Teaching Kids to Buckle and Unbuckle Carseats    
 
For many parents with children in elementary school, the carpool line/pick up line is the worst part of the entire experience. The teachers, staff and majority of parents work hard to make sure they know the rules, follow the rules and keep the line running smoothly, but all it takes is a few parents to gum up the works, back traffic up to the main road, and create a huge delay. 
 
I have to admit, I wondered who these chronic offenders were, and recently, I found myself on a parenting group with an entire thread devoted to the topic. Except the focus wasn't "how to keep the line moving", it was "I'm the one stopping up the line and I don't care. Who's with me?" 
 
I'm totally non-confrontational, so I lurked away and watched this go down. Surprisingly, the group WAS actually pretty divided. While some moms reacted as I would have (so YOU'RE the reason the carpool line is a mess!), others not only jumped in to defend the poster, but proudly admitted they ignored the rules too. 
 
The big rule in the carpool line, no matter where you are, is: don't get out of the car. Stay behind the wheel, we'll let your kid out/in, and keep moving. 
 
These moms felt this rule shouldn't apply to them because they didn't trust their kids to unbuckle or buckle their seats. Some of these kids are in harnessed seats, some are in boosters, but generally, the moms didn't feel comfortable moving the car without personally getting out and fastening the kids in. The suggestions the school offered - pulling over once out of the line to check and adjust the buckle, or parking and avoiding the line altogether - were laughed at. 
 
I exited the conversation, because it was starting to spiral into ridiculousness and name calling, but the big takeaway was that more parents need to teach their kids - before they start school - how to buckle and unbuckle their carseats. Not just for carpool lines, but other reasons too. Most kids older than preschool should at least have an idea of how to get in and out of their seats. It goes without saying that a parent needs to check that the child is properly secured before driving any sort of distance, but this should at least allow you to stop gumming up the works in the car line. I taught both girls the summer before their four year old preschool year. 
 
Tips for Teaching: 
 
1.  Practice out of the car in a low key way. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a preschooler who insists she can "do it herself!" when you're in a hurry. When I was teaching my girls, we brought the seat inside when I vacuumed the backseat, and she practiced buckling her dolls and stuffed animals. This built up her strength and taught her how to work the clasps - both buckling and unbuckling. 
 
2. Pick one to start. I taught buckling first, because for us, that was the easier piece. Once my girls mastered buckling their toys, they tried buckling themselves inside the house, with no pressure. Only when they mastered buckling in -  twist free straps, crotch clip, chest clip, pull tight! - did I worry about teaching them to unbuckle. 

3. Use tools. For most kids, the crotch buckle is tough for their little fingers to do. We found something called the "buckle bopper" on Amazon that helps kids undo that button. I kept it in the front console, and handed it back when they needed it until I could trust them not to unbuckle while driving.   

It's hard for parents to let their kids display independence, but it's an important part of growing up!

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