Family motoring can be fun… until the boredom sets in and the “are we there yet?” questions start. So, whether you’re thinking about starting a family or already on your way to raising your own 5-a-side football team, when it comes to car shopping, there are a few child-friendly car features that you need to look out for.
Some child-friendly cars include useful features straight from the factory; others are optional extras that can be specified when you order a new car; yet more are helpful gadgets that you can buy to make family driving even more enjoyable… or tolerable.
When you’re thinking about buying a car to suit your family, ask around your friends and relatives to discover which features really help them make the most of car journeys with their family. You can hear first hand which child-friendly car gadgets are worth getting and which aren’t. If your kids are happy, you’ll be happy, so let’s take a look at what’s available to ease the strain of family driving.
What Features are Included in a Child-Friendly Car?
When you buy your car, you’ll find lots of built-in features that will help keep your children safe and happy on most journeys. You won’t have considered many of these child-friendly car features to be a ‘must-have’ until you have a family of your own, when you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!
Isofix - Most new cars, and plenty of older models, are fitted with Isofix child seat attachments which take the stress out of correctly installing your child’s car seat. Metal anchor points, built into the car, firmly fix the car seat along with a support leg or top tether strap to keep your little one safe and sound throughout your trip.
Chargers / 230V Plug Sockets - With electric gadgets galore, even for the tiniest of tots, charging points and standard electric sockets are very handy, and the more the merrier. iPads are easy and compact entertainment for most children while travelling and teens are usually kept out of mischief with a mobile phone firmly planted in their hands so a lack of charging facilities can quickly lead to meltdown.
Fold Out Tray - These child-friendly car features are perfect for a picnic, some colouring in or even to get the teens to catch up on their homework - if you can drag them away from their mobile phones for long enough (see above). When they’re done, the tables fold away into the back for the front seats for easy storage.
Cup Holders - No one likes a spillage, especially when it means hours of sitting on a soggy seat in wet clothing. Far better to have a secure place to put your drink. Luckily, most cars have suitable cup holders in both the front and rear seats to reduce the chance of a sticky mess.
Climate Control - Multi-zone climate control allows you to set one temperature in the front of the car and another in the rear. As babies and toddlers often overheat faster than adults, this feature can help soothe frayed tempers and provide a more comfortable travelling environment for everyone.
Cooled Compartment - A cooled glove box or centre console for snacks can also be a welcome in-car feature where children are concerned. Keep the kids refreshed with treats that won’t melt in the heat and drinks that stay chilled so that you don’t have to stop every few miles at expensive service areas.
Which Optional Extras Will Make My Car More Family-Friendly?
Depending on the make, model and trim level of your vehicle, some additional child-friendly car features may be included, others you’ll have to add as an optional extra. They may be worth the added investment for your peace of mind and the comfort of your family.
Sun Shades - If keeping cool is the name of the game when preventing toddler tantrums on the road, you might want to consider investing in some sunshades for your car. Many manufacturers offer these, stored in the car door and pulled up as and when needed. They’re also useful to protect privacy. Of course, you can also buy handy stick-on shades from children’s stores, car accessory shops and supermarkets.
Upgraded Infotainment - Kids can be a tough audience so keep them happy with an upgraded entertainment system which could include better speakers, improved connectivity for phones and media devices, and possibly even a set of backseat screens. Which brings us onto our next family-friendly in-car feature...
WiFi - If your prospective new car doesn’t come with a WiFi hotspot, you might consider adding this as an option (if available). Stuck in traffic or on a long journey, your kids could easily run out of downloaded games and be on the hunt for something new to keep the boredom at bay.
Safety Pack - It goes without saying that you’ll want to keep your family as safe as possible. Most cars do include lots of child-friendly car safety features that’ll both assist your driving and protect you and your children if an accident occurs. For added peace of mind, and if you’re buying new, you might like to upgrade to the manufacturer’s additional Safety Pack - it’s always worth a look to see what extras it includes.
What Child-Friendly Car Gadgets Can I Buy?
Even the most family-friendly cars may lack one or two features that will provide you with a reassuring drive while also helping your children to make the most of their time on the road. Aside from car seats, there’s plenty more you can buy to keep your kids safe and comfortable. Here are some items that’ll help entertain the kids while allowing you to concentrate on your driving.
Rear Seat Mirror - Drive with minimal distraction by installing a rear seat mirror. Mounted on the rear headrest, this works with the car’s rear view mirror to allow you to see your baby’s face, even when they’re in a rear-facing car seat. Use an extended rear view mirror to see older, forward-facing children with a full view of the rear seat.
Entertainment Screen - If you can’t stretch to the manufacturer’s rear screen option or you’re buying a used car without an advanced entertainment system, it might be worth buying a portable media system to play movies or display computer games that’ll keep the rear seat passengers occupied.
Car Seat Toys - If you’d prefer to steer clear of electronic gadgets, you can find a large range of child-friendly car seat toys for babies and toddlers at most children’s retail outlets. These are designed to engage, stimulate and soothe the tiny travellers. You can also find car play trays that fit over the knees of your kids like a mini table and have a barrier to prevent things falling off during cornering.
Back-of-the-Seat Organiser - When you have children, there’s never enough storage space in a car. Add some handy back-of-the-seat organisers to your arsenal in the war against kids mess.
‘On Board’ Sign - These signs were originally designed to make other drivers more considerate by reminding them that small passengers are travelling, i.e. ‘Baby On Board’ or ‘Child On Board’. By displaying one, you might just make other road users think twice about their driving.
Keeping your family entertained and safe while travelling by car has never been easier. Remember to look out for these child-friendly car features while shopping at any of our Swansway Group dealerships. Don’t forget to let us know about features or gadgets that we’ve missed, and anything you’d like to see car manufacturers include to make road journeys with your children even easier.