Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Travelling by car with children: do's and donts

[Article copyright Ewe Paik Leong]

A motoring holiday with children is an opportunity to share quality time with them. Yet travelling by car with children can be frustrating if the journey is not planned and prepared carefully. The forgotten teddy, the spilled drink or the need to pee in the middle of nowhere can spoil the mood of a much-anticipated trip. Also, take all precautions to prevent an accident from happening.

In a moving car, whether you are sitting in the front passenger or back seat, you should not carry your baby in your arms. A collision of 60km/hr can propel a 4kg baby forward with a force of 135kg. With such a force, it is unlikely the person can hold on to the baby. Likewise, an infant should not sit on the lap of the front passenger. It is worse if the seat belt is fastened over the child as this is an infant-crusher position. The infant will be crushed between the front passenger and the dashboard in a collision.

If you are travelling with a baby, it should be placed in a semi-inclined, backward-facing child restraint. Use towels or pieces of foam to support its head and to prevent it from rolling from side to side. Make sure the restraint is safely buckled to the rear passenger seat. Though many parents like to place their babies in the front passenger seat where they can see them, the rear is always safe.

The following do’s and don’ts should be observed when travelling with children:

(1) Plan carefully. Choose your holiday destination, the accommodation and kind of activities with care, considering the potential problems that can arise with children.
(2) Have plenty of toys and games to keep the children occupied.
(3) Provide the children with plenty of snacks and drinks. Snacks should be finger-sized, requiring no eating utensils. Drinks in cartons with their own straws are appropriate.
(4) Have one set of clean clothes in the car for toddlers and young children. If they soil their clothes, you can change them once you are nearing your destination.
(5) When travelling with a toddler, bring along the changing and cleaning-up kit and potty.
(6) Carry a first-aid kid in the car, including plastic bags in case a child wants to throw up.
(7) Prevent travel sickness rather than cope with it –- consult your pharmacist.
(8) Do expect some unpredictable behavior from children as travelling can be a strain for them. Let them sleep when they are tired; let them eat and drink when they want to.
(9) Make stops at all interesting spots and allow the children to enjoy the view.

(1) Don’t take noisy toys such as drums, whistles, bugles and rattles in the car.
(2) Avoid squashy food and fruit, even with older children.
(3) Don’t run out of toys and games during the journey.
(4) Don’t clutter the interior of the car with baggage.
(5) If you need to cuddle a toddler to calm him or her, never bring the child to the front seat. This is dangerous. Stop the car and go to the back seat to play or cuddle the infant.
(6) Avoid travelling alone with a baby that needs constant attention. Continuous distraction from the baby’s cries increases the risk of accidents.
(7) Don’t lose your temper with the children as this affects your concentration while driving. If a toddler throws a tantrum, or two older children argue and fight, stop the car and try to defuse the situation.
(8) This tip may be off-topic but it's important -- don’t let a toddler hold a car key and run about. In China, a toddler fell on a car key he was holding and it pierced his skull [pix above].


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