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6 Car Seat Cleaning Hacks for Busy Parents

6 Car Seat Cleaning Hacks for Busy Parents

Whether it’s sticky from spilled juice or stinky from a diaper explosion, a dirty car seat is every parent’s nightmare. Here are 6 easy tips for cleaning your child’s car seat, as well as a look at what you can do to prevent a mess in the first place.

1. Don’t procrastinate.

Dry messes like cracker crumbs aren’t urgent, but wet messes should be addressed promptly—ideally before the mess dries. Promptly remove the car seat from your vehicle, and then take off the cover, straps, and buckles. It’s smart to keep a car seat cleaning kit stored in your car’s trunk for these kinds of occasions.

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2. Read the manual for cover-washing guidelines.

Use baby wipes or a damp rag to remove as much loose material as possible from the car seat cover, then check the car seat manual for detailed laundering instructions. Most seats with removable cotton or synthetic covers can be washed in cool water on a gentle cycle, but your specific seat may need different care. After washing, flatten the cover and let it air dry.

3. Tackle smells with time in the sun.

If the car seat cover has an odor even after washing, place it outside in the sun for a few hours. To hurry the deodorizing process along, you can also lightly spray the cover with a homemade deodorizing spray made of 10 drops of tea tree oil, 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and 16 ounces of water.

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4. Use a gentle soap to clean the harness and straps.

Never attempt to clean the car seat harness or straps in a washing machine, as this could damage them and reduce their effectiveness. Instead, dip a rag or soft cleaning brush into a bowl of cool water and baby-friendly detergent, and start gently scrubbing in small circles at the top of the harness, working your way down. Try not to soak the harness or straps; dampen them just enough to remove stains and loosen particles. Let the harness and straps air dry.

5. Wash buckles in tap water.

Dirty buckles don’t just look bad. They can also become safety hazards if crumbs or sticky spills keep them from latching properly. Before cleaning dirty car seat buckles, check your manual’s restrictions. If the care instructions allow, place the buckles in a cup full of warm water, taking care to keep any connected harness or straps out of the water. Gently shake the cup to help dislodge any food or other items trapped in the buckles. Remove the buckles immediately and let them air dry.

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6. If all else fails, buy a replacement.

You want your child to be as comfortable as possible in their car seat, and that means it should be clean and odor-free. If the car seat can’t be cleaned safely, or if odors remain despite your best efforts, consider buying a new car seat or purchasing replacement parts. Most major car seat companies sell car replacement seat covers and harnesses. Never buy a car seat or replacement parts secondhand.

Preventing Future Car Seat Disasters

Let’s be honest; keeping a child’s car seat clean is nearly impossible. But there are a few things you can do to help minimize the mess and avoid potential catastrophes.

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  • Use a seat protector: Easy to clean and durable, seat protectors are a must-have accessory for any vehicle that transports kids.
  • Keep a small trash bin in the back seat: A mini trash can is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your kid’s car seat—and your car—clean.
  • Stock up on baby wipes: Keep a few packs of baby wipes stored within your child’s reach and encourage their use.
  • Buy multipurpose sickness bags: Purchase a pack of multipurpose sickness bags — they’re leakproof and odorless.
  • Use snack containers instead of plastic bags: Help prevent snack spills by putting goodies in travel-friendly snack containers that are suitable for their age and development level.

Do you have a tip or trick for keeping your child’s car seat spotless? If so, share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Child Car Seats via childcarseats.com.au

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Published on May 21, 2021

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

  • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
  • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
  • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
  • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
  • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty waking up on time
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Inattention
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Impulse control

As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

For Babies

Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

Gentle Sleep Training

This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

2. Sleep With Parental Presence

With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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  • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
  • Block blue light exposure.
  • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
  • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
  • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
  • Avoid late afternoon naps
  • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
  • Feed baby right before bed.
  • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

For Elementary-Aged Children

It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

  • Offer them a nutritious snack.
  • Bathe them.
  • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
  • Read them a story.
  • Sing them a song.
  • Cuddle or massage them.
  • Talk about the day.

For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

For Teens

They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Avoid late-night binging.
  • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Talk through problems.

Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
[2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
[3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
[4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
[5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
[6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
[7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
[8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
[9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
[10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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