Holidays and travel with your toddler – your questions answered

Our health visitor answers your questions about when you travel with your toddler


1) Not a water baby

Q. I’m worried how my toddler will cope with our beach and pool holiday, as she’s nervous at swimming lessons. How can we encourage her water confidence?


A. It’s quite typical for toddlers to develop irrational fears of everyday activities, such as swimming. Your child may not be able to identify what the anxiety is based on, so it can be pointless to focus too much on trying to get to the bottom of her fear. In the long run, it’s more beneficial for your child if adults remain calm when she isn’t, and to a certain extent accept that she might not be a water lover this year.

If all the family try the following, she may take some steps towards gaining more confidence:

  • Remember that swimming pools can be noisy, unpredictable places, so try to take her there to play at quiet times.
  • Swim in the water yourself, without pressuring her to join in.
  • Actions speak louder than words. If she’s able to see you calmly swimming and enjoying being in the pool, it’s more likely she’ll feel like joining in.

2) How can I keep my child safe in the car?

Q:My 3-year-old’s learnt how to undo the car seat harness. I’m scared to drive with him. What can I do?

A: You’re right to try and nip this in the bud. For a few days, on car trips that aren’t essential to you but are important to him, like a trip to the park, tell him if he takes off the seatbelt, you’ll go straight home.
If he does remove the belt, stick to your word.

Avoid lengthy discussions, and be consistent and calm, but do return home if he tampers with his belt. This can be disruptive for you and only works if you have nothing essential to do, but he will quickly get the message.

At the same time, make a star chart or reward system, kept in the car, for when he’s completed his journey with his belt intact. Also take a few favourite toys or books into the car to distract him from playing with straps and buttons.

3) Will my child be ill on holiday?

Q. I’m worried my child may become ill on her first trip abroad. Can you offer any advice to help ease our concerns?

A. Going abroad for the first time with your little one can be a worry but a few simple precautions will keep your family safe. Make sure your toddler is fully immunised and have a chat with your doctor to check if extra vaccinations are needed for your destination.

Prepare your own medical kit with a thermometer, infant paracetemol, antiseptic cream, insect repellents, bite and sting soothers, and a few plasters. It’s also worthwhile including rehydration solutions, in case she suffers from diarrhoea or vomiting. Keeping up good standards of hygiene, with everyone being careful to regularly wash their hands after visits to the loo, nappy changes and before meals, will reduce some of the risk of bugs. A travel anti-bacterial handwash solution is useful if washing facilities are limited. On arrival, check where the local chemist, doctor and hospital are, and seek medical advice if any of the family is unwell.

4) She won’t settle

Q. My daughter can’t settle when we’re on holidays. How can we help her?


A. Some toddlers find change bewildering. The key to her settling is preparation. Use books and pictures to discuss where you’re going. Include her in the packing and allow her to bring a small bag with her special things in, especially her bedding. Where you can, keep routines, especially for baths, mealtimes and bed. Avoid over-stimulating her. When she feels comfortable in her new base, she’ll learn to relax and enjoy all these new experiences.

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