Holidays and vacations are right around the corner. Travel can be especially hard for babies and toddlers – changes in routine can affect their daily patterns, and sense of security and comfort.
In order to have a pleasant, enjoyable trip with babies and toddlers it is important to plan trips around their routines. Babies and toddlers are too young to be able to adapt to a different schedule, so when traveling, routines that have been established in the home shouldn’t go out the window. It is important for babies and toddlers to still have some sense of organization to their day.
1. Prepare before you go: Find books and pictures to look at with your child about where you are going, to create familiarity and inspire language. Begin to look at the books and pictures about one week before you travel. You don’t want to share with them too long before the trip as they may forget or they may want to go right now! Talk about how you will get there (car, boat, plane), discuss activities that you will participate in when you are there or perhaps (depending on their age) show them on the calendar when you are leaving so they can count down the days.
2. Bring something comforting from home: Pack familiar items that are soothing for them to help them feel calm in their new environment. Books, stuffed animals, puzzles toy cars or a blanket that they recognize can help them feel more at ease in the new surroundings.
3. Start the day off on the right foot: Use your established morning routine from home as best you can. While you are traveling, you want to keep your routine as similar to your routine at home, so your child knows what to anticipate next and does not feel surprised and perhaps anxious about what is coming up. Your day can be much smoother if your morning has a great start.
4. Timing matters: Keep their same nap schedules if possible. Your daily routine may go out the window while you are traveling, throwing off your child’s regular schedule. However, if there is anything you can keep the same as at home, it would be their nap time. Wherever you are on your travels, if you can arrange your day to allow your child to have their same nap time, your trip will be much more enjoyable for the entire family.
5. Recreate bedtime routines: Try to keep any bedtime schedules and routines you already have. It can be challenging on vacation to have the same bedtime for your child, but even when you are on vacation, your child needs the same amount of sleep as when you are at home. Putting them to bed later so you can catch that last song or see that one last place could possibly create chaos for the remainder of the trip as they are tired and need to sleep unlike adults who can adapt much easier. Respect the sleep.
6. Explain any changes in the routine: For the times when you cannot stay on your same routines, it is important to get down to your child’s level, make eye contact and explain what the plan is going to be. If your child is in the stroller, bend down to their level, if they are sitting on the floor, sit down with them or if they are simply standing next to you, move your body so you are face-to-face with your child and can provide great eye contact with them. Explain, in simple age-appropriate language how the day will be different and what the differences are. You may need to remind them throughout they day “I know we usually have a snack in your highchair, but today we get to have your snack in the car on the way to our special place”.
7. Know before you go: Let your child know ahead of time what behavioral expectations you have for them, for each activity with which you participate. It is extremely important to give your child very clear, simple explanations of how you expect them to behave while you are on your trip or before you go to a particular activity. For example, “We are going into the museum, and you will need to hold my hand.” Letting your child know BEFOREHAND what the expectations are is crucial to help you set up for a successful, stress-free activity.
Traveling does not have to be stressful with a baby or toddler. Knowing the right strategies to implement, being prepared yourself and preparing your child for your new environment is critical to having a fun traveling experience with your family. With all that said, please keep in mind that travel plans can often go sideways despite all of your planning and efforts – and if/when they do just take a deep breath and remember there is only so much you can control. Safe travels this holiday season!
Michelle Mintz, M.S., CCC-SLP, The Early Development Expert is the Founder/Owner of Baby Blooming Moments®, a unique company dedicated to empowering parents and caregivers with personalized strategies to enrich their interactions with babies and toddlers birth to five years old. With over 25 years of experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Michelle Mintz has created Baby Blooming Moments to help families take an active role in shaping their children's development and behavior.
In addition to her private practice, tot2talk, in Santa Monica, California, Michelle has worked with families in private homes, day care centers, and preschools. With years of experience working with the Regional Center, a state-funded therapy program, Michelle has closely supported the development of young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, Michelle works with seniors in their homes after they have had head injuries. She helps in the beginning of life working with babies and supports families in their later years.
Michelle’s son, Ryan, has been the inspiration for her baby blooming journey. Through her proactive strategies, he has proven that babies can truly bloom with the right support. Outside of her work with children, Michelle enjoys practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time with her Japanese Spitz, Skyler.
Michelle Mintz, M.S., CCC-SLP
Some say, "It's never too late", I say, "It's never too early."
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