Toddlers Should Not Play With Car Keys

The story has a happy ending .  I should start the story this way because it could have been very serious.  And like all failures, there are lessons to be learned.

I am a first time parent.  This also means that I am a clueless and constantly surprised by what my 15-month old child is capable of.

We went to the beach recently.  One afternoon I decided we should visit the outlet mall.  I thought it would be a good change of pace since my daughter was done with the beach and pool for the day.

I snagged a great parking spot.  In the shade and everything.  Like most of our shopping adventures, my daughter did not enjoy being in the stroller, but she also did not want to walk everywhere.  We ended the trip early.  So early in fact that car was still cool inside.  I remember thinking, “Wow, was it really that short a trip?”

My daughter was safely strapped into her seat happily sucking on her pacifier and playing with the car keys.  I tossed my purse in the front seat of the car and quickly closed the car door so I could go to the back and put her stroller inside.

“What the heck?” I thought as I tried to open the back tail gate.  “Why is this locked?”

I walked to the side door to retrieve the keys from daughter who turned and smiled when she saw me at the window.  She shook the car keys at me and grinned through her pacifier as I tried the door handle only to discover that it was locked too.

“No.  This is not happening,” I thought.  “Only the really bad, irresponsible parents find themselves in this position!”

A Toddler Toy No More

A Toddler Toy No More

Sure enough, my daughter successfully locked herself in the car.

Those cute little fingers had managed to find and press the tiny “lock” button on the key.  Not the “unlock” button.  Not the “panic” button, which I was starting to do at that moment.

I smiled at her and made a move with my thumb as if to suggest to the 15-month old that she should simply push the button again so Mommy could very happily get her keys.

Of course that was a pipe dream.

In the car beside us was a older gentleman who looked harmless.   Because my purse was in the car, so was my cell phone.  I smiled and said pleasantly, “Excuse me sir, do you have a cell phone?”

Concerned he replied, “No, I’m sorry I don’t.”

To another man walking by, “How about you?  Do you have a cell phone I could borrow?  I need to dial 911.”

Happily the paramedics arrived in 5 minutes and they were nice enough not to turn on their lights and siren.  The fire department arrived a minute or so later.

Apparently this is extremely common.  They said they get a call about once a week during the summer.

I was completely calm but totally embarrassed.  My daughter was thoroughly entertained by all the passers by who were smiling and clapping (she was clapping back) in the hopes they could keep her from getting upset.  I assure you, she was not upset.  She was having a grand old time.  The only time she got upset was when she lost her pacifier for a short moment.  Smart enough to locate the fallen pacifier and put it back in her mouth, not smart enough to locate the keys and press the button again.

The fire department arrived and successfully picked the lock without breaking the glass (I was fully prepared).  My daughter was locked inside for about 15 minutes total.

My next donation will be to the Dare County Fire & Rescue group, thank you very much.

The experience got me wondering:

If this is so common, can’t we design a better keyless entry device?

A toddler-proof keyless entry device?

If the keys can be designed to unlock doors based on proximity to the car, could you design the same device to NOT lock the doors if it’s inside the car?

What would the consequences be?

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