Child car comfort: why it’s important
When children are comfortable, engaged and happy in the car, they’re less likely to distract you if you’re driving. It might be easier for you to concentrate and drive safely.
Also, car travel is more pleasant for everyone when children are comfortable and happy.
Hot weather: how to keep children comfortable
If you’re travelling in hot weather, children can get hot and uncomfortable very quickly. Heat can also have some risks for children, including dehydration.
Here are some tips that can help your child stay comfortable and safe when you’re driving in hot conditions.
Before you get in the car
- Cool the car as much as possible before you let your child get in.
- Dress your child in cool, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Check the temperature of car seats, harnesses and seat belts before your child gets into the car. Hot metal, plastic or leather can burn your child. If surfaces are hot, cover them with a damp cloth and then help your child into the car.
- If you’re going on a long drive, plan it for cooler times of day if you can.
- Always carry extra water in case you get stuck in traffic, break down and so on.
In the car
- Use air conditioning if your car has it.
- Give your child plenty of water to drink.
- If your windows don’t have tinting, use shades on your rear side car windows to protect your child from the sun. Never use a towel on the rear side windows, because this will block the driver’s view.
- Avoid putting a hood or bonnet over a capsule to protect a baby from the sun, because this reduces air circulation.
It’s fine to put the windows down if you’re driving or parked on the side of the road in hot conditions. Just make sure that your child always keeps their arms, legs and head inside the car. And never leave your child unattended in a parked car.
Long car trips: planning breaks for children’s comfort
Sitting in a child car seat for long periods isn’t good for children’s physical development.
It’s best to plan breaks so everyone can get out of the car and stretch. This includes babies, who can roll around on a rug on the ground. It’s best to get your child out of the car seat even if they’re asleep.
Babies aged 4 weeks and under need a break from their car seat every 30 minutes.
Older children need a break every 1-2 hours.
Keeping children happy and engaged in the car
These tips can help you keep your child happy and engaged in the car:
- Chat while you drive. Talking passes the time and distracts your child. Discuss what you’ll be doing when you arrive, or point out sights through the window.
- Try car karaoke, play alphabet search, recite some nursery rhymes or play music or an audio story.
- Provide plenty of safe distractions for your child, like soft, hand-held games or books.
- Give your child some healthy snacks and drinks. This is safe if your child is in a forward-facing child car seat and you can see what your child is doing.
It’s great to take toys, books and other objects to distract your child. Just make sure to keep loose objects in the glove box or boot or behind a cargo barrier. Loose items can fly about in a crash and injure people. It’s the same with the family pet – make sure they travel in a pet harness or animal container.
When children get uncomfortable or bored: how to handle unsafe car behaviour
It’s natural for children to get uncomfortable or bored in the car. This can happen even when you do your best to keep them cool and engaged and give them plenty of breaks and snacks.
When children get uncomfortable or bored, you might see unsafe behaviour, like fiddling with car seat buckles or seatbelts or undoing them.
You might be able to prevent this by praising your child for good car behaviour, like keeping the harness or seatbelt on and leaving car locks alone. For example, ‘I like driving the car when you keep your seatbelt on – that’s great behaviour’.
But if your child undoes their buckles or seatbelt or needs attention for any other reason, you should pull to the side of the road in a safe location and turn the engine off. This way you can see what your child needs and stay safe. Do up the buckles or seatbelt again, and explain to your child why this is important.
If you set a good example of safe car behaviour, it can encourage this behaviour in your child. For example, start driving only when all buckles and seatbelts are done up, including yours. And always drive safely, responsibly and according to the road rules of your state or territory.