Driving with kids: Here are 5 things you need to keep in mind

Easy tips, reminders, and car accessories for mums and dads to help with childcare while on the move

By George Kuruvilla

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This stock photo is used for illustrative purposes
This stock photo is used for illustrative purposes

Published: Thu 20 Apr 2023, 4:48 PM

If you thought adulting is hard, you should try parenting. It is all the responsibility of keeping life afloat with the complication of an added member (or members) who doesn’t quite understand societal rules just yet. Not to say that it isn’t a joy to simply be in the company of one’s child, but it is also a lot of hard work. And a lot of a child’s interaction, entertainment, and learning happens not just at home and in school but also on the go, in our cars and SUVs. And we must facilitate that while paying due importance to safety.

While some of you may be pros at the art of childcare and aren’t looking for more advice from strangers, first-time mommies and daddies will certainly appreciate what we are about to profess. And so, here are some easy tips, reminders, and car accessories to help regain the joy and ease of driving and/or travelling.

The vehicle of choice

First and foremost, it’s important to get a safe car. If your budget allows for it, don’t get one from the sub-compact segment. They feel flimsy and aren’t as stable at high speeds. And very often it is the feeling of safety that will dictate the mood of the ride. And trust me, mood or composure is critical. It may be wise to purchase something from the compact class or larger. And it helps if your vehicle comes with an essential suite of safety features like cross-traffic alert and blind spot warning beside the mandated side impact beams and airbags.

If you are a family with more than one child, a sedan may not be the right vehicle for your family. You may want to consider getting something bigger and more spacious… something like an MPV. The new Toyota Veloz is an affordable example, and the SUV-like Kia Carnival is another unless you’re embarrassed by stereotypes. And to all the dads out there, just driving an MPV isn’t going to turn you into a soccer mom, you have to earn it. It is not a title that comes easy. Alternatively, you can also get yourself a 3-row SUV. And there are over 50 of them to choose from of varying prices, sizes, and segments. So, there is no lack of variety!

Child seats

It is imperative to have your infant or toddler seated in a child seat in your car. These portable cushioned chairs have rigid structures and can easily be fastened to the seats using the ISOFIX points that personal vehicles come equipped with. If you are having trouble comprehending the installation instructions, YouTube will help you jump that hurdle with its many tutorials. And fear not, all manufacturers are very aware of how fast children grow and so most child seats can be adapted to suit the size, height, and age of the child. With that growth also comes the difficulty in laying and retrieving him or her from the seat, for which we have a solution. You may want to consider getting a child seat with a swivel function. This way, things are so much easier, and you can even show it off to other dads and moms. And for an older child, you can always get a booster seat to replace the car seat. Some cars even come with it built into the backrest of the rear seats.

Also, the front seat is not a place for a child! I needed to put this in a separate line just for emphasis!

Basic safety

Cars with a child lock function are pretty much an industry standard. But you can go one up and decide to get a car with electric lock/unlock functions for the doors… and the windows.

If you are the anxious kind and are in the habit of turning around, you can get yourself a sight/safety mirror to see your bundle of joy seated in his or her car seat with just a glance. It is so much safer than turning around while doing highway speeds.

Sunroofs are a nice addition to a car, they allow fresh air into the vehicle and also grant a better view of aerial sights and skyscrapers, but it isn’t advised to let children get their heads and torsos out of the sunroof, let alone, leave them unbuckled even during a leisure drive. We need to keep in mind that a sunroof is a window, not a manhole to climb out off.

Upholstery and conveniences

While white and light-colour upholstered seats may look great, like they do in the Tesla Model Y, they are not safe around children, quite ironically. The baby food smears, liquid splashes and crayons, and even tiny stamp marks of little booties are going to make those plain white slates into artwork, permanent artwork. You truly can’t cry over spilt milk then. So just get a vehicle with a black interior or a dark one at the very least and save yourself the trouble.

It is important to have cupholders. Not just for adults and adult drinks but for formula, water, and the juice boxes you may be handing out mid-ride. You may not need 17, which is the number of cupholders the competent Volkswagen Teramont has, but 6 to 8 sounds optimal.

You may also want to consider getting rubber mats for the floor, just in case that packet of chips you handed pops etc. Alternatively, you can also get yourself a portable handheld vacuum cleaner that is compact enough to be stowed away in the boot or under tray. This will save you a trip to the car wash.

Child seats are often fixed to the outboard seats and depending on the time of the day the sun can come shining down on a child’s face, often waking them up from sleep or taking away the opportunity to look outside the window, which you don’t want. You may want to consider tinting the windows of the car or getting roller shades with suction cup mounts.

Depending on which parenting book you may have read, you may or may not agree to screen time. But as citizens of the digital era, big and small, we will succumb to showing a cartoon or two to our children to keep them entertained. Some vehicles come with rear seat entertainment with sizable screens and input for HDMI etc. but the easiest and cheapest solution is to get a tablet and a tablet holder to mount it.

And on longer drives, the portable noise machine may come in handy. The noise of waves, chirping birds, and others synthesised sounds may help your infant sleep better most of the time.

Driving strategy

Last, but not least, it is advised to stay away from the fast lane if you have a little one on board and to give way to tailgaters. The objective must be to drive slowly but just fast enough to keep up with traffic. Also, the noise of the radio and the tablet playing nursery rhymes in the background combined with a crying baby can really throw you off your game i.e., driving composure. Have any doubts? Let me tell you that this is experience speaking!

Got a few tips of your own? Feel free to share them with us!


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