A Playroom on Wheels? Making Your Car Kid-Friendly
Anyone over the age of 30 probably remembers what it was like to ride in the car as a kid: no seat belts and no entertainment, other than torturing your siblings. Maybe as you got older you got a Walkman or you were lucky enough to get your parents to pop in your favorite cassette, but otherwise, riding in the car was a fairly mundane experience, merely a means to get from Point A to Point B.
These days, though, riding in the car is an entirely different experience. Not only are kids required to be strapped in (in a car or booster seat until they are big enough to use the seatbelt), but their comfort and entertainment is virtually guaranteed by the features and amenities in modern cars. In fact, you could even argue that the features in cars are as good as – or even better – than those in many homes.
While it’s possible to get most kid-friendly features included when you buy your car, it might be more cost-effective to have aftermarket parts you purchase from somewhere like PartsGeek.com for discount auto parts and accessories after you’ve purchased the car – especially if you drive an older model or have had kids since you purchased your car.
Which Features Are the Best?
With so many options these days for vehicles, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what you need. Below are some of the options you should consider when customizing your vehicle to make it more kid-friendly.
When you have kids, safety is one of your top concerns. While most cars come with standard features, you can opt for these extras to add another layer of protection. Consider installing a back-up camera that will allow you to see what’s behind you; some also come with a warning system that will notify you with a beep as you get closer to obstacles behind you. While it might not keep the kids entertained on the road, a back-up camera will help prevent you from backing over your son’s prized bicycle – or worse.
It’s inevitable. You tell the kids to use the bathroom before you leave the house, but five minutes into the trip you hear the dreaded words, “I have to go potty!” Keep your sanity intact – and your car seats clean – by keeping a travel potty in the car. Several companies offer inflatable or travel models that include plastic inserts to make cleanup a breeze.
DVD Entertainment System.
Purists argue that kids should get their entertainment from looking out the windows while traveling, but anyone who has ridden with kids will tell you that a DVD player can be a sanity-saver. While some vehicles come with built-in entertainment systems, if your car didn’t, you can pick one up for a few hundred dollars from a discount auto parts or electronics retailer. The systems generally come with screens, a player, headphones and auxiliary jacks that allow for video game systems.
There’s no denying that kids come with stuff – and a lot of it. With all of the toys, snacks and other gear, your car could quickly become a disaster area. Add seatback organizers where kids can store their crayons and other toys, and add a backseat or trunk organizer to hold diapers, snacks, wipes and more.
What is it about taking a road trip that makes people hungry? Kids are no different, and sometimes a simple snack can make all the difference between a happy child and a total meltdown. Consider adding an armrest cooler to keep drinks and snacks cold while you’re on the go; if you can’t retrofit one into the seat, purchase a cooler that plugs into your vehicle’s auxiliary jack or cigarette lighter. Don’t forget to include a stash of small trash bags or a travel garbage can to properly dispose of all of the snack debris.
Keeping kids happy and entertained on the road doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – and the benefits far outweigh the costs. Letting the kids watch their favorite movies, enjoy a snack and use the facilities on the road might even prevent you from hearing, “are we there yet?” Instead, you might be hearing, “we’re already here?
About the Author
Sarah Buckland is a mother of three. She writes about traveling with kids for several publications. She resisted installing a DVD player in her minivan for years, until she rented a vehicle with the feature and realized how much more pleasant the trip was.