Travelling with a tot in tow

Parents should plan breaks in the journey and take turns to keep the child engaged

Reader Khairunnisa Hussain wrote to AskST: "If I want to travel with a one-year-old to Malaysia, how do I keep my baby busy in the car?"

Parenting correspondent Venessa Lee checked with two parenting experts.

When you are travelling with babies and toddlers, planning is essential.

Plan for naps to be taken in the car and arrange for breaks during the journey, suggests Ms Vicky Ho, who heads research and development at Focus on the Family Singapore.

"Choose a spot where your child can play for 30 to 40 minutes at a park or an indoor playground," she says. The child can burn off some energy before getting back in the car and having a meal, which could take half an hour or so.

Mum and Dad can take turns to drive, leaving one to engage the baby in the back seat. Take along more toys than you think you will need, including a new one, because these play sessions could last just 10 or 15 minutes, adds Ms Ho.

Mrs Cornelia Dahinten, a family coach and director of Conscious Parenting Singapore, says singing and clapping are other ways to keep the baby occupied. Remember to hold his attention by varying the activities - for instance, by mimicking animal sounds.

The experts also offer tips for parents who are travelling with young children by plane or ship.

It can sometimes be difficult to get them to sit down and buckle up while flying. Preparing them for each step of the journey could ease the process - for instance, by talking to them about placing luggage in the overhead compartment, says Mrs Dahinten.

Besides taking along a new toy on the flight - not a noisy one that might disturb fellow passengers - you can also keep babies entertained by putting ice cubes in a cup and shaking it, she says.

Remember to pack the child's favourite snacks, says Ms Ho.

Travelling by ship poses less of a challenge. "It's like being in a park. You can walk around and talk to people," says Mrs Dahinten.

Other activities include getting your toddler to tie a ribbon around the doorknob of your cabin, says Ms Ho. This has the added advantage of making your door stand out from the rest so it is easier to locate.

Using binoculars to take in the scenery also keeps youngsters entertained while on a ship. Just be sure to supervise their use, says Ms Ho.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Travelling with a tot in tow'. Print Edition | Subscribe