has other times to explore the van. It’s pretty exciting, I have to admit. The idea of (pretend) driving somewhere or looking at buttons is appealing. If he has time to do that when we aren’t in a hurry – prime times are when cleaning out the van or when we are sitting in the van while I nurse the baby – he is less likely to want to do it when we are on our way.