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What To Look for in a Child Safety Seat
Oh my god, you’re having a baby! So now you have to start shopping because babies need a lot of things. Before you go crazy deciding on robes and mobiles and wallpaper borders, there’s one thing you should put at the top of your list: child safety seat.
Why should this be at the top? Well, because, among other things, you’ll need to bring your baby home from the hospital and, by law, every child up to the age of 18 months must be properly restrained in a child car seat.
Yes, a child car seat is so important: your child’s safety and comfort depend on it. And you will use it a lot. This is a purchase that deserves some time and thought. It’s an investment.
So, what exactly should you look for in this investment? How exactly do you decide among the thousands which car seat is right for your child? So, take a deep breath (you don’t want to rush this decision) and check out the tips below. (Note: To make it easy to remember, these tips are organized to explain something that little kids like to do sometimes: PESTER.)
P is for price
Not much to say about the price. You’ll find child safety seats in a wide range of prices, but remember: This is a significant investment. First find the seat with the right specifications, afterward search for the best price for a position that meets them.
Thinking you can save money with a used car seat? You might want to think again because, basically, it might be a bad idea.
A used child car seat may have invisible damage that affects its performance. It’s probably missing the instructions (How do you hook this thing up?). And depending on its age, it may not be up to today’s standards. If you don’t know the history of the car seat, keep looking.
One feature you may want to consider when looking at prices is convertibility. Some “convertible” car seats can be used for a wider range of weights and heights and will work for infants and toddlers. You will buy one seat instead of two.
E is for easy to use
As mentioned, a child car seat is very useful. You want this usage to be as easy as possible.
- Does the seat fit easily?
- You have to get it in the car before you can use it, and if the seat isn’t properly installed, your child may not be properly restrained. If the seat will be installed by other people, there is an even greater need for easy installation.
- Where will you use the car seat?
- Will you be taking the seat in and out of the car often? If so, weight is an estimate.
- Is the seat easy to transport?
- Handles and model weights vary.
S is for Suitable
Car seats are not always a one-size-fits-all proposition. Is the car seat you’re considering right for your car?
- It fits your car. Will it fit in other cars you might need to use it in? (Note: You can call the manufacturer to check.)
- It is difficult to use the tether installation methods on some cars. Is yours one of them?
- Are the seats angled so you can level the child car seat?
- Does the bottom of the car seat fit comfortably in the car seat?
- Does the rear seat have enough clearance for rear-facing seats?
- Does the rear seat have enough leg room for forward-facing seats? (Or is your child kicking the back of your seat?)
Is the seat suitable for your child?
- Check the seat specifications for age, weight and height. The seat will “grow” with your child.
- Is the seat comfortable? Is it well stuffed? Is there protection for metal parts that can heat up in the sun?
- He reclines the seat. (If you’re planting for long trips, this is a must.)
- Does the belt buckle and unbuckle quickly and easily? Is very easy to unfasten i.e. can your child unfasten it?
T is for type
There are three main types of child car seats:
- Child Seats – These are for infants (usually 5 t0 20 lbs). Some have a handle and can be clipped from the car and placed on a frame or cart, and some have removable mounts that you leave in the car for easy installation. You can even find some of these bundled with strollers in “travel systems.” The choices are largely personal preferences, but be sure to angle these seats properly (45 degrees) to protect your baby.
- Convertible Seats – Can be used as both rear and forward facing seats to work with infants and toddlers. Some of the newer ones are designed for heavier weights than in the past and can be used with children up to 70kg.
- Booster seats – These are for toddlers at least 3 years old and at least 40kg. If you’re considering one of these, note that the AAP recommends that every child under 40 pounds should ride in a regular forward-facing or convertible car seat and that no one I’ve found suggests shield boosters.
E is for easy cleaning
You know how babies are. Make sure any car seat you get is easy to clean, preferably with a removable, washable cover.
R is for Return
There are many things to look for and consider when purchasing a child car seat. If you want to pick the biggest selection (and the best prices), you’ll probably want to shop online. It’s easy, safe and convenient.
Just make sure you buy from a seller with a good return policy. A quality child car seat is an investment, and even though you’ve done your homework, you just never know. Additionally, sellers with sound return policies tend to provide quality merchandise that they support.
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