Traveling by car with children

A car trip with children isn’t always easy! We explore the safety rules to follow and share tips and tricks you can use along the way to distract them and to ensure you have a great trip!

Car seats

According to the Highway Safety Code, any child that is smaller than 63 cm in the sitting position should be installed in a car seat adapted to his height, weight and age. There are three types of car seats available: seats for infants which are installed facing the rear of the car for maximum safety, child seats which must continue to face the rear until your child is able to stand up alone without help and finally, booster seats, which allow older kids to be at the correct height for the safety belt to be safely fastened.

When to stop using a car seat?

The child who measures less than 63 cm in the sitting position (between the seat and the top of his head) must be installed in a car seat, but how do you know that your child is really ready to stop using a booster seat? The important thing is that your child should be tall enough when sitting to be adequately protected by the safety belt in case of an accident. In addition to his size, it’s important to check hi posture: is his back well supported? Are his knees bent at the end of the seat in a comfortable position? You must also make sure that the location of the safety belt on his body is safe: it should rest in the middle of his shoulders and on his hips. The belt should not be resting on his neck or his stomach because that could cause serious injuries to his spine or internal organs if you have an accident.

Even if your child is ready to abandon his car seat, keep in mind that children under the age of 12 should always sit in the back seat, also known at the “kids’ zone”. Why? Because most cars are equipped with front airbags that inflate when there is an accident and that can be dangerous or even fatal for young children.

Safety first!

Here are some general rules you should always follow to make sure that everything goes well during your road trip with kids:

  • If you’ve had an accident, it’s important to replace your car seat even if it doesn’t seem damaged. That’s why we don’t advise buying used car seats because you never know if they come from a car that has had an accident.
  • If you must sit a child younger than 12 in the front seat, move the seat as far back as possible to avoid serious injury in a collision.
  • Always make sure your children use their seatbelt, even on short trips. If they refuse to do it, don’t start the car until they have and remind them of the reasons why it’s so important to use a seatbelt.
  • Never leave heavy items unattached in the car as these objects become flying projectiles during sudden stops.
  • Always keep your doors locked.
  • Make sure your child doesn’t put their arms, heads or hands out of the car when the windows are opened.

We can’t repeat it enough: never ever leave a baby or toddler alone in the car, even for a few minutes. The studies are clear: the temperature in a stopped car can climb or decrease dramatically in a very short time which is very dangerous for young children. And if you think that’s not really anything to worry about, watch this video that recreates what happens when you are away for a few minutes.

If you see a child alone in a car, call 911 to report it, it can save lives!

The comfort of children in cars

The longer your car trip is, the more it’s important to be well prepared for any eventuality, especially when travelling with children. Plan to make stops at least every two hours o let the kids stretch and expend energy for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t forget to also plan for all possible problems like traffic, temperature or sickness:

  • Make sure your child is comfortable because a comfortable child will be less likely to detach his seatbelt. Remember to bring a blanket and a pillow so they can nap if they need to.
  • For children who experience motion sickness, keep the car air-conditioned and well aerated. Bring plastic bags in case of vomiting. You can also consult a pharmacist for a drug to prevent or relieve nausea.
  • Prepare a first aid kit that contains the must-haves: bandages, scissors, antiseptic ointment and if necessary, medication you use regularly.
  • If you are travelling with a baby, make sure you have enough diapers, wipes and clothes for your journey.
  • Have your kids wear loose and comfortable clothes for the car trip.
  • Children are often hungry and thirsty so make sure to bring nutritious snacks and refreshments in a cooler packed with ice packs for longer trips.
  • You can find blinds for the rear and side windows that will protect their eyes and skin from the sun.

Keeping kids busy

If you want your car trip with the kids to be successful, physical comfort is not the only thing you need to plan for! You must also ensure that your kids have enough activities to keep them entertained to avoid boredom. We suggest you bring a selection of their favorite toys and games, arts supplies and board games. Books and music are also a hit and if you have a portable DVD player in your car, you can bring some new movies for them to watch during the trip.

Read our article Entertain kids on the road for more ideas!

Ideas of fun car games

  • For toddlers, encourage them to look outside the windows and to describe what they see. Imitate the sounds of animals, cars or trucks, count what you see and let your kids wave hello to the other cars.
  • Describe something you see on the road and let the kids guess what it is. They can then each take turn to describe something.
  • Invent a story or a song, start the first sentence and let the kids add their own in turns.
  • The Hangman game is still really popular with kids and help to make them learn while they have fun.
  • Ask the kids to find words that begin with the first letter of the plate of the car that is in front of yours.
  • Playing “Simon says” is perfect to help stretch the kids’ muscles during a long trip.
  • Turn your trip into an adventure! Talk about your destination, how long it will take to get there, the different places you will visit. Show them these places on the map and encourage them to mark them.
Image de Mariem Melainine

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