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The last thing that should be on your mind when you’re driving down the highway is keeping your kids occupied. Reaching back and handing them toys and snacks could result in disaster. So why do so many of us parents still do that? Sometimes the pleas and cries from the backseat are enough to drive a person batty. Just to get some peace so that we can concentrate on the road, we often absentmindedly reach back to satisfy their demands. While this may seem like the answer at the time, it should not be. In just the few seconds that our eyes are off the road and facing our children, anything could happen. Here are some suggestions to make your car rides with your children safer and smooth.

When you’re buckling up your children before you even get into the driver’s seat is a good time to make sure your children have what they need. Everything that you want them to be able to have should be within reaching distance from them. Small baskets placed on the seat within reaching distance next to them can be filled with toys and books for them to take as they please. When you reach your destination, the toys can easily be tossed back into the basket for a tidy car.

Of course, children are going to drop their juice, eat all of their crackers, or go through all of their toys. This is when whining starts. They’ll ask you to pick up their juice or whatever toy it is that has landed on the floor. Now it’s time to explain to them that it would be dangerous for you to turn around to pick anything up for them, and that they will have to wait until you get to your destination. Give them reasons as to why it would be dangerous, taking into consideration what they can handle hearing at their age. This might be hard for them to understand at first, but if you’re consistent, eventually they won’t bother to ask anymore, because they will already know the answer.

There are several opportunities for parents and children to bond while in the car that are often missed. Turning the radio off and tuning into your child will help you better know who your child is. Teach them about stoplights, stop signs, other cars, or anything else that you see or encounter on the road. Play games with them like “I spy”, or finding landmarks, or make up your own! Teach them the ABC’s or to count. If they’re really small, talk to them and sing to them. Babies and toddlers love to hear their parents’ voices. Once you start doing these things, it will become automatic for you, and you will come up with more things on your own.

It’s also a good idea to keep some tapes of children’s music in the car. Music for them can give you some time to concentrate on your job, and keep them from fighting for your attention. Eventually they will know their songs, and will enjoy their music as much as you enjoy yours!

It’s important to be prepared before your car leaves the driveway or parking lot. If you are a safe driver, your children are safer. Following some of these tips should help you accomplish more smooth, safe, and enjoyable car rides for you and your children…not to mention the rest of the drivers on the road!