10 Proven Strategies to Keep Baby Awake in the Car

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Learn some surefire ways to keep your little one awake when in the car so you can preserve naptime. These work for toddlers, too!

Baby in carseat looking sleepy

Any parent out there who has had a baby fall asleep in the car close to naptime knows the dread. The doom. The stress.

Naptime was ruined. 

The good news is that naptime was only ruined for that one nap that one day, but when you are in the trenches with a baby or toddler at home, every nap counts. Every nap matters. Every nap helps. 

No one wants nap ruined because of a little catnap powernap in the car. 

If you are a mom with a baby and older children, you probably find yourself in the car quite often and really need baby to stay awake until you get home.

With these things in mind, here are ten proven strategies to help you keep your little one awake in the car.

Avoid the Car at Nap Time

If you don’t want your little one to sleep in the car, it is best to avoid the car at naptime or bedtime. I know it isn’t always possible. School drop off, soccer games, and bad traffic don’t always cooperate, but do your best to respect this first tip. 


Read: Managing Baby Plus Older Kids’ Activities


Give Your Baby Novel Toys and Books

We always kept books in the car that never left the car. We had a little tote of toys that never left the car. These helped entertain our little ones and also kept them engaged and more awake. These books and toys were different from what they saw playing at home, so they were very interested in them. 

A really great “toy” for the car that seems to engage toddlers and older babies is a wallet with some old cards in it for your little one to pull out. 

Find some fun driving activities to do in the car here. 

Sing Like Crazy

If your little one is falling asleep, sing, sing, sing. Turn on some toddler tunes or the radio and sing. Sing without the help of prerecorded materials. Sing to your baby. Babies do not care how good of a singer you are or are not, so let loose. 

Tip–a baby car mirror is super helpful for you to be able to make eye contact with your rear-facing little one at times to help engage them and keep them awake.

 

Avoid Sleep Props

If you do not want your baby to settle into a little nap in the car, you want to avoid letting your little one have sleep props. No pacifier, no special blanket, no lovey…help keep baby awake by keeping special sleep props away from baby. 

Let Baby Eat

A great way to keep a baby or toddler awake is with food. If your little one can eat finger foods and eat safely in the car seat, have your little one eat some snacks or drink some breastmilk/formula/etc. to stay awake. 

10 proven strategies to keep baby awake in the car from the Babywise Mom with picture of a baby in a carseat

Distract, Distract, Distract

Keep your baby distracted. Talk to your baby like crazy. This is why I talk about the novel toys and the singing. You want to do what you can to keep your baby engaged and not slipping off into slumber. Babies love to learn, so if you can introduce things that are out of the ordinary in their daily lives, the will focus on that and be less likely to fall asleep. 

Listen to Audio Books

Audio books are another great form of distraction. Keep some audio books on hand to listen to when your little one is getting sleepy. You can keep the copy of the book in the vehicle so you can give the book to your little one as you listen.

Get Siblings or Parent to Help

Keeping a baby awake is much easier if you have a sibling or a parent to help keep the baby awake. This is a very easy way to sing with the baby, play with the baby, help feed the baby, and just distract the baby in any way. If you are in the car a lot because you are driving older kids around, have them help keep the baby engaged and awake. 

Talk About Everything

Talk about everything you see. Talk about anything and everything. Point out the things you are passing, the temperature, the colors, what you have done that day, what you will do that day…just talk. Ask questions to get your child thinking and engaged. 

Pull Over and Get Out

This is listed last because it is the last resort. If you really feel like you are losing this battle, pull over, get your little one out of the car seat, and get moving. Do a quick little walk to get the blood flowing. I know I get drowsy sitting for an extended period. Moving around gets my bloodflow going and I perk up. 

Pinnable image with a picture of a baby in a carseat and text overlay

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valplowman
valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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