While staying at home is probably the easiest option when you have a toddler in your charge, it’s nice to go out once in a while. After all, we stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) do need to stay connected to friends, and your tot will definitely benefit from being exposed to bits of the world-at-large and to people in general.
Taking a toddler on the bus or MRT, however, can be a daunting task! This is especially so if you are travelling alone, with no husband, maid, or grandparent around to lend a hand. Below are a few tried-and-tested tips to make those trips to town more palatable and enjoyable for everyone.
Tip #1: Start small
Don’t aim to venture to the opposite end of the island on your first trip! Stay closer to home for a start – a 10-15min bus ride would probably be a good gauge for that first outing. Go to the mall at your nearest interchange, for example, or visit your parents if they stay nearby.
Also try one mode of transport at a time. Depending on whether your child is of walking age, prefers the pram or is still needing to be carried around in a sling, he might fare better on the bus or MRT. Do note that singlehandedly holding on to both a folded up pram and a restless toddler can be tough (on buses) while your young adventurer might want to trot up and down the MRT carriages, much to your chagrin!
Tip #2: Prepare Junior
Think about the situation from your kid’s perspective. It’s a pretty big deal to be leaving the house with mummy (or daddy or grandma) to go to some strange and wonderful place where there will be lots of unfamiliar faces, sights, smells and sounds!
The day before your intended trip, tell your child that “tomorrow you and I are going to do something special together.” Make it a big deal for him – that you are specially spending this time with him to go do something new and fun! That should help to get him a bit excited as well as mentally prepared that something different will happen tomorrow, although he may not understand exactly what.
Tip #3: Make full use of distractions
Depending on the length of your trip and what grabs your kid’s attention, pack a couple of items that will come in handy should your child start fussing or feel scared on the road. Some examples would be a small well-loved book, a colourful rattle, or a toy car or doll. Avoid using food as a distraction, since eating and drinking are not allowed on public transport in Singapore.
We discovered (by happy chance!) that our son loves to play with zips! So if he starts to fuss when I’m on the bus or train, I whip out my wallet and let him play with the coin section until he manages to zip it open. Then he zips it back to close it. This very simple activity amuses him up a good 5 minutes on most days!
Tip #4: Ask for help if you need it
If you’re lugging out the stroller with you, you might struggle getting both the pram and your child up and down the bus. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone else at the bus stop or in the bus. Most Singaporeans will be glad to lend a helping hand, but may not often step forward to do so on their own initiative.
When on a crowded bus or MRT, also don’t be afraid to ask a young person to give up their seat for your child or for both of you. In most cases, someone will offer you their seat first anyway. Safety comes first!
Tip #5: Try, try again
If your first trip out was a failure (crying kid, frazzled mummy, bag dropped and contents all spilled out…), don’t despair! Think about what could have been done differently to achieve a different result. For example, maybe the timing of the trip wasn’t great, if it was close to Junior’s nap time. Or perhaps it was a really hot day, which aggravated the situation – and who can control the weather?
Give it another go!
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents online magazine Aug / Sep 2012 issue.