Laundry Room Safety For Grandparents With Dementia

Laundry Room Safety For Grandparents With Dementia

*This post is sponsored by the American Cleaning Institute to help educate people about the importance of laundry safety, including the proper storage and handling of liquid laundry packets. You can find our disclosure page here.

Safety Throughout the Home: Caring for Older Adults

There is nothing better than watching my children play with their grandparents. We just spent a fun-filled week visiting family in Sacramento, and my 4-year-old daughter has asked at least a dozen times when she gets to see Grandma and Papa again.

And (not surprisingly) she has already started planning for their visit to see us over the holiday season. 

But Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and with the holidays approaching things will start to get even busier.

Laundry room safety for adults with dementia

The holidays are right around the corner.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed as a busy mom who is trying to hold down the fort at home and plan for the holidays. Trust me, I get it. My life feels like an earthquake at times as a busy ER nurse and mom with two toddlers.

That is why I think there is an aspect of safety-proofing the home that often gets overlooked – keeping the home safety-proofed for older family members with dementia or other cognitive decline. 

Especially when it’s something you aren’t used to doing or in the habit of preparing for.

Dementia is a serious issue among older adults.

A recent study estimated that 8.8 % of adults aged 65 and older in the United States had dementia in 2012. That corresponds to about 3.65 million people!

Seeing a loved one with dementia is one of the hardest things you can face. In fact, it has been so hard for me to watch my own Dad, who I have always viewed as a powerful figure, succumb to poor health.

I understand it is my responsibility to keep him safe. And by not accepting his situation as it is, I could make it worse. Which is why when you have older family members with memory loss or confusion, it is so important not to forget to safety-proof the laundry room!

 It really does seem that the laundry room just doesn’t get as much love when it comes to safety-proofing, and I really want to change that.

laundry room safety

It is important to safety proof the laundry room for adults with dementia. Packets UP!

 Proper laundry room safety.

In my own experience as an emergency room nurse I have witnessed what can happen when confused adults  experience accidental exposures. It is always horribly scary for them, and in every instance, completely preventable.

And every time it happens, both the patient and the family are devastated. They didn’t think that their loved ones were confused enough to accidentally ingest a cleaning product.

But just like we baby-proof our homes for our kids, adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s need to be protected as well.

Because adults suffering from dementia and other cognitive disabilities can get confused easily and accidents can happen in an instant.

Accidental exposure to liquid laundry packets can be prevented by taking a few simple steps to ensure they are used and stored safely. 

Safety is always the #1 goal (because you don’t think something can happen…until it does)

As a busy mother, I understand how easy it is to forget to safety-proof your home. But if you take a few simple steps and have systems in place that will prevent accidents from happening, you can keep your family safe.

After all, most accidents that bring our family members to the emergency room can be prevented and avoided altogether.

So in honor of my desire to encourage families to take an active stance in safety-proofing their homes, my #1 safety message this year is to encourage parents to put their Packets UP!

Simple caregiver safety tips in the laundry room

Step #1: Keep laundry packets out of reach

If you are caring for an individual who shows the signs or symptoms of dementia, make sure all cleaning products, including liquid laundry packets, are stored in a locked cabinet or a closet. 

If you don’t have a cabinet available, place liquid laundry packets (in the original packaging) into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high where those at risk won’t be able to see or reach them. 

Step #2:  Keep laundry packets out of site

While clear or glass jars can be a creative way to display household items, storing liquid laundry packets visibly in these jars could be confusing for adults with memory impairments. Keep liquid laundry packets tightly secured in their original packaging, stored up and out of reach. 

Tip:  If you have other family at home, teach them that they need to let you know immediately if they see any liquid laundry packets out.

Step #3:  Separate laundry packets from groceries

When purchasing liquid laundry packets and other household cleaners from the store, have them bagged separately and put them away in their designated safe storage spot – out of sight and out of reach – as soon as you get home as you unpack your groceries. 

Step #4:  Make safety checks a priority

Conduct routine safety checks in the home to prevent accidents.

Tips:  Consider ordering a free reminder cling from Hang this sticker in the laundry room to remind yourself to check your laundry packets and make sure they are stored properly and out of children’s reach.  If you have a housekeeper or someone else who does the laundry, have a conversation with them about how important it is that they also follow your laundry room safety rules.

Laundry room safety for adults with dementia

If a liquid laundry packet is ingested:

Call the Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) immediately if a liquid laundry packet is ingested. 

In conclusion

I hope this messaging helps others understand how important it is to practice laundry safety when family with dementia are visiting, including properly storing and handling liquid laundry packets.

Let’s have ZERO accidental laundry product exposures this and every year. Safety first!!

Remember these key laundry packet safety points:

  • It is so important to store liquid laundry packets up high and out of sight and reach.
  • Don’t forget to completely close and seal liquid laundry packet containers after use.
  • Finally, always store liquid laundry packets in their original containers.

Additional caregiver resources:

For more information about the Packets Up campaign:

Visit for more information and tools to help you prevent exposures from liquid laundry packets.

You can also join the conversation: follow #PacketsUp for the latest laundry room safety tips and information.

Order a free cling and put it on your cabinet as a safe storage reminder.

Happy holidays and stay safe!

Should Men Get Paternity Leave From Work?

Should Men Get Paternity Leave From Work?

Should men get paternity leave from work?

When my second child was born in 2018 my husband was back at work within a few days.

He had accepted a new position only a few months earlier that required longer hours and a lot more responsibility.  As the manager of a new team of employees his presence in the office was important.  And like most new dads in the United States, he didn’t have the option of taking paternity leave.

As a result, very soon after a difficult c-section recovery that resulted in me needing 4 blood transfusions and a whole lot of stress, I was back home taking care of an active 2 year-old-toddler and a new baby boy.  Alone most of the time, and unfortunately without any family around to help out.

Many new mothers in the United States are by themselves within a day or two after birth

Mother holding newborn baby

Many moms are home alone within only a few days of giving birth.

In the fuzzy days after a new baby’s arrival, many women struggle with a lack of support in the home.  This happens at the exact same time they are struggling with both extreme sleep deprivation, and the physical recovery of childbirth.   

Not to mention, many parents have additional children who need more attention than ever.  This leaves new moms exposed and vulnerable to illness, both physically and mentally.

It is well known that the US is only one of four countries in the world, and the only developed country, that doesn’t offer maternity leave.  It therefore isn’t shocking to hear that paternity leave is way out of the question for most new parents. 

Not only are women dealing with the overwhelming events that come with new motherhood: sleep deprivation, round-the-clock feedings, and constant care giving – but many moms, like myself, end up going back to work before they are ready because they are out of work for so long without pay.

When I did go back to work I was a zombie.  A happy, grateful zombie.  But nonetheless, a sleep-deprived, worn-out zombie.

(I consider myself lucky that I could afford to stay home with our son for as long as I did.  As a per diem nurse I don’t receive any benefits at all, including paid time off before or after childbirth).

Arguments for paternity leave and how it may actually improve mom’s health

Dad with baby on paternity leave

Can paternity leave be beneficial for the whole family?

In 2012, Sweden passed a law that allows fathers to take up to 30 days off in the year after a birth, while mom is still on maternity leave. 

Researchers at Stanford studied the effects of this law and found that there was a 26 percent decrease in anti-anxiety prescriptions compared with moms who gave birth right before the law was passed. 

In addition, there was an 11 percent decrease in antibiotic prescriptions and a 14 percent reduction in hospitalizations and visits by these mothers to the doctor’s office.

The research found that paternity leave actually improved moms’ health.  In addition, it even showed that by having dad at home for even a few days to a week after childbirth there were significant postpartum benefits for mothers.

Additional benefits to fathers taking time off for birth

Involved dads help children flourish

Paternity leave can strengthen the father/baby bond, even if leave is for a short time.  

Aside from this study, there are several other strong arguments for taking paternity leave

In fact, evidence is showing that dads who are able to take an early hands-on role in their babies’ lives are even more likely to be more involved in their lives for many years to come.  It seems that when dads get an early opportunity to bond and connect on a deeper level kids reap the benefits of paternal connection in the very early years.

Many new dads find themselves in a paternity-leave pickle

Health wise, the benefits of paternity leave makes sense for the whole family.  But what if dad is afraid of taking paternity leave due to fear of negative judgement or missing out on a potential promotion?

Unfortunately, many new dads feel there is a stigma attached to the idea actually taking time off with a new baby.  In fact, I know a dad whose company offered 4 weeks of paternity leave but didn’t take it because he felt “guilty” for missing work.

Is it possible to make that decision a little easier for dads to make without retribution from the workplace?

More attention needs to be given to new mothers after coming home from the hospital

mother at home with new baby

Paternity leave can help mothers manage post natal depression and recovery from childbirth.

Even a short paternity leave could be a helpful solution to the isolation many new moms feel postpartum.   After leaving the hospital, there is little attention focused on the day or two later when mom gets back home and into the new realities of motherhood. 

Healthcare in America is astronomically expensive compared to, pretty much the rest of the world .  

It would be interesting to see what amazing things might happen if all new dads took 30 days of paternity leave to spend at home with their families to bond.  Would it make a dent in the money we spend on postpartum healthcare for mothers?  

Sweden’s experience seems to suggest it would.

What you think paternity leave would do for your family?  Do you have an argument for or against paternity leave?

Additional recommended reading by Mother Nurse Love

Why Paternity Leave Is So Good For Moms

How To Make A Homemade Emergency Survival Kit

How To Make A Homemade Emergency Survival Kit

*This post contains affiliate links.  For more information about my disclosure policy click here.

September is Emergency Preparedness Month.  Are you ready?

School is back in session for the kids and now is a great opportunity to do a little reorganization and preparation to ensure that your family is ready in case of a catastrophic event.  

As a registered nurse and mom I have become more paranoid in the last few years about natural disasters.  And I’m not alone with my concerns.  If you recall, in 2017 the United States was hit by 3 of the largest hurricanes to have hit the US in over a century.  

In addition, my family lives in Los Angeles County which means our home sits right in the middle of earthquake country. The experts have been saying that we are due for the “big one” at any time. We can’t predict when it will actually happen, of course. But we can do our best to prepare in case it does.

As I write this, I am currently taking inventory of the homemade emergency survival kit I made last September .  And I’m asking my self the same question as I did then:  is my family prepared if we had a major emergency such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack?

What will you do if there is an emergency?

I like to think of myself as a person who is ready for an emergency. After all, I am an emergency room nurse. I’m used to dealing with emergent situations during my twelve hour shifts. In the hospital we have all the training and supplies we need to be ready for (almost) anything.

I have plenty of first aid supplies stashed away in our garage.  And last September I made it a priority to store enough non perishable food and water to last our family for 5 days.  Now I want to reassess and make sure that my emergency food and other supplies are still up to par.  After all, we do have an additional family member, our 7 month old son!

You can buy an emergency supply kit online.

There are lots of websites online that sell emergency supply kits. Many of them cost from $100 up into the thousands, which may not be affordable for some people. In addition, they still may not include all of the supplies you may need such as food, water, medications or other personal items.

If purchasing an emergency supply kit is not an option for you, why not build you own kit and customize it for your needs? I gathered the following information from several websites and I have resources listed at the bottom of this post.

What To Put In A Homemade Emergency Survival Kit:


The CDC and FEMA state that we should have a minimum of a three day supply of water and food for everyone in the family, including pets. This water is for both drinking and sanitation.  Of course it never hurts to prepare with more.

You should have at least the equivalent of 1 gallon of water per person/per day. For our family of (almost) 4 that means we should have at least 12 gallons of water stashed away to have the minimum three day supply.

water bottles on store shelves
The dollar store is a great place to stock up on gallons of emergency water for your DIY emergency kit. In the wake of disaster it is likely that stores will run out of water and other supplies.


It is possible that electricity could be out for several days in an emergency, which means perishables in the fridge and freezer will go bad. Cooking is also difficult without electricity so the foods should be “ready to eat.” In the case of a major emergency non-perishable foods become important for survival.

Emergency food supplies:

  • Canned fruits, veggies
  • Canned beans, pastas
  • Dry cereal, granola
  • Nut butters
  • Trail mix, dried fruits
  • Protein bars, granola bars
  • Non-perishable pasteurized milk
  • Food for infants (formula, jars)
  • Food for pets

The Department of Homeland Security’s website, states that you should try to avoid foods that make you thirsty, so you don’t end up drinking all of your water.

Other emergency supplies:

Keep these items in a designated place in your home and don’t use them unless there is an emergency. You don’t want to go to your stash in the event of a natural disaster to find that portions of your emergency kit are missing.

You can’t plan a disaster. But you can prepare for it.

Take some time this weekend to prepare a homemade emergency survival kit. You will thank yourself later for being responsible and taking care of your loved ones in advance of a disaster.

Are you prepared for a disaster?  What are you going to do today to ensure that your family has what they need to survive?  Leave a comment below!

Resources: (Department of Homeland Security)

CDC Emergency

How A Crib Tent Helped Our Family Sleep Again

How A Crib Tent Helped Our Family Sleep Again

(This review is based on my own personal experience with this crib tent. It is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  There are affiliate links in this post. You can see my disclosure page here.)  

Who knew that a crib tent would give our family the gift of sleep (and sanity)?  I purchased our crib tent 16 months ago, it has since become my #1 most helpful toddler purchase, ever.

Just to give a little background:  our daughter was never a good sleeper (sweet as pie, but hated going to sleep).  As a result, delirium due to a lack of sleep became a “normal” part of our family’s daily routine.

So, when our daughter was 10 months old, I hired a sleep trainer.  Her methods were a success and we all finally started sleeping again!

But then, after nearly 6 consecutive months of nearly solid slumber, the unimaginable happened.   Our toddler, Zoe, learned how to climb out of her crib!

Our toddler’s “crib jumping” was a problem.

Once again, we were all losing sleep.  My toddlers daredevil escapes seriously concerned me because:

  1. It was unsafe.  Our tiny toddler could seriously injure herself by falling several feet or getting stuck between the slats.
  2. I did not want her wandering alone through the house at night.  Again, a big safety issue.
  3. My husband and I were not going get a good night sleep until we found a solution we were comfortable with.  We were all sleep deprived, but also experiencing daily stress from this new problem.

Sleep is important.

Sleep is so crucial for both physical and mental health.   

According to The National Sleep Foundation lack of sleep is linked to hypertension, heart disease, depression, diabetes and several other chronic diseases.

The National Sleep Foundation also states that sleep is especially important for children because it is when blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.

We looked at several alternatives.

After getting over the shock of my daughter’s uncanny ability to actually scale the crib we tried several things to deter her.

  1. We took out the bottom of the crib so the mattress was all the way on the floor to make her escape more difficult.  That stopped her from climbing out for exactly one night, then she was back at it again.
  2. We took everything out of her crib so she couldn’t use it as a prop to climb out.  This method didn’t stop her either.

We watched our toddler climb out of her crib on a monitor so we could see exactly how she was doing it.  She made it look so easy!  She held on to the top bar and put her feet in between the crib slates, hoisting herself to the top, then she teetered on the top bar and balanced until she could get both feet over the sides and jump to the floor.  Usually, with a big SPLAT.

A toddler bed was not yet an option.

I scored the internet for more suggestions and solutions.  A toddler bed was out of the question because our toddler would not stay in her bed (or room for that matter) for more then 1 minute.

Inevitably, we would end up having a little visitor in bed with us every night for the foreseeable future (or worse, roaming the house!).

crib tent was our last resort.

My first priority for our daughter was safety.  I didn’t want her getting hurt while climbing out of her crib, but I also didn’t want her wandering around the house in the middle of the night either.  And frankly, we ALL needed to get some sleep!

Safety was (is) my #1  concern.

I read a ton of reviews on this crib tent and I it sounded like people were having a lot of success without having any safety issues.  From my own personal experience, these are the reasons this crib tent has been a gift from the sleep Gods.  

  1. Our toddler could no longer get stuck between the rails (which previously happened several times!). 
  2. Our toddler was unable to grip the sides of the railing which prevented her from scaling the crib walls.
  3. The material is made from BPA-free mesh netting and is hypoallergenic. 
  4. The crib tent fit snugly  over the crib and it was impossible for our toddler to get stuck in the crib netting.  The bottom of the crib tent sits under the mattress.
  5. It was super easy and fast to set up.  No extra tools were required.
  6. We ALL finally got the sleep we needed and finally felt refreshed again during the day.

Our toddler likes her crib tent.  

I think it makes her feel safer.  We have a bedtime routine and our toddler wont even let us leave her room without zipping up her crib tent canopy.   

It has been 1 year since we started using the crib tent and it still works like a charm.  Soon we will be transitioning our daughter to a toddler bed, but until then we are leaving it up.

And I’m saving the crib tent for Zoe’s younger sibling, just in case we have another “crib jumper” on our hands.

Is your child able to climb out of their crib?  How did you deal with it?  Please leave any questions or comments below!

An Honest Crib Tent Review
From A Mom, RN

Our Baby Boy Arrived!

Our Baby Boy Arrived!

I am excited to announce that our baby boy arrived!

On January 8, 2018 at 10:59am Oliver made his way into the world weighing in at a sturdy 8 lbs. 1 oz.

He is chubby and extraordinarily cute, nursing like a champ and has the most adorable baby babble. I had forgotten how incredibly sweet baby sounds are. Oliver’s snuggles and baby noises are the best!

My (very brief) birth story:

We arrived at the hospital at 7:30 for our scheduled c-section.  I was full term and 39 weeks.  After getting checked in and set up we finally headed over to the surgical suite around 10 am.

I had a scheduled c-section (unlike my first, an emergency c-section at 33 weeks due to a placental abruption).  It was a much more relaxed environment with fewer nurses and other staff in the room.

I was given a spinal block which numbs the entire lower half of the body from just below the diaphragm.  It is the weirdest feeling to not be able to feel or move your entire lower half!

The doctors had a difficult time getting Oliver out.  After the surgery I was told that he was wedged in at a difficult angle to grasp.  After several minutes of effort to get him out they had to use suction just to get a grip on him.

Our baby boy arrived with a great set of lungs!

Our baby boy arrived with a great set of lungs!

Our sweet boy finally arrived.

Oliver came out kicking and screaming, which is the most reassuring sound for a new baby to make.  He was much bigger then the doctors had expected him to be.  In fact, they told me that it was a good thing I was set up for a c-section because there was very little chance I would have been able to get him out on my own.  They said I would have ended up having another emergency c-section anyway!

Oliver was exactly 2 times bigger then our daughter was when she was born so he felt like a huge baby!  Looking at him I couldn’t believe that he had actually fit inside my stomach.

Fortunately, Oliver took very well to breastfeeding, which was a welcome relief (it had been difficult with our preemie).  He seems to be able to self sooth with his fingers and has been relatively easy (knock on wood!) to care for thus far.  As long as he is fed every 2-3 hours, changed frequently, gets his sleep and is held frequently he is a happy camper!

There were a few surgical complications that I was not anticipating.


I lost 2 liters of blood during the procedure.  According to my doctors I had a few large vessels that they were trying to bypass but still ended up causing a large amount of bleeding.  As a result I had even more post postpartum bleeding over the next 24 hours.   This resulted in me needing to have a total 4 blood transfusions and multiple different anti-hemorrhage medications.

It was a bit scary and uncomfortable for another day and a half after my c-section.  Luckily we were able to get the bleeding under control and I was able to be discharged on day 3 to go home.  What a relief!

Zoe is doing great in her new role as big sister.

Our daughter can’t stop giving Oliver hugs and kisses every chance she gets.  We do need to keep as eye on her though because she does try to squeeze him hard and force his pacifier into his mouth (out of love and her desire to help).

So far she has not expressed any jealousy towards sharing her time with a new tiny human (hopefully we can keep it this way!).

Zoe tries to help by letting me know when Oliver needs things like toys, a blanket, or his pacifier.  It is so sweet and melts my heart every time.

My mom friends are so helpful.

Some very sweet friends brought over some of their old baby items that have really helped us out with Oliver.  I am so glad they did because I never would have even known to get them myself.  (FYI- the BEST invention ever is the Doc-A-Tot Grand.  It has been a game changer!)

Life is good.

I am so relieved that our baby boy arrived safely and is a healthy baby boy.  There is no greater gift then that!

My husband has been able to be home with us for the last week but he will be heading back to work tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge caring for a very energetic two-year-old and a newborn for nine hours a day by myself.

I haven’t figured out how I’m going to manage that yet but lots of women do it so I’ll just have to figure it out day by day.

Wish me luck!


The Art Of Taking Road Trips With A Toddler

The Art Of Taking Road Trips With A Toddler

(This post may contain affiliate links.  My disclosure page is really boring but you can find it here.)

We have had a lot of driving experience with our toddler on long road trips over the past year-and-a half. Our closest family members live in Sacramento which, with a toddler in tow, is about an eight hour drive from our LA beach community. We have pretty much been-there-done-that with every single tip ever mentioned on how to make road tripping easier when you’re toting a toddler along.

Having made that lengthy drive over a half dozen times you would think we would be experts at toddler travel by now. After all, how many learning opportunities does one need to figure that out?

Yet, road tripping with our toddler remains a constant learning experience for us. This week was no exception as our family trekked eight hours from El Segundo to Tomales Bay located on the Northern California Pacific Coast for a well-needed vacation.

Baby Zoe and John at Stinton Beach

Stinton Beach, CA (population 578). The best part of taking road trips is stopping at new locations along the way that you never would have seen otherwise. Zoe was happy for the opportunity to run around for a while.

As I have some depth of experience in the road-trip-with-a-toddler department, I thought for sure I would use my expertise to make this excursion particularly easy. After all, I have read about all the tricks by now: travel during baby sleep times, pack for every situation (terrible advice, boo!), make frequent stops at parks, bring lots of toys, be sure to have baggies/wipes/finger foods, yada yada yada.

My confidence had me dreaming of writing a post after our trip titled “how I mastered long-distance travel with a toddler without going crazy” or “how we helped our daughter love long distance road trips, and you can too.”

A Mom can dream, right?

Yet, once again I realized mid-way up the coast that traveling with a toddler can be messy, frustrating, and even intolerable even with the most thoughtful preparation and experience.

Toddlers are going through their very own developmental stages.

Toddler’s little bodies are immature and aren’t supposed to “sit still” for any amount of time, much less an eight hour car ride. In addition, they have under-developed communication skills to express their needs, which can lead to complete toddler meltdown on the highway (or anywhere for that matter).

This got me to thinking…

Is the key to mastering long distance travel with a toddler really just about understanding where they are in their current developmental stage? Is my job to better understand my toddler as a little, evolving human being? Do I need to adjust my expectations a little? Hmmm, maybe.

I continued to learn, even during this trip, that part of mastering toddler travel is about learning how to be a little more malleable with our daughter. Especially when she is acting exactly like, well, a toddler.

There are going to be meltdowns in between all the adorable, precious, little girl moments. That is how toddlers express themselves when they are upset and don’t have the vocabulary to communicate their frustrations. In addition, they are programmed to push their boundaries and it is our job as parents to learn how to productively handle each situation as we go along.

Mom and and Zoe in Tomalas Bay, CA

Tomales Bay, Ca. The long drive was totally worth the vacation. We got to hike almost everyday. If you look closely to John’s right you can see a line of large adult seals!

The final drive back home: something amazing happened!

On our last day we planned on getting up at 5am to start the dreadful trek back down the I-5 to Los Angeles County (not the amazing part). We wanted to get the drive out of the way as soon as possible. But, like many aspects of parenthood, things didn’t exactly start as we had anticipated.

Our (normally) great little sleeper decided she wanted to get up at 2:30am instead. After about 45 minutes of tears (I guess she was ready to go home?), my husband and I decided it would be better to just go ahead and start our travels. So we got ready and left by 3:30am instead.

You are probably wondering what the amazing part is, right? Well, I’m excited to say that Zoe did wonderfully and was content pretty much the entire way home! There were minimal tears and we only had to stop twice during the entire trip. It was a road trip miracle!

With a little help from Mom and Dad, she really handled the drive like a champ. And because we left so early in the morning we were home by noon. It is possible that I actually mastered the art of road tripping with a toddler after all?

Well, I’m not so sure about that. But I do think we made great progress. We did learn a few more things during this drive home.

Helpful Ideas For Long Distance Road Tripping With A Toddler:

To be clear, these tips may not be for everyone. Every toddler, and every trip, can be a different experience. These are just a few suggestions that worked for us. Here are my best ideas for surviving long distance road travel with a toddler in tow.

1.  Travel during sleep times

This one is the big winner! If you can drive at night or at least during a long nap time it is so helpful. A sleeping toddler is a content toddler. One of the reasons I think our recent road trip went so well is that our toddler was able to sleep for about 3.5 hours during the start of our trip (we did leave at 3:30am after all). That got a large portion of our drive time out of the way right off the bat.

2.  Don’t over pack

Trying to pack light for vacation in a Prius

This was everything we packed for one week of travel. I made an exception for my yoga mat and I’m so glad I did. I used it almost everyday (there are some things you just have to make an exception for!).

I hear all the time that “when you have kids you have to bring so much stuff everywhere!” I emphatically disagree with this one. Packing light is so much easier and can actually make a trip less hectic and stressful: there is less stuff to pack/repack, take care of, store, and its feels so much better to not feel like you are carrying around your house.

Many things that get packed “just in case” never even get used and just end up getting hauled around pointlessly. You don’t have to schlep everything from home. See if the hotel can offer a crib. Buy food for the kitchenette when you get there. When packing ask yourself “is this something I really need on this vacation?”

I brought just enough clothes for myself and our daughter with the intention of doing a load of laundry at the hotel if necessary (it wasn’t). We also brought an umbrella stroller instead of the larger one we normally use.

Traveling is just easier with less stuff. It’s true that Zoe could possibly need her winter boots and coat. It can be on the cooler side on the northern California Pacific coast. But in August? Not likely that she will need them.

3.  Have one adult sit in the back if possible

I sit in the back with Zoe during most of the drive (I stay in the front when she is sleeping). That way we can spend a little one-on-one time together and I can try to help sooth her before she starts to have a meltdown. I have gotten in the habit of making space for myself and whatever I think I may need in the back seat for the drive.

4.  Sing and talk frequently

Did you know that a new study shows that babies’ pain levels are actually decreased when they are sung to? A London University found that children waiting for surgeries actually had a reduction in pain and heart rate after being sung lullabies.

Road trips are not actually painful, of course. But I have found that Zoe will pay close attention to my every word when I sing to her. She listens intently, quietly. It’s like I’m doing something amazing, and I’m a terrible singer! I’m probably driving my husband nuts but our kid seems to be enjoying it, so why the heck not?

Our toddler gets the benefit of learning new songs and staying engaged during the drive. I think it makes her happy too. To boot, it minimizes screaming child road rage so I see this as a win-win for everyone.

5.  Keep a calm voice (especially during a meltdown).

My husband and I have found that the more calm we are when Zoe is upset, the less upset she gets and the better she is able to deal with her frustration. Our kids learn how to handle stressful situations by how we handle them.

Dr Sears, parenting expert, says that “an angry parent often leads to and even angrier child.” Being in an angry state clouds your thinking and can leave everyone feeling a bit abused. A temper tantrum from us won’t make the drive easier and it will make it more miserable.

I try to think of ways to get our daughter to laugh when I can see she is getting frustrated. Right now she is really into making noises with her mouth, and she thinks its so funny when Mom or Dad makes funny noises with her. Laughter can really be the best medicine for an angry child.

6.  If all else fails, bring two sets of ear plugs and do the best you can. Or just pull over and find a neighborhood park.

Zoe at the park in Muir Woods

We found this park on our way back from Muir Woods during our trip. Zoe met a new friend and we got an opportunity to explore a new, small beach community.

Seriously, if all else fails and the crying seams endless, nothing beats a good pair of earplugs. I’m not saying that you should ignore your child by any means! You can still hear everything and you can continue to help sooth your child. It just helps a little until you can get your bearings again (and helps minimize a pounding headache).

Or if you reach a point where you just can’t take it for another second, just pull over and find a park or a long stretch of grass. There have been a ton of studies that show that being in green grass can relieve stress and make you feel better. Getting out for some fresh air and a little nature will do everybody a little good.

I realize that not every drive will as good as our most recent one, but I do think we are on to something good here. Practice makes perfect, so I guess we will just have to plan another road trip soon!

Southern California is such a great place to live partly because there are so many amazing places we can vacation to via highway. Since our family will soon be expanding even more (we’ve got a baby boy on the way!) we have to adjust our vacation plans to accommodate our little nomads.

Next on our road trip travel list: The Grand Canyon!!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Psst!  Toddler backpack carriers are so great to have on an active vacation.  Check out theses super cool ones!