In your house, you can run after your little ones as they attempt to draw on the walls or stop them before they do something dangerous. But in the car, you're in the driver's seat – literally. You can't clean a spill or hand your kid a dropped water cup while driving through town. To prevent some of these potential meltdowns from your kids in the car, check out this guide to creating a kid-proof vehicle, both for safety and convenience. It may even save you some cleaning tasks, too!
1. Secure your kids in proper safety equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that a child be kept in the back seat until age 12 and may need some type of car seat. The graphic below shows car seat recommendations based on your child’s age, but you should check the seat’s manufacturer instructions for height and weight requirements to ensure you’re providing the safest option for your little ones.
>> Read more: Car Seats: Buying Checklist and Common Mistakes
2. Lock it up. All modern-model cars are equipped with child locks on doors and windows. You may have to enable this feature on your car, but turning on the child protection locks allow the doors to be opened only from the outside and the windows to be controlled by the driver. This could protect your child from potentially serious accidents while driving and it could also protect your car from messy mishaps. (Gum thrown from the window sticking to the car door, perhaps?)
3. Don’t take off until you’re all buckled up! Make it a rule in your mom-mobile that the car doesn’t start until everyone fastens their seat belt. If your child hates buckling up because the strap rubs his or her neck or shoulders, buy a fun adjustable seat belt cover and fasten it to the belt. If you have multiple children who tend to fight over seats, purchasing a belt cover in each of their favorite colors or characters can easily distinguished assigned seats in the car. These covers can also double as neck pillows for those who doze off on drives.
4. Protect against dirty, muddy feet. It may be practical to take off your shoes when entering the house, but in your car, you’ve got to settle for preparing your floor and seats to handle dirty or wet soles. Buy heavy-duty floor mats for all weather to protect your interior from stains or smells in the material. If your vehicle doesn’t have plastic backing on the seats, check out these Brica Deluxe Kick Mats because, in case you’ve forgotten, little feet love to keep their feet on the seats!
5. Shield the seats. To rescue small toys that slip from your kid’s hands and to protect your interior from spills or accidents, place a towel between the seat and car seat. It’ll keep your car cleaner, smelling fresher and, if you have leather seats, may protect the leather from car seat tears. The towel can be easily thrown in the laundry when it need to be cleaned and eliminates the need to scrub out future stains!
6. Keep the essentials handy. Keep tissues, napkins or wet wipes in the console to quickly clean up an spills or messes. A lint roller may also pick up small crumbs or messes without the need to drag out the vacuum! Essentials for your family may also include small toys, books or electronics to keep the kids occupied on car rides. Be smart about what you pack for them, though; the ride to Grandma’s may not be the best time for doodling or coloring unless you’d like their drawings permanently displayed on the back seat!
7. Teach them to use the cup holders. If your child holds a cup in his or her hands or places it in the seat next to them, you'll probably have a spill to clean up once your ride is over. If there is a cup holder near your child's seat, encourage him or her to use it! If they need a little encouragement, buy a fun coaster for the cup holder so your little one will be more tempted to use it. If your child doesn't have a cup holder near the seat, purchase a plastic one that can be clipped to the car door, window or the back of a chair.