askST: How do I keep my baby busy on a long car journey?

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 travelling with babies and toddlers, planning is essential.

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

"Choose a location where your baby can play for 30 to 40 minutes at a park or indoor playground. After the child is done expending his or her energy, he or she can eat while being driven, which might take half an hour or so," says Ms Ho.

Mum and dad can take turns to drive while the other engages the baby in the back seat. Bring more toys than you think you'll need, including a new toy, as such play sessions would last just 10 or 15 minutes, adds Ms Ho.

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

Besides travelling by car, the experts also had some tips for parents who are travelling with babies and toddlers by plane and ship.

It can sometimes be difficult to get young children to sit down and buckle up while flying.

Preparing them each step of the way can ease this process, such as by talking to them about putting the luggage in the overhead compartment, says Mrs Dahinten.

Besides taking a new toy on the flight - which is not noisy, to avoid disturbing fellow passengers - other strategies to keep babies entertained include putting ice cubes in a cup and shaking it, she says.

Remember to bring the child's favourite snacks, adds Ms Ho.

Travelling by ship poses less of a challenge.

"It's like being a park. You can walk around, talk to people," says Mrs Dahinten.

Other fun activities include helping toddlers tie a ribbon around the door knob 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.

venessal@sph.com.sg

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