Teach Your Baby to Drive
You've heard about the infant toilet-training craze -- but why stop there? You can wrap up many crucial parenting jobs before your child's first birthday. Here, our definitive guide to infant driver's ed:
1. Be constantly alert for signs that your baby needs to drive. Some obvious ones:
* Playing with (or biting or licking) a Tonka truck or other toys with wheels
* Squealing whenever a real vehicle passes or shouting "Ca! Ca!"
* Holding board books in a ten o'clock/two o'clock grip
* Eating tire-shaped foods, such as Cheerios
* Watching The Wiggles
2. Immediately go to your car, place your baby calmly and gently on your lap, and let him take the wheel.
3. Make a "cueing sound" that tells him it's time to turn the key in the ignition, check his mirrors, and pull out. Some parents opt to honk softly at their infants, although "vroom-vroom" and its variants are also popular.
4. If your baby is preverbal, be sure he knows plenty of hand signals so he can communicate his plans ("I'm going to make a U-ey") and ask questions ("Is alternate-side parking in effect?").
5. Learn to read your baby's face and body language at the wheel: When he yawns or rubs his eyes, just practice driving around the block. If he reaches for your chest, have him drive to Dairy Queen.
6. Outside the car, try to keep him strollerless and/or carrier-free -- thereby raising his awareness that he needs a new mode of transportation.
7. Be patient. During the training process, it's perfectly natural for your baby to have occasional "accidents" -- fender-benders, four-car pileups, etc. When these happen, simply hold him up so he can see the twisted metal and explain that next time he needs to stay in his own lane.
Q: Police officers keep pulling me over, saying it's illegal for a baby to drive. What should I do?
A: We are, of course, lobbying Congress to correct the ridiculous bias against infant motorists. In the meantime, try taking over the wheel in heavily patrolled areas and hiding your baby under your shirt.
Q: My baby is tall for her age but still can't reach the brake and gas pedals. Should I buy her stilts?
Q: How can I car train and toilet train my baby at the same time? When he's driving, I can't see the facial expressions that show he needs to go potty. And if he uses his "pee" and "poo" hand signals, he might let go of the wheel at a critical moment.
A: We hate to say it, but in the car you'd better just keep your kid in a diaper.
Melissa Balmain is a freelance writer and mother of two in Blacksburg, VA.