Parking Pal Magnets Aim to Corral Kids Around Cars

Photo of a father holding a baby and grocery bag and two kids holding their hands on Parking Pal magnets on a minivan. Inset is a close-up image of the Parking Pal magnet.

Parking Pal is a colorful CD-sized magnet bearing the silhouette of a child’s hand. It sticks to the outside of your car door. When you end up distracted in a parking lot, say, loading groceries into your car, you instruct your child to keep his hand on the magnet.

It is a visual prop for a well-known trick for keeping kids safe in a parking lot—tell them to keep their hands on your car so they are not running out where they could get hit by a moving vehicle.

This product may be useful for some parents, and inexpensive at $6 a pop ($5 on sale at the moment).

The dad inside me thinks we’re better off not relying on gimmicks to back up the disciplining of our children. It’s critical for parents, in the words of Dr. Sears, to set limits, take charge and provide structure. Parking Pal can help you do that, but I’d like to think a parent’s word alone should suffice. If not, maybe there are larger issues at play that started long before you drove to the store. But that’s just the father of a single well-behaved girl speaking. Give me a non-stop rambunctious boy, or worse, two or three, and I might feel differently.

Secondarily, during summer months, placing a hand on a hot metal door
probably isn’t a good idea. My lefty wife noted the magnets only
feature right hands, though my righty brain thinks it won’t matter to kids.

We handle our 3-year-old Little Miss in a parking lot with a much simpler technique. She holds a parent’s hand on the way to the car (if she isn’t riding in a shopping cart). Once at the car, my first action is to open the passenger door and instruct her to get inside. I then close her door and proceed to place merchandise in the trunk.

If we’re parked on a slope I sometimes prop the shopping cart against a corner of the car so I can give my daughter full attention. If I must go to the trunk first, Little Miss is directed to hold onto my pant leg.

If a parking lot is a bit desolate, we’ll afford her more freedom. For example, she may walk from a store to our car while standing next to us without holding a hand, but with instruction to stay next to us (and still within reach for us to grab should something go wrong). We leave room for her to learn proper conduct without Mom and Dad controlling every detail.

How do you handle your parking lot situations?


13 Responses to “Parking Pal Magnets Aim to Corral Kids Around Cars”

  1. Sonya says:

    I’ve been lurking for a while, but now I have something to say…(grin)
    We have five (!) kids, but just two littles (2 & 4) right now. I have used this technique for all our preschoolers. Getting out of the car (unbuckling several carseats, for example) can be more challenging than getting in. So as I release a kid to his freedom, I say “go stand by the wheel.” The routine of it makes it work, I think.
    I also use “hold my pocket” for when my hands are full, or for “time-out” in a store, too (even works for my big kids!).

    June 29th, 2007 at 5:22 am

  2. wdskmom says:

    I’m not huge on gimmicks such as this, but I guess if they work & people want to pay the $, whatever. Samuel’s a busy bee & I use the ‘touch the car/tire’ technique. So far it works fine. If we happen to be parked on the side of the street, it’s even easier since he steps down between the car & the curb all excited because he’s “on the road”.

    June 29th, 2007 at 7:23 am

  3. Jennifer says:

    I tell them “Don’t lose me!” This puts the responsibility onto them, creating a sense of independence and pride when they accomplish the task of not losing the person they are responsible for. I also use the pocket hold; especially when I am loading things into the car. This leaves my hands free to get the task done, and I know where she is at all times.

    June 29th, 2007 at 7:47 am

  4. Beckie says:

    As a mom who often takes three children out and about, 2 of mine and 1 I take care of, it’s hard to keep them all wrangled in and out of seats. The smaller two (both under 2) have to be lifted in and out of their car seats, while my older one (4) can get her self out, but still not quite buckle herself in. I can see the point of the magenet, but it looks too much like that scene from Fifth Element when the cops come calling at Bruce Willis’ house! Plus, I think if you use something like a magant, then when you don’t have it, like in grandma’s car or whatever, it’s harder for them to get with it to touch something else.

    Anywho, when I get them out, I let my 4 year old out first, and instruct her where to stand, as the situation dictates, sometimes by me, sometimes on the sidewalk. Then I let the little ones out, and have them go hold my 4 year olds hand. That way they all stay together. So far it works. As for loading, I always load children, then stuff. Everyone gets in their seats, and are buckled, then I go around and load the purchases into the back of the van.

    June 29th, 2007 at 8:56 am

  5. Sandy says:

    I live in Minnesota, and I don’t like to have them touch the car. In the summer it gets too hot. In the winter, it’s all slushy and salty. And in between, it’s almost always a little dirty. So what I do with my 3-yr old twins is I have them stand on the white line or the yellow line right next to the car. They can move back and forth on the line, but they can’t go too far. It works for us!

    June 29th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

  6. Jennifer says:

    I have always heard conflicting comments as to whether to load the children first or the purchases first. The argument for loading the children first is so that they are safe and away from possible traffic. The argument for loading them last is that if someone comes up and tries to take your car while your loading, the kids are at least with you. Also, unless you remember to turn on the engine, on a hot day it’s still hot in there, even with the windows/doors open. I figure with the conflicting info that I get, everyone just needs to work out which is best for themselves on each occasion.

    June 29th, 2007 at 12:49 pm

  7. Amy says:

    I do what you do, AJ. I load the kids in the car fiorst alomost everytime. I have a three year old and ten year old that live with us. The three year old always goes in the car. If its hot in the car, I leave the door open. Most of the time she sits in the driver’s seat while I load but sometimes she climbs in her seat. Luckily I have a convertable. If it is very warm out, the top ios down. I don’t even have to open the door to put her in!!! My ten year old recently became too old to hold mom’s hand, but I still worry about crossing the street and certain areas in the parking lot. I opted to teach him chivalry(sp). He escorts me acroos the street by offering me his arm. :)

    June 29th, 2007 at 1:00 pm

  8. Mark says:

    I remember you told me once that your daughter won’t even get off of her mattress until she’s given permission. :) I’m not sure I’d buy this product, but I certainly can see where for a rambunctious kid or 3, giving all the extra reinforcement and visual cues that you can would be helpful!

    I know that my son wouldn’t be able to control himself, so he stays in the cart when we’re in the parking lot, and he’s the first thing to go into the car, before any of the groceries or anything.

    June 30th, 2007 at 8:36 am

  9. Cameron Campbell says:

    Well, we don’t drive, so this is less of an issue. But when we are in a car that someone else is ferrying us around in he holds our hand till we get to the car and then someone straps him in. Because neither of us drive, even if we’re alone with him, there’s always someone else to load the car.

    I discovered something by mistake at a corner store, he got to playing with the chocolate bars (ooh.. shiney and at my eye level!) and I told him to put his hands on his head. Turns out that he has some kind of mental block and can’t really walk that well when he does that. Works in parking lots pretty well also. Though as he’s getting older he’s putting up with it less.

    June 30th, 2007 at 6:34 pm

  10. Carol says:

    I have 3 children and for the most part, I handle parking lots the same way you described. When we unload from the car, I always instruct my two oldest boys (now 5 & 7) to “watch out for cars!”, “stay right HERE” and/or “Get out of the car and DO NOT MOVE”. Then I gather up the 3 year old and we all walk hand-in-hand into the store. Then, we walk out of the store hand-in-hand and when we get to the car, the children go in to the car before I load the groceries.

    Can you tell I am accustomed to taking my kids to the store alone despite the fact that I am very much married to their father?

    June 30th, 2007 at 8:47 pm

  11. Carrie says:

    “We handle our 3-year-old Little Miss in a parking lot with a much simpler technique. She holds a parent’s hand on the way to the car (if she isn’t riding in a shopping cart). Once at the car, my first action is to open the passenger door and instruct her to get inside. I then close her door and proceed to place merchandise in the trunk”

    Ah, spoken like a true parent of ONE child. Just you wait!

    July 1st, 2007 at 12:06 am

  12. Ritchie says:

    All I can think of is what a great tool this would be in a classic game of what I’ll refer to in polite company as “Wall Ball.” Also, I think it would help with those ‘stand in the corner’ sessions.

    I’m not a dad yet…almost. Do people still put their kids in the corner? I know kids still play Wall Ball.

    July 1st, 2007 at 1:11 am

  13. Whitney from TSW says:

    (what the heck is wall ball?) I like the idea for sticking this on a wall for time out…but its a magnet, bummer. And a sticker on my wall…would totally clash with the Dora and happy face stickers already there living harmoniously with the crayola sketches…
    As for the car thing…we’ll pass, for all the reasons listed above.

    July 3rd, 2007 at 11:23 am

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