It’s all because my son was awake and observant that morning. As I was navigating a busy round-about near our neighborhood – he cried out, “What the heck?? Some crazy person has a life-size sock monkey in their front passenger seat!”
Now this intrigued me, but I didn’t manage to see the car since I was trying to keep us safe in traffic. So I asked him for more details, like who was driving. “It was a woman,” he said…..and then the all important clue: “And she had a little kid in a car seat in the back….what a weirdo!”
Now I am both a newly minted public health professional (MPH received last year!) and a child health and safety geek (seven years as Senior Editor at Pediatric Safety will do that to you!), so I immediately had a flash of insight. “Oh,” I said, “I know what she’s doing!!” “Oh that’s so cool!” I was practically bouncing up and down in my seat. Thankfully I had already merged into traffic on the local parkway.
“She’s taking her kid to daycare on her way to work, and the sock monkey is next to her to remind her that the child is in the back seat. When they aren’t using the car seat, the sock monkey sits in it – and when they put the little girl in the car seat, they move the sock monkey doll up front as a visual cue.”
The reason I was SO excited is this was an example of child safety in action. Forgetting a baby or young child in the back seat can happen to any parent when we are on autopilot, trying to get all the morning tasks done and get to work. And even a short time alone in a hot car can be fatal, since children’s bodies heat up faster than those of adults. More details on heatstroke and kids can be found at the links below:
- Safercar.gov – Tips to Avoid Child Heatstroke
- Healthychildren.org (AAP) – Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars
Given the risks of heatstroke, government experts and child advocates recommend memory helpers, like keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat and moving it up front when the child is strapped in (see the links above). Experts also advise parents to keep something critical for their day in the back near their child – like a purse, briefcase or mobile phone.
Now you might think that you don’t need to take measures like this….but research shows that the easiest way to adopt a new habit or remember something is to set up your environment to help you – like ridding your house of fattening foods, keeping your gym clothes handy and visible….or putting a life-sized stuffed animal next to you in the car when your child is in back.
I don’t know who the woman was on the road that morning, but I commend her effort to ensure her child’s safety – and she really made a child safety geek’s day! Oh, and if you’d like to buy a life-size sock monkey, they have them on Amazon.