What to keep in your car when you have kids

17 February 2017
, CarsGuide

Remember when you needed nothing more than your wallet and sunglasses to leave the house? When the destination was the pub rather than the park? When you alone got to drink from your water bottle and the Wiggles didn't feature on your most played list?

All a distant memory my friends.

Now, nothing short of a military operation will suffice, as you frantically herd the young people to the car cajoling and pleading and perhaps even threatening when all else fails.

With arms laden with every foreseeable necessity, all their stuff mind you, the fact you can open the doors is a miracle.

The script is a familiar one.

And you run through the lines as your reach for your seatbelt.

"Do you have your hat?"
"Do you have shoes?"
"Do you have your bag?"
"Do you have some clothes?"
(In our family, at least, where getting dressed if you are a kid seems to be an optional activity)

Who knows why kids need so much stuff and more especially why it all has to come into the car with you. One thing is clear though, whether you are driving down the road or across the state, it makes for a much more peaceful trip if you have the essentials locked in.

Keeping baby happy

Babies may be the littlest people in the car but they are clearly the neediest. Anyone who has had to negotiate traffic with a screaming baby in the back, knows the importance of keeping them content.

Experts suggest making sure young babies are fed, burped and changed before putting them in their seats. Then, cross your fingers and hope the motion of the car works in your favour. Keep a rattle or squeaky toy close at hand and a mirror placed where your baby can look into it, will also help keep the little guy entertained.

Snacks, for babies who have started solid foods is also an easy distraction.

It may pay to have a second nappy bag of sorts that you just leave in the car. Stock it with nappies, a change of clothes for baby and one for you, as well as wipes, a muslin and an extra blanket. Remember to check it regularly, not just to replenish supplies, but also to ensure your baby has not outgrown the contents.

Snacks, for babies who have started solid foods is also an easy distraction. Nothing too messy though as that will just mean more work for you at your destination.

A first aid kit, even a small one, is a good idea. Parents know that the same baby that was laughing and blowing spit bubbles in the morning can be running a temperature by morning tea, so having an infant thermometer and Panadol close by can be a relief. Add some antibiotic ointment and baby-safe sunscreen to the pack too.

Toddler needs

Phew, they are little bit older now, so those car trips will be easier. Or so you think. Children between 1-3 years old can do more for themselves and are easier to distract.

Keep a small box of toys in the car, preferably not of the noisy battery operated variety, as well as a handful of books that they can page through. Sticker books are a boon for this age group. Young kids love them and they are not as messy as marker pens and crayons.

Snacks will buy you time too – raisins, small crackers, cut-up fruit all work well. Don't forget a little bowl to put them in. It won't stop you finding raisins under the seat every time you clean the car but it limits the damage.

Water is a must, as is a hat, a spare set of clothes and plastic bags to put the soiled ones in. Add some antibacterial cream to the first aid kit and band aids too – Minions or Superman printed ones of course, regular is so last season.

Older kids have stuff too

By the time the kids are in school, you would think they would have this routine down pat. You have done the whole get-yourself-into-the-car dance about 13,782 times now, surely things should run like clockwise?

Oh, you optimist, you.

Older kids tend to mean school which equals more stuff, sport and activities which means more stuff, playdates and cycling and random stops at the beach and park and just more stuff.

Irrespective of the distance you are travelling it is good to keep an entertainment bag or box on the back seat.

Keep an old laundry basket or plastic tub in the boot for their swimming, dance and sports clothes and equipment. Not only is it all in one place but you are less likely to have to make a mad dash home while your little wonder is standing on the edge of the soccer field in his socks.

Add bandages, gauze pads and tweezers to the first aid kit. You will no doubt need them.

Irrespective of the distance you are travelling it is good to keep an entertainment bag or box on the back seat. Fill it with work books, puzzle books, something to read and materials to draw with.

Snacks are a must too as most school-going kids tend to always be hungry. Opt for fruit, crackers and nuts if you can, saving the sugar for times of extreme desperation.

Factbox - Top tips

We now keep a spare pair of shoes in the car. I have lost count of the number of times we have arrived at our destination to find our littlies shoeless.

Plastic bag for rubbish. You need somewhere to put wrappers and papers except your pocket or handbag.

Roller towel or a roll of toilet paper. Need I say more.

A towel. It has a hundred uses, cleaning up, keeping warm, as a makeshift bag.

If you live in a city or town that has unpredictable weather, an umbrella is a good idea.

Do you have any other suggestions? Tell us what you think in the comments below.