Packing and carrying a diaper bag is an essential part of parenting with young kids. Having supplies on hand to handle those unexpected emergencies is a must.

But being diaper-free does not mean parents no longer need to keep emergency supplies around. These days, instead of a diaper bag, my car is stocked for all the “just in case” moments that seem to happen fairly regularly as a parent of three active children. Here are five items for the car that make managing life with kids less complicated.

Emergency health kit

This includes basic first aid supplies like bandages and barf bags, tweezers for ticks and splinters, cough drops, allergy medications, and pain relievers, like aspirin. Tissues, sunblock and bug spray are also worthwhile options to keep stocked in the kit. Feminine hygiene products are also good to have on hand. Even if your kids are too young, you can come to the rescue of a friend in need.

Clean up supplies

Kids and messes go hand in hand. Combating those messes can be a little easier by keeping plastic bags, wipes, and a large handful of napkins from your favorite drive-thru at the ready. Plastic bags serve many purposes. They can collect trash, hold wet items like clothes and shoes, and serve as a protective barrier to keep dirt off seats and floors. Napkins and wipes are the all-purpose go-to cleaners.

Save the day

Duct tape and a knife or scissors are always kept in my car as well. These multi-purpose tools can be used to fix or repair almost anything -- just ask MacGyver! And it may seem obvious, but pens and pencils should be available as well. Kids need to them do homework, keep entertained with activity books, and there’s always a surprise form a parent needs to sign and fill out.


Hungry kids are grumpy kids. A stash of non-perishable snacks and a few bottles of water can be a parent’s savior when the errands run longer than expected, the traffic is bad, or the surprise practice is called. Bottled water is another multi-purpose supply that’s great to have. In a worst-case scenario it can be used to wash down a mess or top off a broken radiator.

Go-to blanket

Many a parent has showed up at the field to watch a game with sunny skies and 80-degree temps just to be freezing an hour later after the sun sets and the breeze picks up. A spare blanket in the car can be used to keep everyone warm during unexpected weather turns. It also serves as a make-shift outdoor seating area, can be used as a towel if required, and is another larger-surface protective barrier for those big messy items that need to be transported.

When it comes to storing these things, most parents use the trunk and glove box. But a soft-sided tote bag is the best way to keep everything easily accessible and not add to the clutter or messes that already accompany kids into the car.

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