If you want to get anywhere with your child, you will inevitably find yourself in the car with them, and a quick trip down to the shop may need as much planning as an overnight stay, writes educator Kerry McArthur.

Grabbing your little one and jumping in the car to go for a quick 10-minute trip is an invitation for disaster. Just a good sneeze can send you into a flurry of trying to find anything to stem the flow and it’s almost guaranteed you won’t have tissues close by. Inevitably a T-shirt will work, or a stuffed toy will have to stand in, much to the dismay of the sneeze machine, who just wants a tissue. That’s why packing a “go-bag” is a necessity: something you can leave in the car just in case. Here’s a checklist help to ensure that you are always stocked and ready for any eventuality.

Short trip “go-bag”

Pack a small bag or box that can be stored on the floor behind the front row of seats or in the boot. This bag does not have to be too big and you should resist the urge to use the supplies in the bag unless necessary and then always remember to restock it.

Tip: Take the restock items to the bag, not the other way around, because you are bound to leave the bag in the house.

What to pack

  • Tissues – a small packet that can be resealed will be better than a bigger box
  • Wet wipes
  • Non-perishable snack e.g., fruit packets or biscuits
  • Nappy sacks (for throwing away soiled nappies)
  • Mini first aid kit with plasters, cleansing wipes, etc.
  • Small bottle of sunscreen
  • Hand sanitiser
  • A few ziplock bags (very useful without even realising it)
  • Extra nappies just in case you run out
  • Extra set of clothes for your toddler and spare top or T-shirt for you.

Busy-box activities

Being prepared for the “just in case” is only half the battle. Keeping your toddler or young child occupied can be just as daunting. The biggest trick up your sleeve is providing something different or unique, as this will keep them occupied for longer and keep your sanity in check. Some novel ideas are:

  • Colouring books and crayons. A different idea is to use a clipboard with some ribbon or velcro holding the crayons to the clip at the top, or a small ziplock bag can also be taped to the edge of the clipboard
  • Laminated sheets work wonders with white board markers: pre-printed activity sheets can be changed frequently to allow for new ideas.
  • Picture or easy reading books.
  • Lego/Duplo blocks in a container will keep small hands busy for ages.
  • Sticker packs from inexpensive shops, used on the laminated sheets, can often be repositioned.
  • Play dough is always a win and keeps them busy for hours.
  • An easy to carry game like a pack of cards, memory tiles or any familiar game they like to play.
  • Inexpensive novelty toys from party packs you receive through the year can be saved in this box.

Long trip “go-bag”

If you are going on a longer trip you will need to remember some additional items. This bag is not to replace your short trip go-bag, but rather in addition to it.

  • Favourite snacks and juice or water
  • Medicine for basic eventualities e.g., nausea or pain
  • Lightweight blanket
  • A small towel (just in case you decide to jump in puddles)
  • Bug spray and cream to relieve bug bites
  • Extra pair of flip-flops or slip-on sandals for rest stops. This is easier than wrestling with socks and shoes.

Staying safe

Another aspect of being prepared in the car is safety. This is often overlooked, but being prepared in the event of a breakdown or emergency will lessen your stress in the moment remarkably. It helps to have these items on hand:

  • Jack and tyre spanner
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow rope
  • Seat belt cutter (Keep it in the front of the car within easy reach of the driver and passenger.)
  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Wet wipes for cleaning sticky hands or oil.

There are various other safety related items that you should have in your car, such as a triangle to place on the road. Ensure you check that your car is properly equipped.

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