Back-to-school means back to hectic schedules. Between sports, clubs, and other after-school events it feels like you are being pulled in all directions. Considering that other parents are making the same hectic trek, there’s an opportunity to lighten the load. Carpooling.
Not only can carpooling free up your schedule, but it can also help you save on gas. (Definitely a bonus!) Follow these tips to set up your carpool experience for success.
1. Find your carpool buddies.
It’s best to carpool within a trusted network of fellow parents. Don’t worry about coordinating around age or gender. The goal is to make your life easier and not simply offer car time for your child and his bestie.
That being said, start with your child’s friend group and see who might be joining the same activities. If they live nearby, that could be a match. Otherwise, ask the coach or coordinator for a parent contact list and reach out to those who live close to you. Also talk to parents at activity pickup, at school PTO meetings, or at your local religious services. Even friends of friends might be good carpool candidates.
Pro Tip: Pick the right number of kids for your carpool. Younger children need more attention and so their carpools should be smaller.
2. Set the schedule.
It’s important to make a set schedule so that kids aren’t left waiting. Using a carpool app can help you organize, and some apps even come with reminders. Some popular apps include Carpool-kids, Waze Carpool, and GoKid. You can even use Signup Genius or Google sheets. (If you use Google, you will want to download the sheets app to your smartphone.) You also can do an email or text chain.
Choose the system that works for your group and make sure everyone is comfortable with it. Also, it’s important to make sure you can communicate with other parents in the case of an emergency, accident, sickness, or unexpected change of plans. (Anyone who has forgotten an early dismissal day knows the importance of communication.)
Pro Tip: Post a copy of the carpool schedule near the door and include it in your child’s backpack. This way, he or she knows who is picking up.
3. Set expectations.
If possible, schedule an in-person meeting with your carpool participants. Not only does it make it easier to create the schedule, it helps you come to an agreement on rules and expectations. For example, how many minutes late is too late? What is the policy if you’re picking up a child who is not ready? Verify schedules and conflicts. Determine food allergies if any. Inquire about health-related concerns.
Pro Tip: Important point for discussion: Don’t let anyone outside of the carpool cover the route (e.g. babysitter, grandma) unless every parent is aware and agrees.
4. Stay safe.
Don’t forget to discuss the safety rules. For example, children must enter and exit the vehicle from the curbside. Only kids who are 13 and older may ride in the front passenger seat. Students who do not meet the necessary height and weight requirements must ride in a booster seat.
For carpools, consider harness-style options that move the seatbelt down, rather than boost the child up, such as the WhizRider. These lightweight accessories can travel with your child and fit right in their backpack for easy access for carpooling.
5. Do a practice run.
You know the route to your child’s activities but you may not be familiar with the addresses where you are dropping your carpool kids. Do a practice run with the kids. Take a trip to the local ice cream parlor or head to the library. This will help you to work out any issues before you start.
6. Bring snacks.
If you’re shuttling kids from school to after-school activities, snacks and drinks are a must. Even if you’re just taking them home, you’ll find that food and drinks help to keep them happy. Greet kids with healthy portable snacks that don’t create too much mess. Chilled water in reusable bottles make a great choice because if they’re spilled, there won’t be too much mess. Keep any food allergies in mind when selecting snacks; alternatively, you can ask parents to pack their own child’s treat.
Pro Tip: Have a cleanup pack on hand that includes paper towels and baby wipes. Put a trash bag in the backseat where the kids can put their trash.
7. Don’t forget entertainment.
Even a short car ride can be made more enjoyable when the occupants are entertained. This may include car karaoke with their favorite songs or taking turns reading aloud from a joke book. You also may want to provide games with magnetic pieces. Just make sure you have a place to store them, such as with a backseat organizer. For older kids with different musical preferences, headphones work well as they listen or watch on their devices. Finally, if you’re going to be waiting in the car, keep the things that entertain you. Bring a favorite book, a relaxing playlist, and a charger, and enjoy some much-deserved quiet time.
8. Check in with your child.
Things may be going well on your end, but you don’t know what happens when the other parents are driving. Check-in periodically with your child. Get his or her perspective on the carpool, and make adjustments as needed. It’s also a chance to determine if you need to rethink participating in a carpool.
Finally, if you’re transporting precious cargo, you’ll want to ensure that your vehicle is carpool ready. Keep your car well maintained. Protect your vehicle with the right insurance for peace of mind.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.