Putting your toddler in the car’s back seat for the first time can be a daunting experience and a huge parenting challenge. Namely, you and your spouse are not only going to have to focus on driving and the child’s safety, but you will also have to keep him or her entertained all the way. For some people, this is too much to juggle, so it is useful to have a few tricks up your sleeve before you hit the road. If you take all the safety precautions and bring the necessary gear and food, the next road trip with your toddler will generate many happy faces.
Stops along the way
First, you will have to understand the traveling alone and traveling with your toddler is not the same scenario, so you need to prepare differently. Although you might sometimes decide to bend the rules of traffic safety and drive for hours on end, this will simply not be possible when you have a child in the back seat. Frequent stops are going to become the leitmotif on your next journey, whether you make food breaks to get a bag of chips at the nearest gas station or potty breaks to use the bathroom at a roadside diner. If you wish to decrease the number of these infantile pit stops, then we recommend packing enough snacks to last you the entire trip.
A fully functional vehicle
Before you stock up on food, there is a far more important task that you need to complete. The passenger vehicle you’re going to use on your travel needs to be 100% safe, which should be corroborated by a visit to the mechanics. Even a trivial problem such as low tire pressure can be a cause for major problems when you’re out on the road. Another good example is a dead battery that could leave you stranded by the side of the road for hours until a Good Samaritan motorist comes along. That is why you need to check absolutely everything on your car, from windshield wipers, all the way to engine coolant.
Proper placement of the child’s car seat
We haven’t mentioned so far that the toddler needs to have a safety seat of his/her own, because we assume that you know this for a fact. However, merely buying a high-end seat does not guarantee that your toddler automatically gets top-notch protection. In order for this to happen, you need to stick to the instructions given in the seat’s user manual and properly place and secure the seat into position.
As you might already know, the recommendation is that children under the age of 2 should be facing the back of the car, i.e., the seat should be mounted in the direction opposite to the direction the car is traveling. Also, don’t even be tempted for convenience reasons to place the toddler in the front seat or to reposition his/her seat too often. If you fiddle with it all the time, then you might forget to strap it properly before the big trip.
Keep the toys near at hand
An impatient child that is kicking and screaming in the back seat is not merely a nuisance but a real safety threat because they are distracting you from your primary role of driving the car. Even if they are doing okay, kids still get bored, triggering hysteric bursts. That is why you should keep them entertained at all time using their favorite toy or a tablet using appropriate child games, apps, or cartoons for them to watch. Toys and gadgets have the potential to keep them busy for hours, leaving you to focus on the road ahead and the directions. In fact, packing toys is as important as filling the fuel tank with petrol.
Prepare a first aid kit
Everything you do as part of the preparations before the road trip is there to reduce the risk of unwanted scenarios, such as car crashes or your toddler injuring himself or herself in another way. Since you are unable to cover all eventualities, you need to come prepared and have a well-stocked first aid kit in your vehicle. Minor injuries such as sunburn, a bruised knee, a bug bite or an allergic reaction are likely to occur, so it is wise to have everything necessary to resolve such minor health issues quickly.
As you have seen from the pieces of advice we have listed here, embarking on a car trip fully stocked and prepared should ensure a safe and fun journey. By caring about safety before you hit the road, you are ensuring your toddler is protected and entertained to the max!
Ian Lewis is a father, writer, and a fitness nut. He’s passionate about many forms of strength training and spent years lifting all kinds of heavy objects. His favorite quote: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. You can find him on Twitter.