Toddler Car Seat Safety: The Dos and Dont’s
I think you will agree with me when I say that once that sweet little child becomes a toddler, strapping them in and keeping them strapped in becomes so much harder.
Why you ask?
Well at this age the child is very much interested in a lot of things and will not be shy to reach out for them or let you know that they want to get out of that constricting car seat.
This can make for quite for some stressful trip, even if it is just a short trip to the store to get some milk.
Nonetheless, while a toddler can be quite a handful, you can still keep them safe in their car seat by following the following tips and recommendations.
Types of Toddler Car Seats
When it comes to your kids toys, clothes or the paint in their nursery, how cute they make the room or kid look will come into consideration. However when it comes to car seats, it is more important that you take consideration safety rather than beauty. The following are some of the toddler car seats to use with your baby. It is important to note that a good toddler car seat needs to have a 5 point harness for enhanced safety.
- Best 3 in 1 (All in one) Similar to the common convertible car seat, these seats can be used as rear facing car seats then transition to forward facing car seats and lastly into boosters. Given its typically bigger size, it is important to consult the manufacturer manual prior to buying to ensure it is a good fit for your vehicle.
- Best Convertible car seat – Most convertible car seats can be used in the forward and rear facing mode. While they are heavier than infant car seats they do not come with bases or carrier handles. Given that they can be used in rear and front facing mode, these seats can accommodate a toddler up to between 40 to 50 pounds making them a good option for your big toddler.
- Best Rear Facing Car Seat – These types of car seats include combination and infant car seats that can accommodate children from 5 pounds up to about a year old for infant seats and up to 12 years for the best combination car seats.
How to Use a Toddler Car Seat
When to Shift to a Forward Facing Car Seat
As I have always said, it is always advisable to keep the child in the rear facing mode until they are at least two years old. If you can keep them there for longer, you should definitely do it until they reach the maximum weight recommended for the given seat. What makes the rear facing car seat so safe for toddlers and babies is that they offer much needed support for the kid’s spine, neck and head protecting them from whiplash injuries in the instance of a crash.
When to Switch from Latch to Seat Belt
Since 2002, the NHTSA has required that all passenger vehicles come with Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). LATCH is safer than the conventional seat belts whose installation was not as standardized or as safe. LATCH comes with a tether that you can easily attach to the car seat and anchor it on an anchor point inbuilt on the vehicle seat. Check your car seat and vehicle owners manual for instructions on how to use the LATCH system. If your car was manufactured before 2002, you can still use seat belts as long as you ensure the installation is as safe as possible. While LATCH is the safest way of installing a child safety seat, the NHTSA recommends that for kids above age 3, you should switch to seat belts as the LATCH anchors are not strong enough to take the weight of the child and the seat in the instance of a crash. As such it is important to check the age and weight limit of the car seat to ensure that your toddler is safe when using LATCH.
Toddlers and Booster Seats
While it can be very tempting to transition the child to a booster car seat, I would not advise that a toddler ride in a booster seat. A toddler in this instance means any child younger than 4 years old. For the child younger than 4, they need to be riding in a car seat with a five point harness typically a convertible, combination, or all in one until they attain or outgrow the forward facing car seat weight and height limits.
Even when the child attains that age, ensure their safety by transitioning them using belt positioning booster seats. If you are using an all in one car seat, you can transition it to a booster seat. You can only transition the child to seat belts when they are about 4 foot 9 in height and about 80 pounds typically at about 12 years of age.
Toddler Car Seats Safety for Toddlers
- Review Car Seat Safety Guidelines – You can have the right toddler car seat but if the child is not strapped in properly or you do not know how to use the safety seat, your child will not ride safely. Even if you have been using car seats for a very long time, it is still very critical to check out manufacturer recommendations, car seat safety tips and vehicle manuals to ensure the child is safe. Always install the car seat in the backseat of the car and for even better install it in the middle of the seat.
- Ensure a Professional Inspects the New Car Seat – Always find a certified car seat inspection technician to inspect the car seat and the installation before you start using it. You can find an inspector for your car seat here.
- Check for Harness Fit – For utmost safety, check that the harness straps are below or at the child’s shoulders with the top of the chest clip at the level of the toddlers armpits. for a snug tight fit, you should get no more that two fingers between the child’s body and the harness strap.
- Do not Dress the Kid in Bulky Clothing – Bulky clothing make the harness straps fit poorly on the child’s body. As such you need to avoid any bulky snowsuits, winter jackets or any other clothing that adds an extra layer between the strap and the baby. If you think it is too cold, you can protect the child from the cold by laying a blanket over them or using a suitable sweater.
- Keep Little Arms and Fingers Safe – Toddlers being toddlers get bored and start playing with push button operated windows. To keep the child safe ensure the windows are locked and controlled from the drivers seat. Give the child some toys or books to play with to reduce the temptation of playing with windows.
- Tether Toys – At an age when your kids wants to always be doing things, having to sit still in a car seat for even five minutes can be incredibly boring for them. To ensure that your child is never bored give them some safe toys which you can attach to the car seat. Ensure that the toys are not anything sharp or one that they can hurl at you or harm themselves with.
- Do not Leave the Kid in the Car – With research showing that can heat or cool down at up to twenty degrees in 10 minutes, any child younger than 4 can be in grave danger from heat or cold if you leave them in the car given their large surface area to volume rations. To ensure you do not leave the child in the car always put something important there such a briefcase o purse so that you would have to check in there before leaving.
- Use the Car Seat Only for Travel – Car seats are not made for any use outside of travel. While a car seat makes the child safe while traveling, allowing the child to snooze in the child safety seat can be very dangerous and could result to severe causes such as suffocation or strangulation.