Kicking the seats, screaming about being strapped in too tight, one wants the music on but another is covering his ears complaining that it is too loud.
No, this isn’t the scene of an amusement park ride.
For any parent who has a child with sensory differences, this is just a taste of what any car ride can be like.
Finding sensory diet ideas to help keep these kids calm, regulated, and reducing the chaos often feels far fetched.
From one sensory mom to another, I can tell you car rides don’t have to be THAT bad and there is hope for more calm car rides.
Be sure to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder and my parenting tips on how to support your child with sensory challenges.
BUT… before you go out and buy all the fancy stuff with a “sensory” label on it, hoping it will help, let me show you the most simple sensory diet I’ve been using for the past few years with my own kids.
A sensory diet in the car doesn’t have to be complicated or excessive. With just a few simple tweaks car rides can be so much better.
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Sensory Diet Ideas for Car Trips With Kids
Here are my favorite sensory diet tips for any car ride:
For kids who don’t like noise in the car, these are a great option to keep their ears from getting overwhelmed, while everyone else can just enjoy the ride.
I know, #badmom status, but I taught my kids to chew gum at an early age.
That might sound weird, until you realize that chewing gum can be very calming and regulating for a kid, especially when they are strapped into a car seat.
Having a pack on hand all the time helps me be prepared to be more proactive than reactive.
Dried mango or other dried fruit with NO sugar
The act of chewing something so incredibly chewy is regulating, just like chewing gum. Same concept.
Mango is my go-to travel snack because it’s AMAZINGLY chewy and can keep their mouths busy for a LONG time.
I definitely recommend that you stick to the stuff without sugar in it.
I try to keep water bottles in the car any time we go on trips, but most water bottles don’t give the sensory input our kids need.
The sensory benefits of the water bottles are similar to gum and mangoes, both the sucking motion as well as this squishy top.
I’m sure there’s a word for the squishy top, but I don’t know what it is and I haven’t found it in any other water bottle.
Don’t go for just any water bottle, though. Stick to the ones I linked here. That particular top is the best for sensory input.
I have no idea how I thought of this, but I do believe it’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve thought of.
Maybe this was a sign that I spend too much time in the car with my kids.
Either way, loop the band around the “handle” things on the ceiling of the car, or if the front seats have little handle bars on the back of them, loop these around that part too.
Either way, the tugging and pulling on these during a trip is AMAZING for kids who can’t get out and wiggle.
My kids LOVE these! (Disclaimer: kids can use these as sling shots or weapons of mass destruction if firm rules aren’t put into place, give them rules first before letting them have free reign).
***Update: These bands by FAR have been the biggest hit with other mommies across the globe. I posted a series of quick videos on my Instagram Highlights (Tip #3 I show you exactly how to use the bands). Check it out here and while you’re there, let’s be friends!!
Chewy Necklaces & Items
These are self explanatory, but keeping one for each kid has saved me more than once.
Having them nearby to chew on whenever they need has helped SOO much on car rides.
I’ve made multiple trips to the dollar store to pick up 5 pair of sunglasses just to have extras on hand.
I have one kid who has extremely sensitive eyes, so being in the car, with the sun shining in his eyes makes for a fairly grumpy kid.
Sunglasses are an easy fix.
I typically keep a hat on hand for my sensitive kid as well.
Having one for each kid isn’t a bad idea, though.
If your kids are sensitive to light, having them on hand can be the difference between grumpy outings and calm car rides.
A few years ago I got tired of going to parks, having my kids get all dirty/wet/wear the wrong clothes and having to go back home.
So, I now have a small backpack for each kid in the car at all times.
In it I put a jacket, a long sleeve shirt, a short sleeve shirt, a pair of shorts, and a pair of pants.
I get stuff that fits them but they don’t wear often so they don’t miss it being in their closet. Having an emergency bag on hand has saved me multiple times.
For kids who are extra sensitive to cold or being wet, this can help avoid massive meltdowns.
Those are my go-to sensory diet tips for being in the car with kids.
I can honestly say these are the most simple, basic, and non-pinteresty ideas, but they work like a charm.
No need to get crazy with all sorts of expensive or mom-centered things, keeping it simple but intentional usually does the trick.
What are your favorite tips for making car rides less difficult with kids? Leave ideas in the comments as we all could use a few more ideas!
About the Guest Author
This post originally appeared on WendyBertagnole.com and is reprinted with permission.
With an undergraduate degree in child development, and a master’s degree in special education, this foundation was a springboard for Wendy in helping kids and families to see the root of any challenges they face.
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