TODDLER TRAVEL: KEEPING LITTLE ONES SAFE ON THE ROAD THIS SEASON
Baby, It’s HOTOut There – So Don’t Leave Kids in the Car. It’s Dangerous!
Even a trip to the corner store to get milk can turn into a challenge when you’ve got a wiggly tot on board, especially if your curious cutie is busily pushing all the window buttons or tossing the toys just to see what happens. These safety strategies can go a long way toward protecting your precious cargo whenever you’re in the car.
Choose the right one
Here’s the new golden rule of car safety for children. Don’t flip the car seat until your tot is two — and he’s reached that position’s limit (usually around 16 kilograms, or 35 pounds). A rear-facing seat is a safer place for babies and toddlers — your child’s head, neck and spine are better supported in case of a crash. Once your tot is over the weight limit, then it’s okay to switch the seat so it faces forward, which is how your little traveller can ride until he’s four and weighs between 18 and 30 kilograms (40 and 65 pounds), depending on the seat. Or you can buy a forwardfacing model that will transition to a booster seat for his pre-kindergarten years and beyond. (Your car’s regular seat belts aren’t the best for toddler car safety until he’s about 36 kilograms (80 pounds) and one metre, 23 centimetres (four feet, nine inches) tall.
Even the right car seat can’t do its job if your toddler is not strapped in just right. Although you’re probably a pro at fastening all the harnesses and latches, take time to review car-seat safety tips, especially if you’re buying a new model. (Not sure you’ve really secured the new seat? See if your local police or fire station can do a check, or find a certified car-seat inspector.) To check if the harness is snug but not too tight for your growing toddler, see if you can get two (but no more) fingers between the strap and your child’s body. Then make sure everyone obeys the buckle-up rule (even you). After all, the best way to teach good habits to kids is to practise them yourself.
Keep little fingers and arms safe
Making windows go up and down with a push of a button is oh-so tempting for busy little fingers but oh-so-dangerous if that window closes on them. To keep your curious toddler safe, control windows from the driver’s seat, keeping them locked if possible. When you do need to raise them, always check to make sure hands (or arms or heads) aren’t anywhere near. You can also nip the temptation to touch the buttons by giving him something to keep his hands busy — like a justfor-the-car book or toy. Want to be sure that no fingers will get caught in the car door? Before you shut the door (and after you’ve strapped him in his seat), ask your toddler to show you how tightly he can hug himself.
Tether the toys
At an age when kids just want to go, go, go, being strapped in a car seat is boring, boring, boring — and may lead to some loud complaints. Keep backseat protests to a minimum by occupying your tot with a rotating selection of small toys, attached to his car seat with plastic links. This strategy will help protect your sanity and your hearing, and make for a safer drive since there’ll be no tossed toys to distract you. Tethering toys also means you won’t have to twist like a pretzel to rescue fallen playthings from that Bermuda Triangle beneath the front seat. Choose soft toys for the car (and forgo anything pointy or sharp such as pencils and pens), so there’s less of a chance of your little one getting hurt if you have to stop short.
Practise safe snacking
When the whining (or wailing) begins, it’s tempting to hand over any and every edible item around to quiet your travelling tot. But try to avoid trading food for silence — it’s not a great pattern to get into. If you must give in to a snack in the car — say your tot missed a meal due to some tough travel arrangements — avoid foods that are considered choking hazards for young kids, such as raw carrots, popcorn, nuts, grapes and raisins. And ditch sticky, messy treats, such as yogurt or applesauce squeezers. For safer, neater snacking, stick with whole grain crackers, dry cereal or unsalted pretzels, with a spill-proof cup of water to wash it down.
Don’t leave your tot in the car
Not even for a minute. Cars can cool down — and heat up — fast. How fast? In just 10 minutes. This can be alarming when the temperature soars from 32° to 43° Celsius (90° to 110° Fahrenheit). That’s especially dangerous for kids younger than four since their bodies absorb more heat and increase in temperature five times faster than adults’ bodies do. So don’t take a chance leaving your little one in the car alone, no matter what the weather. Want to avoid accidentally leaving your little one in the car (yes, it happens, especially when kids are asleep and a parent is distracted or stressed)? Always put your purse or briefcase in the backseat so you’ll have to check back there before you get out of the car. And make a habit of looking in the front and back of the car before walking away — just in case.
For more tips on toddler and family safety issues, check out everydayhealth.com.