My daughter and I were recently in a car accident and while we are both okay, it made me realize what a distraction children can be while you are driving. Honestly, how many times have you turned or reached back to try and calm or hand something to a child? Not to mention the countless arguments and tears we have had to squelch between siblings. If only we could put up a privacy divider in between us and them, driving would be safer for all.
Here are some tips for safe driving with children:
- While most of us drive alone with kids, if you are able to, have a spouse, or someone else, sit in the back with the child. It can help immensely, especially on those longer road trips. Lately I’ve been asking my husband to sit in the back with my kids so they don’t distract us both and I don’t end up instinctively looking back numerous times. When my husband is back there he is able to diffuse any fire or need that may come up with the girls.
- Snacks. Let’s be honest, every child loves snacks, so before driving I like to make sure both my girls have a little bag of something to eat that can be easily opened by them. This way I can remind them of all the snacks they have in their bags and to eat those until we arrive at our destination. And it helps to keep different kinds and more bags full of them around the car… just in case.
- Books and toys. Thankfully, my 4-year-old loves books, so if she ever starts getting restless or bored, I’ll ask her to read me a book. I’ll make it a point to turn off the music and give her my total attention (only ears of course). She loves this opportunity to “shine” and even though she can’t quite read yet, she still uses her imagination to create a story for me. If the books don’t work, then we have plenty of toys to help as well.
- My favorite thing for longer road trips is to take old shoe boxes and fill them with small toys from the dollar store or dollar spot at Target, as well as crafts for the kids to decorate the shoe box (think stickers, markers, crayons, etc.). This will keep them busy for quite some time and if that fails, you can always wrap the dollar store items to make it more exciting for them (because who doesn’t like to open presents?!)
- Music and books on tape. Our house is always filled with music, so putting on the girls favorite songs in the car help keep them dancing and happy so no distractions can arise. I’ve also introduced books on tape such as The Little Prince and other kid favorites. It took them a while to get used to it, but it helps having the book in the car for the kids to follow along to. Even if they aren’t able to read yet, it’s fun for them to pretend to follow along.
- Of course you can also put a DVD player in the car to really help with keeping the kid’s attention. We do put some restrictions on this though and tell our girls that the only time to use the DVD player is for road trips longer than one hour. They are surprisingly okay with this rule. I know not everyone has a DVD player, but other options could be an old iPod for kids to play with, or even a CD or tape player (if you are able to find one). Any piece of electronics seems to help keep kids occupied.
While all these options are good for road trips, they can also be great for just driving around town if you have a child that doesn’t like the car (such as my sixteen-month-old who still cries when she gets in a car seat). Summer time tends to mean a lot more people on the road, so this is a great time to try some different techniques to keep the distractions minimized. Stay safe driving!