How to Strap a Toddler into a Car Seat


Toddlers are unique creatures. One moment, they can be very lovable and cuddly and make you the happiest you have ever been. But the next, they might throw a toy car at you and yell at you to “GO AWAY” because you had the nerve to turn off Team Umizoomi (ask me how I know this). Despite their shortcomings, toddlers are very cute and that is why we continue to let them live with us in spite of their sometimes antisocial behavior.

car seat

Because of their unpredictability, strapping a toddler into a car seat can be a huge struggle, especially if they are in the throwing, yelling, hitting, and kicking mood. After several bruises and emotional breakdowns buckling my two kids (one of whom is still very much a toddler) into their car seats, I have put together this step-by-step guide.

Disclaimer: If you’re looking for an actual, helpful guide on getting your toddler into a car seat, you will be disappointed.

Step 1: Pick up your toddler.

The very first thing you need to do is procure your toddler. This may entail being hit in the face if you interrupt your toddler doing something important like pushing a dump truck around the house or chasing the dog. You might choose to use a face shield to avoid being hit in the face (bonus: face shields get a life after COVID). Pick up your toddler, holding them at arm’s length if necessary to avoid injury.

Step 2: Take your toddler to the car.

Depending on the day and your toddler’s mood, this might mean cradling them like a baby, holding them feet-out to avoid being kicked, or bribing them with a favorite toy (preferably a soft one in case they choose to use it as a weapon against you). Once you have a secure hold of your toddler, take them to the car and open the door. Pro tip: Consider opening the door before you get the toddler to make this process easier.

Step 3: Place your toddler in the car seat.

Toddlers have a couple of different ways of sitting in a car seat. They may stiffen and straighten their body to resemble an iron rod, or they may turn floppy like a wet noodle. Neither position is ideal, as both make it difficult to buckle the car seat straps. You may need to introduce a favorite toy, book, or pacifier in order to return your toddler to their natural body position.

Step 4: Strap your toddler in.

The safest buckle for a toddler is a 5-point harness. Unfortunately, a 5-point harness can be very difficult to buckle if the toddler is not cooperating. The first step is to put your toddler’s arms through the armholes and buckle the chest clip. Be careful, because toddlers often still have several chins’ worth of baby chub, which can easily get caught in the clip (especially when the toddler is squirming while you’re clipping). Once you have the chest clip fastened, it’s time to buckle the straps at the crotch. Again, watch out for chubby thighs or bellies, which could get caught in the buckle. Serious note: Make sure the chest clip is on the chest, not at the neck or belly, to ensure it protects your precious baby in an accident.

Congratulations, you did it! Depending on how much of a struggle this was for you, you might need to towel off your sweat or take a long drink of water to rehydrate before getting on the road. Consider keeping these items in the car with you if you plan on removing the toddler at any point on your trip, as you will need to restart the process. If you have a particularly ornery toddler, you may need to swap out plain water for an electrolyte-based drink to regain your energy.

Now that you know how to successfully strap a toddler into a car seat, you’re ready to conquer the world!