Strategies for keeping kids occupied…
so you can concentrate on driving.

For Babies For Older Children Child Passenger Safety
For Toddlers For Teens

Children should never ride in the front seat, yet one in three children killed in motor vehicle crashes were riding in the front seat.

Source: NHTSA

For Babies:

  • Pack soft toys that are age appropriate. All play objects are potential missiles; therefore, take care to find toys that are soft and will not cause harm if airborne.
  • Bring along tapes or CDs that have baby’s favorite tunes.
  • Have a parent or older child sit in the back seat and read, talk or play with the infant.
  • A hungry baby is often an unhappy baby. Fill bottles with warm sterilized water for formula and put them in an insulated bag. When it's time to make up a bottle, the water should be just about right.

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For Toddlers

  • Provide each child with his own backpack to carry some special items to be used only in the car.
  • In addition to picture books, create a small album with pictures of people and places your child already knows.
  • Carry non-messy drinks and snacks, such as juice boxes, rice cakes, bagels, cereal, granola bars and pretzels.
  • Schedule travel times around naps as much as possible. Put blankets and sleeping friends (like teddy bears) next to toddlers for comfort and inspiration.
  • When traveling with small children, allow more time to reach your destination.
  • Play areas are great for blowing off some steam -- look for rest areas and restaurants that offer play areas and family-friendly restroom facilities.

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For Older children

  • Look for the travel versions of popular games.
  • Older children can be the “navigator” on a family trip by plotting the route on a map and providing the driver with directions.
  • Have children keep a list of automobile mileage, gasoline fill-ups and money spent on fuel.
  • To practice numbers on a trip, ask your child to make a list of license plate numbers and put them in numerical order.
  • See how many of the 50 states you can find by counting the number of out- of-state license plates.
  • Discuss cities and states you visit. Describe to your child how a country, and a state, a county, and a city are different from one another.
  • Play the alphabet game: Look at road signs and/or license plates and spot the words that begin with “A” then “B” then “C,” etc. The first person to reach “Z” wins.
  • Have a child keep a “traveler’s log” of the places you visit. Provide your child with a special notebook and pen to write about the places and people you visit. Also provide children with a folder or notebook to keep brochures, post cards and other free items from the places you visit.
  • Audio books are an excellent alternative for kids who get motion sickness from reading in the car. If available, buy or rent something your child's teacher recommends for summer reading.
  • If you have a TV and DVD player in your vehicle, take along old favorites and buy a new selection or two to debut on your next trip.
  • Even older children can benefit from naps. Encourage them to take naps in the car by making small pillows and blankets available. But be sure to stay buckled up.

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For Teens

  • To reinforce the notion that driving comes with a host of responsibilities, put teens in charge of doing the pre-trip car equipment check.
  • While on the road, observe the behaviors of other drivers and use it as a teaching tool. Both bad and good habits can turn into teaching moments for teens.
  • Quiz your teenager on the meanings of signs and lines and reinforce the concept that speed limits are not suggestions, but are meant to be obeyed.
  • If you have a responsible teenager with a driver license, consider letting him or her do some of the driving.

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Child Passenger Safety

  • Crashes are the leading cause of death for children over age 1, and no one can predict the day or the hour of a crash. Parents must insist on safety protocols every ride, every time. That means using restraints and using them appropriately, slowing down and focusing on driving.
  • Sixty-five percent of parents polled in a 2004 national poll conducted by Mason-Dixon said they moved their children out of a child safety seat or booster seat at age five or younger, although most children are not big enough to properly use a seat belt until they are much older. According to AAA, 28 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring children to use child seats until age 5 or beyond, but it is recommended until children weigh 80 pounds or reach a height of 4'9".
  • A child is properly secured in an adult seat belt when the lap belt properly fits across the child's thighs and hips and not the abdomen. The shoulder strap should cross the center of the child's chest and not the neck, allowing the child to sit all the way back against the vehicle seat with knees bent over the seat edge.

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