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Driving with kids in the car: the FirstCar survival guide

If you think your chatty best mate in the passenger seat is a distraction, that’s nothing compared to driving with kids in the car. Get ready to be kicked in the back, asked constant questions, and nagged to stop 10 minutes into a journey. And if the kids get car sick, well, let’s not go there…

We can’t promise to make travelling with children stress-free, but we can make it safe and bearable. Here are the dos and don’ts of driving with kids in the car.

Do…

  • Make sure the children are travelling in a child seat. By law, kids must travel in an appropriate seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Check that the seat is suitable for the child’s size and weight.
  • Tell them to belt up. Put on a seat belt, that is. Even if they are over 12 and don’t need a child seat, it’s up to you to make sure they are wearing a belt until they are 14. After that they still need to wear a belt, but below that age it’s you, the driver, who is responsible.
  • Plan plenty of breaks. Stopping every couple of hours for a breather on a long journey is a good idea anyway. That way you should stay safe and alert. When driving with kids this also gives you the opportunity to make sure the children go to the loo and stretch their legs, or for young children to have their nappy changed. It’s the best way to avoid any unscheduled al fresco toilet stops.
  • Keep them entertained. It could be an old-school game like I-Spy. It could be a tablet computer playing their favourite film. Or maybe a CD of stories. Really, it doesn’t matter how you do it, but giving restless children something to occupy them will make the journey pass more easily.

Don’t…

  • Feed children in the car. Unless you know the kids never, ever get car sick, it’s better to save snacks for when you take a break in the journey.
  • Get angry. Some children learn the art of the wind-up before they know how to walk. Don’t get annoyed. A shouting match will make the journey stressful.
  • Become distracted. It helps if there are two adults in the car. One of you deals with requests for sweets, loo breaks, and repetitive questions about when you’re going to arrive. Swap halfway or on the return journey so you both get a turn on “Are we there yet?” duty. If you are on your own you’ll need to be disciplined, and plan in-car activities that won’t distract you while you drive.

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