Car seat laws (particularly in California) are pretty strict. In fact, as of January 2012, kids have to be in a car seat or booster until they are 8 years old or 4’9″ tall. My kids (Henry in particular) tend to be on the petite side (read: skin and bones), so it’s gonna be a long while until they can sit with just a seat belt.
I try to not be a neurotic parent, but it was really hard for me to consider moving my bigger kids out of their five point harness car seats…you know, the real expensive ones with the highest price tag? The ones I shall not name, but it rhymes with Lie Fax. Ahem.
And while they were rated through 70 pounds, my kids were looking awfully big in those seats. And kinda uncomfortable. Plus, Lucy couldn’t unsnap herself. Which meant I had to. And that was getting old.
The bigger issue was that if the kids ever wanted to go anywhere with another person, they either didn’t get to go, or I had to heave and grunt and curse as I wrangled their giant car seat out of my car and install it in grandma’s car.
And then there was the time I forgot it was Lucy’s field trip day and booster seats lined the preschool entry, and then there was our giant car seat. I apologized profusely to the poor mom who had volunteered as a driver and got stuck installing that thing just to go to the park.
But the thing was…for as cumbersome and annoying as those seats were…I couldn’t stomach the idea of putting my kids in those flimsy little boosters I saw everywhere. I know they are rated as acceptable by the DOT…and no judgment if your kids use them…but for me, I just couldn’t. I am rarely the neurotic mom…but I was totally being psycho when it came to seats. It just seemed like a huge leap to go from heavy duty five point harnesses to bitty boosters (and even most of the high back ones I saw still didn’t seem sturdy enough for this mama).
So believe me when I tell you that I gasped aloud when I saw the Snugli booth at Mom 2.0 back in May. They had a variety of products on display, but the one that caught my eye was the Booster Car Seat.
These boosters are beefy. It’s what caught my eye initially. Padded with three layers of foam (that reduce side impact crash forces by 50%), they gave this mama the reassurance I needed to make the switch. It was like this perfect marriage of booster and car seat.
They come with a five point harness system if you want to use that, but since I was looking to give my kids a little more wiggle room, I opted to convert them to boosters.
At first, I couldn’t figure out why you would move your kid to a booster just to use a harness anyway, and then I realized that since it is rated for 22 pounds forward facing, you could move straight from an infant bucket seat to this and only have 2 seats over the course of your child’s life…rather than 3 (infant bucket > car seat > booster).
Also, I’m realizing that for Jill (my daughter with special needs) this might be a perfect way to make her feel a little more grown up, while still keeping her safe (she has low tone, so a harness is necessary in case of an accident. Her body just isn’t strong enough to handle much of an impact. But as she’s getting bigger/lankier, she may outgrow her traditional car seat as well.)
They also have cup holders.
Not that Captain Andy ever allows ANY food or drink in our vehicles (not even water), but for the rest of the universe who does, I would imagine that’s a good thing.
I simply removed the padding and tucked the straps into the recesses of the seat, and then replaced it again. Took me all of five minutes, and I love that it stays on the seat so we don’t have to store pieces and hope we remember where we put them.
The seats include SureLATCH connectors and even a tethering system if you want them to be super duper installed in your car.
The padding uses memory foam with contours to your child and Outlast Technology fabrics (“temperature controlling fabric that has the ability to absorb and store excess heat, helping to reduce overheating and prevent chilling”).
So basically, my kids’ seats are fancier and more comfy than the ones the adults sit in. Typical.
But I think that the best part is how much better they seem to fit in these seats.
We took a 9 hour road trip last month (the best way to test a car seat, right?!), and they really seemed to be so much more comfortable than usual. Plus, since they had a little more freedom of movement using the regular seat belt rather than a harness, they were able to reach for the toy bags I had packed. In the harnesses, if they dropped something, even on the seat next to them, they couldn’t reach to pick it up. Cue tears and frustration. From all of us.
Now keep in mind that these are large seats. So, moving them from one car to another is still fairly cumbersome. Installation is easy (just put the seat belt over it like normal) but they aren’t tiny. But that’s a good thing and part of why I love them. (If you aren’t a regular reader and want reference for size, Lucy is 4 and Henry is 6.)
My one gripe is that the tabs you are supposed to feed the seat belt through (up near the headrest) are waaaaaay too small. It’s almost impossible to get to and tuck the belt into. Luckily, they are only there to pull the belt down a little and off of your child’s neck, so we just don’t use them. My kids don’t seem bothered by it. That being said, it would be nice if they were larger/easier to use. So, Snugli, please make them (a lot) bigger on your next go around. Thanks.
Overall, I’m really happy with these seats. My kids love the extra freedom of being in a booster, and I’m happy to see them in something a little beefier and sturdier than most of the boosters I see on the market.
Are your kids in booster seats? Was that a hard switch for you to make?
*Disclosure: Snugli provided me with the seats for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are mine.