My children hate car seats, what can I do?

My children hate car seats, what can I do?

Is your child complaining about using a car seat? Or do you have toddlers that go into ‘stiff as a board screaming mode’, the minute they get near the car? Let’s see if we can help with these top tips:

Babies up to 9 months old

Hopefully they’re still tiny enough to strap in tightly and should always be in the front seat now. Do be aware that cosy and warm fleeces or anoraks can offer ‘wriggle room’ for a small toddler.

Make sure everyone’s strapped in securely before driving away. Then, if you hear a problem, pull over safely to make sure you haven’t caught something in the strapping-in process.

10 months to 2 years old

One of the reasons tiny tots don’t like car seats is they feel as though they’re out of control. So give that control back – to a point.

  • Be smart. Distraction is a great technique, but be smart – distract your children before they get into the car, with something they like. A favourite CD? Start it playing before anyone’s allowed to get in. A DVD player in the car? Ask them to get their favourite DVD out of the box while they’re being strapped in.
  • Be firm. Make it a game – how fast can you get strapped in, is it before Dad counts to three? Let’s agree which sweeties you’re getting when we get home, after you get strapped in (avoid treats as bribes too often, unless you’re sure your little ones won’t be car sick).
  • Be imaginative. Does your child have a favourite toy, an Elmo or a Peppa Pig perhaps? Strap that toy in safely too. Make a big thing about everyone being safe.

3 years old to 6 years old

This is an amazing time of discovery – just how far can those boundaries be pushed? A long way for most children, as our Mums know only too well. So if your children are between 3 and 6 years old, and still refusing point-blank to get into a car seat, try this one: “The car won’t start until you’re strapped in.”

It’s not technically untrue (the car won’t start, until you decided to turn the key). But youngsters are impressionable, and if they think the engine working depends in some way on a car seat being fixed and them being strapped in properly … is that really a problem?

Be ahead of the game. If it’s really getting difficult, then look at your diary for the next couple of weeks, take a breath, and leave half an hour early – for everything. Then, if (when) your youngster gets in the car and objects to the car seat, just get into your seat and sit still.

Children at his age may hate car seats, but they hate being bored even more. And if things kick off (if you get drumming trainers in the back of a car seat, en route), pull over. Act bored again. You’ve built in time, you’re not going to be late. Things will calm down eventually.

6 years old to 10 years old

Now you have children who can reason their way in and out of things. Certainly, you’ll be hearing reasons why ‘I can’t go to bed yet because…’ or ‘I want to play with this one because…’

So resort to reason yourself, and explain that it’s not you who decides – it’s the police. And if you get stopped, and your child isn’t strapped in, then you could get a fine of £500. Actually, that’s true. Police can impose an on-the-spot fine of £30, or £500 if the case is referred to court. 

10 year old and above

After the age of 10 or so, it may be considered ‘uncool’ to sit in a car seat – especially if your child is quite tall. Don’t forget, if they’re taller than 135cms then they can use seatbelts instead.

But if they’re shorter (and frustrated), then they’re probably old enough to hear the facts from someone they respect, like a favourite teacher – or even a friendly member of the police force. Drive to your nearest police station, park safely, and explain the situation (to your child first), and then anyone who’s on reception. In most cases, parking the car safely and explaining what you’re going to do is enough to convince your children that you’re serious.  

This handy infographic explains what’s what, when it comes to keeping your children safe by using the right car seat from newborn to child.


Teenagers enjoying the freedom of being independent may have lots of other things on their minds: car safety won’t be one of them.

Our children learn from our own habits, so make sure you – and everyone you know – sets the right example in the car, always. Buckle up, and make a point of making sure your seatbelt is fitted properly and securely. Hopefully your children will do the same.

Finally, remember – this isn’t an option it’s the law. And it’s there to keep you and your family safe.  


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