How to protect my car from kids

24 March 2015
 by 
, CarsGuide

"Child-proofing your car" means different things depending on where you sit on the parenting continuum (that's right, it never ends).

To a new parent, it means fitting your child seat properly, putting the child-locks on in the back doors, so that the little blighters can't make a run for it at traffic lights, throwing the methylated spirits out of the glovebox, those sorts of things.

There are whole websites dedicated to this kind of advice, with exciting names like HomeSafeCar, most of it punishingly obvious.

What any slightly more experienced car-owning parent will tell you is that these sites have it the wrong way around - it's your car that needs protecting from your children.

Leave a child unattended in a car with food (actually, don't leave them unattended, ever), or even briefly unwatched, and they will create a kind of tsunami of scraps and crumbs that would cause a car-detailer to cry.

If you've got leather seats, particularly white ones, you won't believe what a toddler with even slightly muddy shoes can do. Kids are bendy, and kicking the ceiling doesn't seem like a silly idea to them, it seems hilarious.

Fortunately, although no one seems to have dedicated a website to it, there are plenty of ways you can prepare your car for the onslaught of little people, and even keep it looking reasonably new.

Buy the right car

It seems like simple advice, but a surprising number of people are actually shocked  when the car they've owned and loved for years turns out to be utterly useless for carrying children, or is quickly ruined by doing so.

There's a reason SUVs, of all sizes, are so popular with families

A coupe is not going to work, for example, because shifting the front seats to load a child into their fiddly capsule will drive you mad in a week. Anything too low is bad, too, because you'll do your back in and the seats will cop a pounding as well.

There's a reason SUVs, of all sizes, are so popular with families - the high hip point means you can get kids in and out without them running across the back seat in filthy shoes, hopefully.

The question of what's on those seats is important, too, because a creative child with a marker pen can permanently mark your leather, for example, in no time at all.

Some would argue that leather seats are better, because you can wipe spillages - smoothies, sundaes, red cordial, vomit - off much easier, but they just won't cop the pounding of children as well in the long run, and when the buckle on your daughter's shoe rips a hole in leather it really hurts.

You had the expensive seats when you were childless, they were great, but it's time to let them go and opt for cloth. Or you can keep the leather and put seat covers on, which just looks awful.

Cloth also gives you the option to Scotchgard your interior, which is definitely a wise preventative measure.

What to keep in the car

You should always, always have towels in the boot, just in case, and when your kids are younger Wet Wipes should be on hand, preferably in the driver's door bin.

Car sickness is a universal constant

A towel will come in handy when, inevitably, one of your children vomits everywhere. And they will. Car sickness is a universal constant, just as throwing up in your front yard at least once will be when they're older.

It's fine to suggest that you should keep an eye on your kids at all times, and pre-empt car sickness - which would be ideal, the parmesan cheese smell can take days to get rid of - but you do need to watch the road. And kids can spew forth vomit with all the speed and unpredictability of volcanoes.

Towels will help, particularly if your youngster has barked all over its own clothes.

Sick bags in the setbacks might be worth trying once they're old enough to understand the concept.

An iPad with a movie can make all the difference between keeping your sanity and losing it

The other things you need in the car at all times, as rattly and annoying as they can be, are toys, to distract the kids and keep them from what can be a condition that's dangerous to your mental health; boredom.

On longer trips, headrest video screens are an absolute Godsend, particularly with Bluetooth headphones attached, but even an iPad with a movie can make all the difference between keeping your sanity and losing it.

What to keep out of the car

In an ideal world you'd have a simple "no food" policy in the car, but in an ideal world your kids would be born with manners.

No marker pens in the car, ever

Youngsters, particularly toddlers, don't take no for an answer when they're hungry, they just want food NOW. So they will be eating back there, it's up to you to limit the damage - no fizzy drinks, no ice creams - ever, they will spill it as surely as some of it will get in their hair - and nothing greasy.

All of this is also good advice because it will reduce their chances of vomiting.

And no marker pens in the car, ever.

Exterior protection

You might think children are only a danger to the inside of your car, but that would be foolishly short sighted.

As soon as they're big enough to open doors themselves your children need even closer watching because they will grind those doors into gutters, open them into trees or even attempt to smash your garage walls down. Yes, it's your job to train them not to do this, but like all things, this takes time. While it's happening, be sure not to park near high gutters and consider lining the inside of your garage with foam to protect your doors.

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