We have all been there. Running home from a quick trip to Target. A quick drive home from an older siblings basketball game and POOF, your child is asleep. All parents at one time thought, “I can transfer them” or “I will just put them down when I get home.” Newsflash, not to going to happen.

This is one of the hardest challenges as a busy parent with responsibilities, who is doing their best to keep a toddler or baby from becoming over-tired and turning into a basket-case for the whole world to see. There are a few tricks that can help to avoid this from happening and when it does, a few tips to help curb any meltdowns before bedtime.

  1. Food. Everyone likes food. If you arm yourself with a stash of treats, snacks and goodies, they can often be a terrific and easy way to avoid a little one dozing off. I often have graham crackers, pretzels or cut-up apple slices that seem to always go over well with my kids.
  2. A Sibling. If there is an older brother or sister in the car, make it there job to keep them up. A little one often likes a job to feel helpful to mommy & daddy. You can also reward them with maybe an extra book at bedtime or a quarter for their piggy bank for doing such a great job.
  3. An Interactive Toy. A toy with a little excitement to it is almost always going to work to keep the kids entertained on the drive home. I personally love the “Elmo on the Go” or the activity packs from the $1 store that come with crayons and stickers. These are also extra exciting if the kids only get them on the drive, so it becomes a ‘new’ toy for them vs. something they play with every day.
  4. A Tablet or Phone. This is the best option for longer trips, keeps the kids quiet and can be educational. I learned about guided access too, on my iPhone, which has been a lifesaver! Check that out on your device, you will be pleased.

What to do if they still fall asleep!? For babies, up to about 15 months, I advise you to simply drive around allowing them a minimum 30 minute nap to feel refreshed. If that has happened in the morning, then later in the day, if possible, give them another chance for a nap, so they are not over-tired before bed.

For toddlers, I would suggest since most are on 1 nap a day, do you best to avoid, or I would say that you would want to give them a 45 minute nap in the car. Then put them down for an earlier bedtime. With a traditional 7:00pm bedtime, I would suggest that you put them down for the night at 6:15pm–6:30pm. Do not worry, they won’t wake up extra early!

Do your best to keep them awake and allow them to get their naps in the crib. They always sleep best and longest in the crib!

Sweet Dreams, Courtney Zentz

Originally published at medium.com