kids

It could happen to anyone: 5 tips to ensure you never leave a child in a car.

Victoria Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Victoria Government

Accidentally leaving your child in the car. That would absolutely never, ever happen to you. You love your child more than anything in the entire world and you would never just forget about them and go about your day, that’s ridiculous.

If you’ve had that reaction when reading a news story about a child accidentally left in a hot car, you’re not alone. We all think it won’t happen to us, until it does. Even the most loving, attentive and organised parents or carers can mistakenly leave their child in a car with fatal consequences.

All it takes is a quick memory lapse, like a distraction, a tired moment or a change of your routine.

Yes, it can happen to you. And yes, there are ways to reduce your risk. The Victorian Government’s Look Before You Lock campaign is all about creating safer routines to ensure we never mistakenly leave our kids in the car.

Here are five tips from them, as well as real parents:

1. Check the back seat every time you leave the car.

Like putting the car in ‘park’, opening and closing the door and pressing ‘lock’ on the remote, make checking the back seat a part of your usual exit routine.

You can even go one step further and open the back door every time you exit the car, whether you have your child with you or not. At first it’ll feel a little odd but eventually it’ll become second nature.

When you’re kicking off this new routine, you may need a reminder so stick a note on the dash.

2. Always travel with an important item on the back seat.

A lot of parents recommend putting your bag, phone or wallet on the back seat of the car. Brianna has two kids under four and says, “I always put my handbag on the floor at the back so I have to turn around before I get out of the car.”

Catherine, another mum of two, has got into the habit of giving her eight-month-old the house keys, “My bub hates being in the car but loves playing with keys so when I put him in his seat, I give him the keys. They make a noise and I can’t get into the house without them.”

If you’re giving your child your keys, be mindful that there’s no potential choking hazards or items with button batteries on the key rings. Safety first.

kids in hot cars
Putting your handbag in the back can be a helpful reminder. Image: Getty.
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3. Place a kid-related item on the front seat.

Now that you have the backseat covered, it also helps to place a visual reminder of your child’s presence in the front of the car. This can be as simple as placing a cuddly toy or a kid’s backpack on the front passenger seat.

Rebecca’s kids are no longer babies but she’s glad she got into this habit from early on: "In the baby days I would put my nappy bag on the front passenger seat. These days, I put a kid’s drink bottle in the front console because it reminds me – kids!"

It can also be useful to use a baby mirror, particularly if your bub is in a rear-facing car seat so you always have them in view from the driver’s seat.

4. Keep chatting or singing.

My kids love a car karaoke session. While we are not always pitch perfect, singing together has become a fun part of our drop-off and pick-up routine. While it’s silly and fun, singing together can also avoid a dreaded memory lapse.

Yeni has a two-year-old son and says, "I sing with my little one all the time on car trips. Singing helps me feel relaxed, my son feels good listening to my voice and it helps me feel more aware."

If singing isn’t your thing, keep chatting to your child while they’re in the car, even if they’ve nodded off.

5. Call your partner after every drop-off.

If you and your partner take turns dropping the kids off at childcare or kinder, make it a habit to call one another after every drop-off. My husband and I have been doing this since our kids were babies and it’s become a normal part of our day. We’re not the only ones that find this a useful tool in ensuring our kids arrive safely. Mum of two, Stefanie says, "I always call my husband on my walk from the station to work to see how drop off went. That way I can continue my day knowing the kids are safe."

While these tips help us focus on our own kids, it’s also a good idea to check in with other parents if you notice they’re looking particularly distracted or sleep deprived. A simple offer to watch their kids for an hour or two while they catch up on some sleep or life admin, might make all the difference. And if you're minding someone else's kids, it's extra important to remember all of the above.

Keeping our kids safe is all about creating safe habits and facing up to the fact that, yes, it could happen to you. But hopefully, it never will.

For more information on Look Before You Lock, visit the campaign's website.

Do you have something that helps you remember to never leave your child in the car? Tell us below.

This content is brought to you with thanks by our brand partners in the Victoria GovernmentThe Department of Education and Training and the Department of Human and Health Services.

Victoria Government

Anyone can accidentally leave their child in a car so look before you lock.

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