Although I have a handy tiny diaper bag, a larger "car bag," and some important stuff in or clipped to my pockets, the importance of my car cannot be ignored. Out here in the Midwest, we need cars to get around and to keep popular automotive urban legends alive [the preeminent urban legend writer Jan Brunvand wrote The Vanishing Hitchhiker (the 1981 book that launched popular interest in ULs) while studying at Indiana University].
ESSENTIAL CAR GEAR FOR EVERYONE:
Before we had Ranger, my car was already well stocked with essential gear: blanket(s), a great mutli-bit screwdriver, a standard metric portable tool kit, a big lug nut wrench (it's the only way I can get enough leverage to break the hydraulically installed lug nuts when changing a flat), a car owner's manual, a pair of mittens, a jacket, some cloth bags, a phone book, a cell charger, a Patsy Cline tape, 12 foot tape measure, a safety hammer, bug spray, a gigantic flashlight (don't make me bust heads), and a good national atlas.
But with Ranger on board, even more gear has entered the car. I've already mentioned my vinyl tablecloth liner to keep stroller gunk out of the upholstery and our beloved Maclaren stroller. We also have a car seat and a rolled up towel to keep it level.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg of Ranger gear:
ENTERTAINMENT: Do not put an infant or toddler in the car with nothing to do. They will get bored. Keep a variety of items in reach to hand them when they a) tire of what they are playing with or b) drop their current toy somewhere you can't reach.
- Mini-Magna Doodle- We love this thing. The pen can't get lost or mark up the upholstery when dropped.
- Sliding bead toy- This abacus-meets-maze toy caught my eye at a rummage sale. I have no idea about it's origins, but those were definitely 50 of the best cents I've ever spent.
- HABA marionette toys- These pocket-sized toys are great for carrying into restaurants and stores. Tiny kiddos just like grasping them, and bigger kids can use them for imaginative play.
- Plastic links- we used these for everything when Ranger was a wee GeekBaby. There are probably still a dozen of them under the seats.
- Improvised toys- goldfish container/toddler puzzle, plastic eyeglasses case, leather drink coaster (not sure why he loves it, but he does)
- Books- even for non-readers, books are fine entertainment. They're great tactile objects for grasping. Some wee tikes just love turning pages and looking at pictures. Ranger particularly liked die-cut board books with irregular shapes. Squishy Turtle and Friends has great textures and sounds (crinkly stuff between some of the pages).
- Little cars and trucks- Maybe Ranger's into the meta-transportation experience: cars and trucks make him happy on the road.
- Crackers- easy, non-perishable, not heat susceptible. Vacuum up easily.
- Shelf-stable milk boxes- These are great even though Ranger sees any cardboard beverage box as an instant fountain. I just cut open the box and dump its contents into his drink cup.
- Juice boxes
- Out of car feeding supplies- a LeachCo Sit 'N Secure wrap for places without high chairs, a spare straw cup or bottle, and Table Toppers.
- Monkey harness- We can debate the ethics of kid harnesses in a future post, but Ranger loves wearing it and likes to hold it and talk to it in the car.
- A pack of disposable changing pads- These are versatile. They're handy when there's a diaper leak that soaks the car seat or you need somewhere to set muddy shoes. They can be cut and used as makeshift tie-on bibs. They can be set under a kid who has just played in a sprinkler but doesn't have a change of clothes.
- Jacket and hat- Weather changes frequently here. It never hurts to be prepared.
- Bug spray
- Car seat sized blanket
- Zip-lock baggies- useful and versatile. They make great makeshift snack servers for some toddlers.
- Foam ear plugs- because sometimes you have to sit parked with a wailing infant. Don't drive with them in place, it's illegal in many states.
- Aquaphor in a lip balm tub- It's chap stick, a cut/abrasion ointment, and I suspect chafing dish fuel (among a thousand other things).
- Sunglasses and other prescription glasses- Seeing is really handy while driving. Having backup eyewear can be a lifesaver.
- Dental floss- My mom would be so proud, so please don't tell her this is one of my favorite Macguyver project tools. I'm no red-light flosser, but instead practice flossing in the privacy of my own home.
- Sharpie or other permanent marker- just don't let it fall into young hands.
And, yes Mom, I am now going to floss.