Car trips with kids don’t have to be a big headache. Here’s our survival guide to making it fun, enjoyable and comfortable for all in the car.
Obviously, safety is paramount in car travel with kids. They are unpredictable little human beings and you need to keep your wits about you as the responsible adult in charge.
Some safety tips for car travel with kids include:
First aid kit
- Seat belts are not negotiable. Everyone must wear one and it’s helpful when children see grown-ups putting theirs on too. Make sure your car’s seat belts are in good working order, not twisted and not frayed. Also, seat belts are never to be used with the sash belt behind the child’s back or under his or her arm as it is simply not safe.
- Children should not sit in the front seat. According to Kidsafe, children aged 12 or younger should sit in the back seat.
- Infants should face the rear of the car for as long as possible, while they still fit in their rear-facing restraint. Toddlers and children up to 7 years of age should use a booster seat.
- Try to avoid the possibility of children throwing items out the car windows, or even putting their little hands – or heads – out the window.
- Explain why they should behave calmly and not argue or fight or be demanding when on car trips, because it makes it difficult for the driver to concentrate.
Little incidents happen from time to time and when they do, you want to be prepared with a first aid kit that’s especially designed for car travel with kids. The St John Ambulance has a range you can choose from, with each kit specific to different kinds of travel such as off-road or leisure.
One thing that is invaluable to carry in the car is a Twist ‘n’ Seal Bag that will come in mighty handy if there’s some motion sickness happening! At just 80 cents per unit, you could keep one in each door pocket or back-of-seat pocket. You will be so grateful for it if someone does need it!
Also carry wet wipes because they come in handy for cleaning little hands and faces after eating, in hot weather, for roadside toileting and if someone is sick.
Little ones get bored very easily and while it can be tempting to keep them occupied with screen gadgets, there are plenty of other activities that can divert their attention. Try good old ‘I Spy’, or ‘Spotto’ (where the first person to point out a yellow car gets a point). Have a sing-along or a spelling bee. Play ‘Simon Says’ or ’20 Questions’ (where each person takes turns asking a question but the answers must not be “yes” or “no”).
Car journeys are a wonderful opportunity for conversation time. You’re all stuck in the one place at the same time so make it fun, revealing, happy, intriguing or whatever else comes up. Be engaged, ask questions, give of yourself; show the kids you’re interested in what they have to say and it will teach them to be interested adults too.
Even though most cars are equipped with cup holders, it doesn’t always mean that rear cup holders are available, particularly if someone sits in the middle seat and the arm rest can’t be lowered. Carry spill-proof cups and even if you purchase takeaway, pour the drinks into those cups to make extra sure there are no spills. Better yet, give your children water to drink so that even if there is a mess, it won’t be hard to clean up and won’t leave bad odours.
Be mindful of choking hazards because if you are the only adult in the car, and your child starts to choke, what if you can’t pull over immediately because you’re on a highway? It’s always best to have food out of the car when you can stop and stretch your legs, and lay out a mini picnic.
But if you must give children food while travelling, make it soft, easy to eat food items such as sandwiches, cheese cubes or cut-up fruit pieces. You also don’t want to serve foods that are overly sticky, messy or crumbly because you will have some serious cleaning up to do upon arrival.
When the journey is long, comfort can be especially soothing. Pull out different items at different times so you have something new to offer according to the situation. If you keep pillows in the boot, then take them out when children are fussy or tired, they will be extra welcome, and they won’t take up room on the inside of the car when not required. Bring the children’s bed pillows from home because they will feel and smell familiar.
Small blankets are important for warmth and snuggling. Tucking in a small child by tucking the blanket in and around their body feels like home and can be very reassuring. You may also want to bring face washers and at every stop, rinse them and put them in a waterproof bag. When the child feels hot or you think they could do with hand and face wash, take them out and they’ll appreciate the cool, clean feel.
Let kids travel in their most comfy clothes. Choose track suit pants over jeans for boys and shorts over skirts for girls. Be aware that hats with drawstrings around the neck can be hazardous if the child falls asleep with the string too constricting on his or her neck. Provide socks for when kids go to sleep as their extremities will usually be cooler than their core body temperature.
Make car trips with kids fun, safe and memorable
As a parent, it can be tiring having to always keep the kids entertained and on car trips, it can be extra hard because everyone is confined to a small area. Think what you used to love or not love about it when you were little and plan accordingly.
And remember, children shouldn’t always need 24/7 entertainment. Some quiet time with a book, or singing along to some quiet tunes on the radio, or simply gazing out the window at the passing scenery can be just as valuable – and enjoyable – as the busy, boisterous, active moments.