Joel Helmes with a guide to making the early years a whole lot easier.
I’m pleased to say I have survived the baby years! With two girls, now six and four, the days of prams, nappies and car seats are starting to fade.
But, road testing and reviewing a different car each week through these first years of parenthood has given me a good perspective of what makes life easier and more difficult when trying to work around the needs of babies and little children.
For many new parents a small new or even used car is about as far as their budget will stretch and while it’s possible to make it through with something a little less than ideal, life will be just that little more difficult.
A lack of space is your biggest challenge. Simply getting babies and toddlers into a small car can be quite an assignment because the doors are often much smaller, don’t open out as wide and the overall vehicle roof-line is often lower too. This means extra strain on your body, especially your back!
When inside the cabin, attending to the rear-seat passenger(s) can also be an assignment as you try to keep the little one(s) happy – salvaging dropped toys, handing out the seemingly never-ending supply of food and drink and simply keeping them occupied is much more difficult in a cramped space.
Speaking of cramped spaces, boot space is often very limited in small cars and while the necessities – pram, nappy bag and other baby/toddler accessories should fit, where do you put the groceries?
Mark my words, you will be using the car as a nappy change table too and with a serious lack of space this isn’t going to be a good experience for either you or the baby!
If your budget will only stretch to a small car, look at how far those rear doors open, the space between the front seats, boot space, whether the boot has a high lip that makes lifting items in and out difficult and whether the car has enough in-cabin storage spots, including drink holders.
Be mindful also to check out the location and number of baby seat anchor points in the car too.
Medium and Large Cars
Choosing a larger sedan or wagon doesn’t necessarily mean life with a new family addition is going to be easier. Once again you need to take a good look at the overall design, again paying attention to those rear doors, roof-line and overall cabin size.
If the budget allows it a wagon is the way to go. With a tailgate that opens upwards, utilizing the rear cargo area as a change table or workstation is much easier, you also get some cover if it’s raining and loading and unloading prams etc. should be easier with no lip to lift the item over.
When I was a youngster EVERY family had a large car, it was the automatic choice for families. SUV’s have become much more popular in recent years however and for good reason, they’re generally much more baby and child friendly.
The first big advantage is that they sit higher, this means no more reaching down and in while getting a little one in and out. Cargo space is often very generous and this means you’ll have plenty of space for all the necessities and your shopping too!
One big advantage many SUV’s have as well is a cabin that’s aimed at taking care of the ‘rough and tough’ stuff. Babies and children are very hard on car interiors, spills, stains and messes are going to happen no matter how careful you are and you want seat fabrics, carpets and door trims to be as rugged and hardwearing as possible.
If you’re looking for a seven-seat SUV look closely at the access to the third-row of seats, how easy the seats fold up and, when not in use, whether the third row of seats encroaches on your cargo area.
A reversing camera is also a potentially life-saving feature in these vehicles and if possible you should choose a model that comes with one equipped.
You simply can’t beat a people mover if you’re moving babies and children around.
Aside from the obviously generous interior proportions and high seating position, people movers often offer something invaluable when visiting your local shopping centre – sliding rear doors!
These doors open up nice and wide, won’t get banged into the car next to you and, in vehicles such as the Hyundai iMax, you can literally get into the vehicle when strapping in the little ones (great if it’s raining!).
With a mountain of cargo space and low floor level a people mover simply can’t be beaten. Fortunately the people movers of today are much more fun and easy to drive, safe and efficient than those of the past.
And once again, if possible, choose a people mover equipped with a reversing camera.
I hope that helps.