Parents with Prams parking: when should you make way for the next generation?

Getting kids safely in and out of cars is not an easy task, and a spacious parking bay can make this job a lot easier for everyone.
Getting kids safely in and out of cars is not an easy task, and a spacious parking bay can make this job a lot easier for everyone.

As a mom of two very mobile little ones, I find the Moms and Tots parking bays to be a lifesaver. Literally.

When you have a two year old who doesn't understand traffic, and a five year old who will wander after an errant pigeon feather, then you'll know just how important it is to have a bit of space to wrestle them in and out of their car seats without denting your neighbors door, and being able to hustle them directly into the safety of a nearby trolley.

Thankfully, most malls and shopping centres will have one or two designated bays, marked variously as Moms and Tots, Parents with Prams, Family Friendly Parking or similar, depending on how progressive their signage team is. 

Indeed, one or two spots is not enough. So parents will often scrutinise the lucky motorist who snagged a bay before them, and woe betide the person who emerges without a pram, or worse: without a child!

While many mall security guards will respond when called upon to chastise a lawbreaker, this is generally too late and too much hassle for the parent who just needs to park and get that toddler a snack before a hangry tantrum erupts. 

Permits for Parents?

In 2017 Cascades Lifestyle Centre introduced a parent parking permit that must be displayed when parents with kids use the designated bays. With 11 bays dedicated to parents, out of just over 500 in the parking lot, competition for these coveted spots can get heated.

Regular shoppers are invited to apply for the permit, and display them when they park in the designated bays, resting easy that they are legally allowed to use the bay.

I spoke to a representative of the centre, who told us that in the years since they implemented the permit it has been very well received, with many parents making use of the privilege.

There has also been a reduction in complaints of ineligible shoppers taking up spaces. Expecting moms are allowed to apply for the permit, but this privilege is revoked once the youngest child turns three.

What does the law say?

The age limit of three is set according to local laws, says the Cascades Lifestyle Centre representative. We are not privy to the specifics of these regulations, but we spoke to several mall managers around the country, and the general consensus seems to be that moms and dads with kids under age three are free to use the bays, but policies seemed to vary:

  • A representative of Willowbridge Mall in Cape Town told us that if the child can walk then you cannot use the parking bays, but if you're wearing a child or with a pram then you can.
  • La Lucia Mall in Durban allows pregnant women, and parents with children between newborn and 8 years old to use their designated bays. 
  • Kolonnade Shopping Centre in Pretoria revealed they don't even have moms and tots parking bays
  • And the Cape Town V & A Waterfront manager told us he is unsure of the policy on the maximum age, and that parents should be sensible in using the moms and tots parking bays. 

I can support that, but then again it can be hard to define sensible when you have a car full of unruly kids and just need to park as soon, and as safely, as possible. 

What do you think?

Should parents with kids be allowed to use those bays until age four rather? Or even older? 

And what about it you don't even use a pram, as many baby-wearing moms will attest it's not fair to get the stink-eye from a fellow parent when you emerge with your baby in a carrier and therefore an argument can be made for you not needing all that extra space? 

A while back we asked parents at what age do you think your child should be when you stop using the moms and tots parking bays at shopping malls? and they had some thoughts:

Chat back:

What do you think? Send an email to and let us know - we may publish your thoughts on the matter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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