As parents, we use our cars countless times each and every day.
From ferrying older children back and forth to school, to taking our little ones out with us to run errands, we’re frequently on the road – and with a child or two in tow.
To help keep you calm and collected while you’re out and about, it’s vital that your car is as child-friendly as possible. You want to be sure that your kids are safe and secure at every stage of your journey, but at the same time, you want to make sure they’ve got plenty of fun things to do (instead of pestering you, or each other!).
But rest assured, a little bit of preparation really does go a long way. How well you prepare will often be the deciding factor that distinguishes a relaxing drive from a stressful one.
We’ve put together a list of our 5 favourite tips to make your car child-friendly and safe. Which ones will you try out before your next trip?
1. Pick a special “car-only” toy
This is a classic tip that will not only keep your kids occupied while they’re travelling, but can even get them excited about buckling up in the car.
There is no need to spend large amounts of money on a fancy toy. You can always choose a special item from their existing toy collection, or purchase a small, cheap toy specifically for this purpose. Dolls and action figures work well for older kids, while brightly coloured toys with buttons and bells are excellent for smaller children.
The key here is to leave the toy in the car when not travelling. That way, they will associate the fun toy or activity with riding in the car and they will look forward to even the longest of drives.
2. Make sure all car seats and boosters are up to scratch
It essential to ensure that all your children’s car seats and boosters are fitted correctly according to regulation safety standards. Not only is this for their safety and health, but also for their comfort. A poorly-secured chair or booster can slide or slip during travel, making your trip a potentially dangerous one. In addition, if belt straps are twisted and are too tight, they can cause kids a lot of discomfort. (Not to mention that if belts are too loose, some wiggly children might try to slip out of them while in transit!)
A quick check before you get your kids into the car will avoid this problem. Go over seat belts and buckles to make sure they fit correctly and aren’t tangled. Also, make sure that the anchor points for your boosters and chairs are secure and tight.
3. Invest in a reverse camera
Rear-view and reversing cameras are an essential addition for your car, especially if you have small children. With the popularity of larger cars and SUVs on the rise, reversing down driveways and into parking spots has become a dangerous task. Children are particularly at risk, as they often play in driveways, and duck and weave around the back of cars without warning.
Many children’s lives have been saved through the installation and use of reverse cameras. In fact, reverse cameras are set to become mandatory in the U.S. from 2018 for that very reason. Getting one installed will help make sure your drive will be a safe one from start to finish.
4. Get creative with an activity pack
Health authorities warn us constantly about the increasing amount of screen time our children are exposed to, so just because you’re going for a drive doesn’t mean you should automatically pass them their favourite DVDs or tablets. While they can be helpful on much longer (more than an hour) drives, why not try a creative activity pack?
In a small container – like a shoebox, bag, or backpack, gather together the following:
- water-based textas
- plain or coloured paper
Last item to go in is a clipboard so that your kids have something to lean on, and you’re ready to go. Encourage them to draw things they see outside their window, items they see inside the car, or even make a special card for friends or family.
5. Surprise them with a fun snack tray
We all know that when kids get bored, they get fidgety – but the same is true for when they’re hungry and tired. The last thing you want while out on the road is to get stuck in heavy traffic with famished kids in the backseat. It’s certainly a recipe for disaster.
This can be easily avoided by bringing along a snack tray. Get a small tray with several compartments (even better, a school lunchbox because it also has a lid!) and pop some healthy foods in each slot.
Sliced grapes, apples or bananas, and dried fruit like sultanas work a treat (though a few chocolate chips will go down equally well!). Apricot bites and healthy muffins or biscuits will also keep little hands busy, and little tummies full. Just don’t forget to bring along a bottle of water!
What do you keep in your travel kit? Share with us below.