Engage in any conversation about car safety and it’s only a matter of time before someone informs you that back in their day, they rode in a trunk full of angry scorpions and they’re still alive. So what’s the big deal?
Luckily, over the intervening years we have learned a lot and created wonderful technological advances, and as a result lowered the motor vehicle mortality rate considerably. But even if you have the most safety-advanced car on the market, there is still more to consider.
Any unrestrained item in your car has the potential to become a projectile in a crash, and your children’s toys are no exception. The first rule of car toys is to choose lightweight, soft items that are unlikely to cause injury in an accident. This is not the time to bring along your toddler’s beloved set of bowling balls, or your first grader’s knife collection. I also like soft items because I can keep a basket of them up front, and just toss them behind me every so often.
So many rules! What can the kids play with, then?
Here are some of my favorites for a variety of ages.
Babies are easy because so many of their toys are soft already. Just make sure to be extra careful about choking hazards. Never attach toys to the handle of an infant seat without checking with the manual first to make sure it is expressly allowed. You should also never attach toys to the straps or chest clip of any seat. Here are a few ideas:
Soft and crinkly books
Toys with lots of flaps, tags, and textures
This pre-reading age can be a bit more tricky, but it’s a lovely time for imaginative toys — or even just imagination; I spy is a fantastic road trip game. Other great activities include:
Mess-free coloring and drawing, such as Water Wow, Aquadoodle, or Color Wonder
A soft activity desk with pockets for storage
Ah, the age of bladder control and self entertainment. Unfortunately it’s also the age of, “are we there yet?” Maybe add a clock to this list.
MP3 player with audiobooks and podcasts
Magnetic toy sets, such as “paper” dolls
White board and dry erase crayons (less smelly than markers)
Small plastic clipboard – can hold pages for writing/coloring, or be used with embroidery thread for making friendship bracelets
If you still can’t imagine a car trip without letting the kids watch a movie to save your sanity, I get it. At least make sure the device has a soft case, and the smaller and more lightweight the better. Be wary of aftermarket back-of-the-seat screens, as they are generally placed right at face level and not integrated with the car.
Unless you want to get “Let it Go” stuck in your head again, you are probably planning to bring along headphones. Whenever possible use a wireless set to avoid a strangulation hazard presented by cords.
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.