Before you have kids, your car was probably kept in decent, if not pristine condition. After you have kids, every surface in your car has the potential to turn into a sticky, glittery, crumb-covered mess. Keep your kids occupied in the car without the mess with these simple hacks.
The best thing to do is have a No Food in the Car rule (and also make the car a Whining-Free Zone). That's not likely to happen, though, if you go on long car trips or your will is broken on even short drives when your kids need to eat something while rushing to school or the next after-school sports session. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so here are a few tricks you can use to protect your car's resale value and your sanity.
Make Car Cleanup Easier With A Bath Rug
A durable, thin bathroom rug makes the perfect crumbs and spills catcher. Put it under the car seat, Hint Mama tells us, and the non-slip backing keeps it in place while providing a barrier between your car's upholstery and spilled drinks. To make the rug provide full coverage, you'll need to cut out openings for the seatbelts, but after that, you can easily remove the rug to shake out the crumbs or stick in the washing machine if needed.
A towel could work as an alternative and also protect your upholstery from possible damage from the car seat itself. (Why are some car seat bottoms so sharp?)
Just one note: Make sure the car seat is properly installed and the towel or rug doesn't interfere with the car seat's stability. (Safety is more important than catching spills!) If you'd rather buy a commercial car seat protector, check out this review of your options.
Fill Cup Holders With Cupcake Liners
All sorts of ridiculous and gross things end up in those catch-all cup holders that pop out of car seats. Having rented car seats and travelled with other families, I've seen used gum, barrettes, rocks, coins, wads of tissue, and random bits of string in them. (Why???) This easy solution from Kids Activities Blog makes cleaning out all the little bits of things easier: Line the cup holders with silicone cupcake liners.
Use An Over-the-Door Shoe Organiser
Packing plenty of activities for the car might keep the cries of "are we there yet" at bay, but you also don't want your backseat to turn into a toy box. The ever-useful shoe organiser works in the car. When hung over one of the front seats, kids (or parents) can quickly grab toys and other car trip necessities. If you have a big family with lots of road trip supplies to tote, you can even organise your boot with cheap caddies.
Use A Remote Control Caddy As A Travel Organiser
The IKEA Flort is repurposed here as a car caddy, for art supplies, notebooks, and everything else a kid could want while being driven around. This is especially good for little ones who might not be able to reach the back of the seat in front of them.
Turn A Baking Sheet Into An Activity Tray
You want your kids to be occupied but the toys and snacks off of the seats and floor. The solution could be a DIY activity tray, made with just a baking sheet and velcro strips (and a Dremmel for making the holes for the velcro). Add some magnets and your kids can entertain themselves for at least a little while.
Buy Car-Safe Food And Drink Containers
Older kids who have more self-control can use a cheap art caddy to (hopefully) contain meals on the go. For toddlers, you might want to invest in a spill-proof snack container or two. These have flaps at the top that prevent food from escaping.
On a similar note, if you can't ban food from the car altogether, make a rule that the only food allowed is the kind that can be vacuumed up: no sticky lollies, yoghurt, sauce packets, and similar mushy things. (But just in case, bookmark this DIY carpet cleaner recipe.)
Cover Seats To Protect Them From Muddy Shoes And Footprints
When kids are a certain size, it seems they can't help but prop their dirty shoes on the back of the seat in front of them. While you're training them not to do so, you can either get a commercial car seat "kick mat" to protect the backs of your vehicle seats or turn T-shirts into car seat covers.
Protect Carpets With Cheap Rubber Mats
Cover your car's original carpet mats with a cheap set or, as CNN suggests, turn the mats upside down if they have a rubber backing. Another option is to cover the carpet with cheap plastic carpet liner, as Spoiled Cheapskate's photo above illustrates.
After Every Trip, Collect Everything That Shouldn't Stay In The Car
You have to be constantly on trash patrol. When unloading the kids, make it a habit that they always put stuff that doesn't belong in the car into a designated bag or bin, so you can go through it and take all that crap back into your house. Reusable shopping bags fit nicely over the headrest.
Clutter and chaos are natural parts of parenthood, but don't worry; your car can survive.
Photo by Jamesbin (Shutterstock)