Unless you’ve been living under a rock it has been hard to avoid the hype and launch of the much-anticipated Mifold Grab-and-Go booster. Introduced in the US and Europe some time ago the Mifold is now here in Canada and we have the low-down for you!
Advertised as ten times smaller than a traditional booster seat, the Mifold is deemed the “most advanced, compact, and portable booster seat ever invented.” Check out a video of it in action here. Is it true? In a lot of ways it is those things, but it’s not nearly as easy to use as we had hoped (it can be quite difficult). It does, however, have a place in the booster seat world if parents, caregivers, and kids are prepared to learn to use it properly.
Mifold Specs and Details
For children who are:
- 40-100lbs (18-45kg)
- 40-57″ (102-145cm)
- at least 4 years old**
**Most kids don’t have the impulse control or maturity to properly and safely use a booster seat until 5.5-6 years old. Some might be ready sooner, and others not until later. It’s important not to rush this step.
- Weight: 1.5lbs
- Dimensions in storage mode: 9.5″ long x 4.75″ wide x 1.75″ tall
- Tallest torso size that should fit: ~19.5″ bum to shoulder
- Dimensions of seating area: 8.25″ wide x 8.5″ deep
- Internal hip width dimensions: (1) 9.75″, (2) 11.75″, (3) 13.5″
- Available in six fun colours, although the colour isn’t visible when the seat is occupied
- Expires seven years from date of manufacture
- Requires replacement after a crash if seat was occupied, can be re-used if unoccupied and undamaged
- Available at Canadian Tire, direct from mifold.ca, or boutique retailers for $79.99
- Find model number, serial number, date of manufacture, and cleaning instructions on labels and adjuster guide. Mifold is small don’t forget!
The major appeal of the Mifold is the small size. It IS compact. It would fit easily in a glove box, carry on bag, or anywhere else you care to stash small things — it’s about the size of an evening clutch purse.
It’s not nearly as easy to use as it’s made out to be, and fit-to-child is not predictable. Update: families have reported that kids can not stay in position and tend to slide forward, making the belt fit poorly.
How does Mifold work?
Booster seats as we have come to know them literally boost a child up so that the adult seat belt fits their smaller bodies properly. Most kids will need a booster seat of some kind until age 11ish, as that’s when most will be tall enough to fill out a belt and a vehicle seat properly. Most provinces and territories don’t specifically require booster seats to be used for that long, but they DO require the seat belt to fit properly — and that’s just not going to happen until kids are closer in size to adults!
Although it is called a “grab-and-go booster” Mifold is not a booster in the traditional sense. Instead of raising the child up to meet the belt, Mifold pulls the belt down to meet the child. It’s really quite innovative and unique, and we commend the inventor for seeking solutions to the many barriers that prevent kids from being safely seated on every ride. For some very specific situations Mifold will in fact accomplish what it is designed to do – be compact, portable, and provide good belt fit.
We’ll try to clarify how to know if and when it’s a good choice for your family because it’s the ease of use, unpredictable belt fit, and ability of kids to stay in position that are its biggest challenge.
When we talk about “good belt fit” what we’re looking for is a nice low, flat lap belt that isn’t on the belly, and a shoulder belt that is centred on the collarbone and not irritating the neck (kids won’t tolerate that), or slipping off the shoulder (because then the belt can’t hold the child back in a crash).
To help us talk about belt fit we have the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the [US] nation’s roads. They’re the go-to folks for booster seat belt fit. The image with yellow shirt is borrowed from them and shows good lap belt fit (the dashed white line shows where a traditional booster seat arm rest would be). The remaining three are our test models, and the fit is quite comparable. The reason we so carefully considered the IIHS’s test protocol and results was that the fit of the Mifold is SO unlike what we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different, and we need to retrain our brains for what to look for. The images shown though are about as low on the legs as we’d like to see, and if the fit of the Mifold in your car with your child positions the belt overly low down the legs then that’s not a fit we’re comfortable with.
The figure in the yellow shirt above is a special crash test dummy that represents an average 6 year old, and the tests the IIHS does are only about belt fit – there is no actual crashing going on. It’s also important to note that the IIHS has not at this time published an assessment of the Mifold because it doesn’t meet their definition of a booster seat (see above re boosting a child up vs pulling the belt down). Perhaps one day, but not yet – and that’s why we did our own unofficial side by side photo comparison to see for ourselves how the Mifold fit on real kids.
Ease of Use
Mifold needs to be set up to fit the size of the child. This is done by adjusting both the lap belt guides on the seating area, and the shoulder belt guide on the strap of webbing that MUST be used at all times.
Adjust the lap belt guides to the width just larger than your child, but not touching their legs. Internally the three settings are 9.75″, 11.75″, and 13.5″. At the narrowest setting the external width is 11″, and may be useful in narrower seating positions. A little release tab must be pressed to move the lap belt guide both wider and narrower.
The shoulder belt guide is adjustable with an easy to use red clip mechanism, and will accommodate torso heights up to about 19.5″. The red buckle on the guide should sit about 1″ above the shoulder, and although it can be used to affect the positioning of the shoulder belt on the child’s collarbone, it will be easier for everyone to use and more comfortable for the child if the seat belt naturally falls on the collarbone and the red clip is just along for the ride (but still MUST be used).
Position the seat of the Mifold against the vehicle seat back. For vehicles with a contoured shape at the place where the vehicle seat bottom meets the seat back position the Mifold so it’s on the contour and touching the vehicle seat back. Our testers found it easiest to do a “hover and drop” manoeuvre when placing their bums onto the seat pad, rather than the “scoot and slide” they’re used to with conventional boosters. Do what works for you!
Route the lap belt through both red lap belt guides, but do not ever put the shoulder belt through the lap guides. Clip the shoulder belt guide onto the belt at the shoulder, and snug everything up. Ensure that the Mifold itself is touching the vehicle seat back, and make sure the child’s bum is scooted all the way back and is making contact with the vehicle seat back – no slouching, and that’s the tough part to maintain!
And here is where the Mifold differs most from traditional boosters in terms of fit and comfort. In a traditional booster seat the seat pan is shorter, built for a child’s shorter leg length and allowing the knees to bend comfortably at the edge of the booster seat. With Mifold being flat to the vehicle seat, or nearly so at only 3/4″ thick, there’s no leg support or natural bend for the knees. In the image with the red and green lines: the green line represents a child or adult with long enough legs to bend naturally at the edge of the vehicle seat. The red line shows how this child’s legs are sitting when the Mifold is in use. This was not comfortable for her and she had difficulty maintaining this position without slouching. Slouching means she’ll slide her bum forward, and it will no longer be in contact with the vehicle seat back. This will in turn affect the seat belt fit, and result in misuse of the Mifold.
Differently sized children on smaller or larger vehicle seats will experience different results. Really big kids on a small vehicle seat will probably not slouch; small kids on big vehicle seats will be able to stick their legs straight out. Unless a child falls into one of those ends of the fit spectrum though, we worry greatly that the seating position won’t be able to be maintained for more than a few minutes. Our testers found it took a lot of effort to sit properly, and stay there.
Overall we found seat belt fit to be fair-to-good in a range of vehicles and test models from the low end straight through to the high end of the size range, although as previously mentioned, quite a lot lower on the thighs than we’re used to seeing. Aim for the top edge of the lap belt to be near the pelvis.
Our testers were not able to buckle themselves, or unbuckle themselves. Perhaps with practice this would be doable, but it’s not intuitive.
One CPST mom took the Mifold with her when she traveled overseas recently, and used it with her 6.5 year old 44lb 47″ tall daughter. She reported that she found it a little tricky to route the first time she used it in a taxi at 4am. She loved that it was so compact and easy to bring with her and allowed her daughter to ride safely even on vacation. She considers it ideal for use in situations that are short term and have practiced adult helpers around to help buckle and assess fit. Other ideal situations include those who don’t own cars, or for those who want to stash a compact emergency spare in the glove box of their car for unexpected carpoolers.
Our assessment is similar. The Mifold does have a place in the booster world, but it’s challenging to use correctly and we would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with its use, and what good belt fit looks like, before setting off on an adventure with it. Kid users also need to be mature enough to hold their seating position, which for some of our testers was quite difficult. If your child is fidgety, wiggly, or easily annoyed by being uncomfortable we strongly advise testing the Mifold in a controlled environment before sending it in a backpack for use without you. In most cases you or another practiced adult will need to help with buckling and unbuckling.
Thank you to Mifold for providing us with the seat shown in this review, and another one to one of you readers! All opinions, however, are our own.
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Jen Shapka is a runner, sewer, knitter, baker, recent convert to the Instant Pot craze, and on the hunt for her next piece of furniture to refinish and repurpose. Currently living in Barrie, ON, she’s due for a move this summer with her military family and is finding the limbo of waiting to find out where rather difficult.