Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Coats And Carseats

Well, I have one of those husbands who are pretty sure I'm crazy when I say things like the kids can't wear winter coats in their car seats.  He says "they'll get cold", or "they're going to get sick".  And, even if he was right (which he's not, because colds are caused by a virus, not COLD), I'd still rather my kids get a cold than to get dead.

So, because he never believes me until I can PROVE him wrong, I took these photos of our 3 year old daughter in her car seat when it was in the house.

Strapped in as tight as I could do up the straps
with her winter coat on.
The first photo shows her in her coat, all strapped in as tight as I could get her, with the chest clip in the "right" position (armpit level).  With the coat on, she was snug as a bug.

Coat off.  Chest clip is not in the right position.
The second photo shows her with her coat taken off.  I did not loosen or adjust the strapping at all when I took her out, I only un-clipped it and slipped her out.  When I put her back in, I just re-clipped the crotch strap and chest clip, and didn't adjust anything.  You can see already that the chest clip isn't in the right position.  It's too low.

The space between the straps and her chest are as wide as my hand.

When I put her back in and clipped in the straps exactly as they were when she was wearing her coat, you can see that there is more to this than the chest clip being a little low.  The straps were so loose that I could put my hand sideways between the harness system and her body.  Since I didn't use a tape measure in the photo, I'll tell you that my hand is 4 inches across.

Side view of the space between her chest and the clip.
So, clearly there is no safe way to strap a child into a car seat wearing a bulky winter coat.  If you were in an accident, the coat is going to compress and leave your child in a seat that is far from safe.  But don't worry, there are a few ways to deal with it.

What I do is put the kids in their car seats wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a light sweater or sweat shirt.  Then, after strapping them in safely, I put their coat on them backwards, putting their arms in the sleeves, and tucking the coat in beside them.  (Not behind them because that can add bulk too.)

We also always have a few blankets in the car to cover legs, and if it's too warm to put that coat on them backwards, but too cool to just have them in there in a sweatshirt, I will put a blanket over their chest, leaving only their arms out.

If you have time to warm the vehicle up before you get in, that's ideal.  No need to put a coat on backwards, no need for blankets.  Just get in and go.  If you want to take the coats with you, you can always put them on the kids so you can go from the vehicle to the store/mall/house you're going to go in to, and they'll still be warm.

It's pretty easy to keep them safe in the winter if you know the risk involved in putting them in their car seat in their coats.  Sometimes all we need is to be told, and our creativity comes out.  (I'm sure there are many other great ideas out there on how to keep kids warm in the vehicle without a coat, but the ones I listed are the ones we've used.)

Now you know.  : )

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