2 minute readHealth & Safety

How I Avoid Accidentally Leaving My Baby in a Hot Car

car seat

It’s 95 degrees in Washington at the time of writing. I myself don’t want to step outside, let alone tote my 7-month-old baby around. My wiggly little guy absolutely hates his car seat. Until we start driving, upon which he promptly falls asleep. (Isn’t he the cutest?)

baby car seat tip summer
Falling asleep is awesome when he needs some extra shut-eye, but terrifying when you are in go-mode and there’s a tiny, silent baby in your backseat.

Reading stories of kids left in hot cars breaks my heart in a million pieces, and prompts my family to implement a system to support each other and avoid a hot car mishap.

For us, it’s all about barriers and checks.

First Line of Baby Hot Car Defense: Visual Reminders

This is a commonly suggested tip that works really well for our family. Our personal items (my purse, my husband’s work bag) and even shopping bags all go in the back seat. When we aren’t both in the car, my son’s bag (diaper bag or food for the nanny share) goes in the front seat. I’ve heard some people put a stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder as well.

Think of this as the “function barrier.” You can’t function at work without your laptop. You can’t buy anything at the store without your wallet. You can’t get back in your house without your keys. Whatever you need to function after you exit the car, store that thing with your kid.

baby car seat tip summer

Second Line of Baby Hot Car Defense: Text Checks

The “it can happen to anyone” mentality adds a drop of humility to the process, prompting us to institute a text message check.

I text my husband around the time he should be getting to work after dropping off our kid. A simple “How did drop-off go this morning?” works. I don’t care if he only responds “ok,” because I’m not really looking for a conversation. I want my husband to take 30 seconds out of his morning at work to visualize the drop-off and ensure he has specific memories from the drop-off process. Sometimes I just get a smiley emoji in response, which works too!

Curious Kids and Unlocked Cars

Growing kids require a constantly changing safety strategy. Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member Jim Judge shared some insight from his research: “Thirty percent of deaths result in kids climbing in unlocked cars. They may lock the car or the safety locks are engaged, and they can’t get out.”

Jim recommends families keep vehicles locked at all times and keep car keys and remote openers out of a child’s reach.

Baby Car Seat Routine and Future Technology

Most families keep kids safe with tried and true steps – a solid routine goes a long way to help make things run smoothly. But even if your routine includes checks like the ones above, things can go awry. A kid needs an emergency run to the pediatrician, and you’re rushing to get back to the office. You make a run to the grocery store at an odd time and focus on getting the bags upstairs.

We can normally count on our nanny to check in if the baby doesn’t arrive at a reasonable time, so working out a deal with whoever should be caring for your child (daycare, nanny, even a play date’s parents) can be a failsafe.

Any tips from other parents out there – especially with multiple kiddos – on how you put safety checks in place, in particular when a routine is interrupted?

I also love hearing technology ideas coming down the pike to help even the most careful parent stay safe. I’ve seen solutions from every corner –  from car companies to dads on a mission to save more lives – and look forward to adding third, fourth, and even fifth lines of defense to make sure my baby gets home safe every day. It takes a village, truly.


Please Note: If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved and call 9-1-1 immediately. Jim Judge also shared with us that in his home state of Florida, a law was recently passed making it legal to break into a locked car to rescue pets or vulnerable people believed to be in imminent danger. Thanks so much to Jim for weighing in to help keep our kiddos safe!

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  1. The best suggestion I’ve heard for not leaving a kid in a hot car is to take one of your shoes off when you put the baby in the back and leave it back there. When you get out of the car you can’t continue on your way without that shoe.

  2. We set alarms and reminders for tons of things, why not getting the baby from the car seat?
    If you know your time of trip to destination or drop off, set a reminder on cell phone for if you jump out and run to your appt. Or shopping, etc without thinking.
    It could remind you within minutes to run back and grab that sweet bundle before harm has time to take place.

    Hang a baby rattle on your steering wheel, keys, brief case etc. It would be big , noisy and in the way so you cant forget! When picked up on the run. Itll slow ya down for sure.

    Those silly looking leashes? Keeping baby from running off in a crowd? Attach it to yourself n the handle of car seat or their seat belt etc. You wont be going ANYWHERE without that little one or you will be stuck in there too.ha, untill you unleash and grab the baby out. Just some thoughts from a Nanny that has baby on my mind ALWAYS, its my job! 🙂
    Not everyone has that advantage..

  3. Good ideas here! I’m not a parent yet, but I bet taking off a shoe and leaving it next to the car seat would help. I’m forgetful, so I always leave something I absolutely can’t leave without next to the thing I don’t want to forget. This is usually the car keys, but since you’re in the car at the time, I think a shoe would work (not an extra, of course, but one that you’re wearing that day).

  4. I have an extremely long pull cord key holder. I attach the belt hoop end to a carabiner. Attach it to the headrest post, the stretch the cord with the keys under the headrest to the ignition to start the car. When I remove the keys, they fly to the headrest if I have forgotten, so it is a helpful reminder.