It’s been just over four years since we started providing online help via Facebook and this website. FOUR YEARS of good stuff! It’s been awesome. Four busy moms with ten kids between us we hope our passion for child passenger safety has shone through with kindness, knowledge, and no judgment. Maybe you’ve enjoyed our silliness, or nabbed a seat on a super sale. Maybe one of our posts helped you to make an important decision for your family’s safety?
We’ve enjoyed fantastic relationships with manufacturers as we bring real, useful reviews to Canadian readers and have written about and given away more than 22 seats to lucky winners in our weird and wonderful contests.
What we also do, and could not do without your support, is provide seats to families who need them. Families who want to make sure their children are safely seated in the vehicle and need a little help to be able to do that. Over the years we’ve given away many seats to grandparents and parents. Other kids have received booster seats or harnessed seats at roadside stops. Sometimes we hear of a family by referral, or sometimes a seat is given out at a roadside stop in cooperation with local law enforcement. We are so fortunate to work with community partners who seek to educate and connect families with the resources they need!
We purchase seats with referral funds that don’t cost you anything extra when you shop at Amazon.ca (for anything, not just car seats), or when you sign up for and make a purchase from shop.ca or via an ebates.ca account. Alternately, if you’re feeling extra generous, we’d love to ensure that a new-in-box car seat or booster seat that you want to purchase for a family gets to someone who needs it. Be in touch if that’s the case, we can make it happen.
We post sales every Friday morning — more often if there’s a super car seat deal — and shopping via those links contributes too.
Do you know of someone who could use our help? We’d like to be a resource for local Vancouver Island families. A few conditions apply:
- The family, ideally the whole family or everyone involved in child transport, needs to meet with a tech to learn how to use and install the seat. This means you need to be near a technician, or willing to travel to a technician.
- The family needs to be open to the idea of best practice, meaning exceed the bare minimums. What that means will depend on the child, the vehicle, and the family’s needs but we’d like to have that conversation, and provide a seat(s) to allow best practice to happen with ease! Of course we can’t make anyone do anything, nor do we want to. Our style is gentle education while providing the tools and knowledge to make it work for the family.
- In consultation with a family we will help to choose an appropriate seat. Where choice exists we’ll provide it as best we can. Often this means we need to know who else rides in the vehicle, including the children’s ages, weights, and heights. A family’s privacy is important so this information is used only to enable the selection of a suitable seat.
Are you in need of a little help? Do you know of a family who would appreciate a new seat but can’t quite swing it on their own? Please tell us via this form. Info we collect is used solely for the purpose of doing our best to get seats to kids who need them, and we will absolutely respect the privacy of any information you submit. Please understand that we can’t possibly fulfill every request but we sure will try our best.
Alainna and Jen (and their future CPST helpers, plied with food, play dough, and cameo appearances with My Little Ponies Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle) spent yesterday wandering the Toronto Baby Time Show looking at products, chatting with sales people and manufacturer reps, and ogling new stuff.
We matched, of course. That’s how we roll.
Recaro was an exciting first stop for us. Brand new to Canada they’ve brought their convertible (infant/child) seat to market. So far Canadian Tire is carrying the Performance Ride for $299, and we got to explore it while chatting with their experts. We will have more info on the Performance Ride, the combination forward-facing child/booster seat Performance Sport, and high back booster Performance Booster really soon.
5 years old and tall in the Performance Ride – still plenty of room left by torso height. She proclaimed it super comfy and we agreed. Lots of padding, really nice finishing details.
Happy to oblige by sitting in the high back Performance Booster (not quite on the market yet) we were pretty impressed with the height in this seat. No comparison shots yet but it’s a tall, cushy option that does not require a vehicle head restraint behind it. It does have lower anchors to secure it to the vehicle when unoccupied.
We visited Clek as well, spotting the gorgeous new “capri” colour from afar. The 2016 Foonf and Fllo come with extra padding in the head rest and seat pad areas, as well as a new style of harness cover that is longer, soft and cushy with snap closures. Capri will also be available on Oobr and we forgot to ask if it will be on the backless Olli as well. We hope so – it’s beautiful.
Clek has also updated the design of the rear-facing lock-offs. Compared to a ski boot closure or my own favourite, a Grolsch bottle, it’s easy to use and should make a seat belt installation even smoother.
Tokidoki fans rejoice – a new space-themed print. My 5 year old spotted the unicorn straightaway.
A stop by the Nuna booth saw Alainna lounging on the job, and then getting to it with her helper. We’re interested to see the Nuna Pipa in action. It comes with a lot of nice features including lovely fabric, rigid UAS, a super easy to use lock-off for seat belt installations, high height and weight limits (4-35lbs, up to 32″ tall), and really quite a lot of flexibility when it comes to usage rules. For those familiar with the Pipa in the US the Canadian version does not have a load leg. Don’t let that stop you though – it’s got a lot going for it. For those who want an infant seat in the $400 price range this won’t disappoint.
Our kids ran out of steam and we drove home…but not before spotting this through the ceiling of the convention centre. Until next time!
~Jen & Alainna, the Ontario half of VICST
Be safe people!
We are pumped to announce a fun contest in honour of child passenger safety week…but you have work at it a bit to earn an entry! And work fast…contest closes Saturday night at midnight Pacific (Sept 20th at 12:01 am).
Up for grabs: a seat of your choice!
- it is from our favourites lists, unless there is a good reason for something else
- it is available to order online from a Canadian retailer, and for free shipping
- is in stock
- $400 cap pre-tax but should you choose something pricier you can pay the difference
- your choice of colour within reason…for example if another colour of the same seat is significantly less than others we have the final say
- other fine print in the terms on the Rafflecopter
- you MUST leave a blog post comment on this post to qualify, and you MUST record your entries on the Rafflecopter widget. Comments are moderated which means they won’t appear immediately, but proceed with the Rafflecopter anyway once you’ve left your comment.
Craft a haiku or a limerick that is car seat, booster seat, or otherwise child passenger safety related. We aren’t judging on creativity or poetry-writing skills but making one is your ticket to entry and you MUST submit it as your “blog entry” and then record it on the Rafflecopter below! Submissions must be original, suitable for a general audience (no PG-13 or more adult submissions please, leave those Nantucket references for elsewhere!), and may be shared on our Facebook page.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Seeing a new car seat come into the Canadian market is always exciting. Many of us can’t wait to get our hands on something new and see if it lives up to our (high) expectations or falls short. Sometimes we cringe when we see something that isn’t user friendly, has limited height and weight limits or is just too BIG to be useful in many of today’s smaller cars.
One seat we are excited to finally see in the flesh is Graco’s Dimensions 65. We had heard rumours that this seat was coming for some time and we are excited to see it added to the Graco lineup. Graco has many tried and true favourites: the Snugride Click Connect line, Nautilus & Argos combination (harness to booster) seats, as well as the TurboBooster and Affix belt positioning boosters. Until now the only convertible option we had from Graco was the MyRide 65. The MyRide is often recommended for small cars since it is relatively compact front-to-back, but it is also quite wide and not the longest lasting seat overall. This new convertible model takes all the things we love about the MyRide and makes them longer lasting and user friendly!
Graco Dimensions 65 Specs:
5lbs/2.2kg to 35lbs/16kg
18”/46cm to 43”/109cm, with at least 1″ between top of child’s head and red adjuster handle
22lbs/10kg to 65lbs/30kg
27”/69cm to 49”/125cm
Must be at least 1 year old (Best practice is a min. of 2 years or the top limits of RF)
Must be able to walk unassisted
- Expires 7 years from date of manufacture
- $270 at Babies R Us
One of the standout features for this seat is the no-rethread harness. It is designed so that you don’t have to pull the harness loose before adjusting the head rest up. The harness could be at the newborn setting, and you just pull the handle at the top and slide it up without any resistance. Click here for a demo to properly appreciate this feature! The no-rethread is fantastic for anyone that has different age/size children that ride in their vehicle. Grandparents, social workers, day care providers, car poolers or just someone with several kids that may use different seats depending on who is riding in the vehicle at the time.
Smooth Harness Adjustment
The harness tightens and loosens easily and smoothly. There is no struggling or tugging when tightening this harness.
Blue for rear-facing instructions, orange for forward-facing. Simple and clear!
Quick Direction Change
The ability to change this seat from rear-facing mode to forward-facing mode is simple and quick. This is
another great feature for the list of people that benefit from the no-rethread harness. The colour coded stickers are easy to read and understand. The recline foot easily flips from back to front, under the seat, and if using a seat belt install, that’s it except for stowing or connecting your top tether hook as required. If using the lower anchor hooks the strap slides along a bar on the right side of the seat and thread through the appropriate belt path. This seat is relatively lightweight so easy to move from vehicle to vehicle and will make a nice travel seat.
Detachable cup holders
I have a love/hate relationship with many cup holders. This one is easy to attach, can be used on either side of the seat and is at the perfect location for both rear and forward accessibility. It easily removes when that space is needed to install another car seat or have a person seated next to it. I ran it through my dishwasher when one of my kids put an unfinished ice cream cone in it, and it came out great. I think the most shocking thing is that I have a kid that doesn’t finish their ice cream!
Easy To Read Manual
The manual is easy to read, well organized and has lots of great visual instructions. Always read the manual before using a child restraint. This is a life saving device! It was designed and tested to be used as indicated in the manual!
Fit to Child
Rear Facing (5-35lbs and 18-43″)
Originally the rear-facing height limit on these seats was 36”/91cm, but Graco has since amended the height limit to 43”, which is fantastic news! Some early models in store may still have the old limits, so contact Graco for new stickers and manual with the updated info. Most kids will be able to use this seat rear facing well past their 2nd birthday, much longer if they are tall and slim.
There are other seats on the market for kids who are heavier than average for continued rear-facing to 40-50lbs. The average boy (50th percentile) reaches 35lbs around age 3.75 and 43″ around age 5 while the average girl is 4 when she hits 35lbs and just over 5 when she is 43″. (Click the links to see Canadian WHO growth charts to see where your child falls). Even those long-torsoed kiddos will be able to rear face a good long while in the Dimensions as the shell+head rest is plenty tall.
At age two, 36″ tall, and ~28lbs this kiddo has oodles of space still rear-facing.
The minimum child size for this seat is 2.2kg/5lbs and 46cm/18”. There are two crotch buckle positions. Newborn fit can vary, and the difference can be in torso length. Although a newborn may be within the lower limits of the seat, if the harness is above the child’s shoulders, they are too small for the seat. The Dimensions fit our small newborn doll quite nicely. The head pad is optional, but the body pad must be used until the baby’s torso is tall enough to fit the seat without it.
Rear-facing there is ample leg room, even for kids at the top end of the height/weight limits!
Forward Facing (22-65lbs and 27-49”)
The first thing I did when I received this seat was extend the harness to its full height. And I was very impressed! The harness height is around 18.5”, rivaling a short list of convertible seats with tall harnesses on the market. This is also around the height of some combination (child/booster) seat harnesses, so this seat could be used until booster readiness for most kids. In addition to being tall, the harness also has a lot of length to it so even a heavier child would be able to have ample harness space. My oldest turns 7 next week, and is 48” tall and well under the max weight limit, so has 1” of standing height left before outgrowing this seat. She sits comfortably with harness room to grow. It is possible she outgrows this seat in standing height before her shoulders are above the top harness slot. This is interesting because she has outgrown several other harnessed seats with 49” limits due to her shoulders being above the top harness slot, as well as a seat that claims a 57” standing height limit! Always a good reminder that kids fit seats differently and it’s so important to try them in it rather than simply relying on listed numbers.
Pictured left to right: Age 7.5 and still harness height left; age 5 and she reports that it is quite comfortable; age 2 and usually rides rear facing but happily obliges her auntie with her “camera smile” for this forward-facing photo.
The seat’s shape naturally makes it reclined when forward-facing. My second child turned 5 last week. He loves it and looks like he’s lounging in his favorite recliner when using it. Prior to the Dimensions arriving I’ve had several other harnessed convertibles and combination seats installed in our van, and he would oblige me with a single courtesy ride in them and then return to his primary, preferred seat. Not this time! I’ve had a hard time convincing him that other kids need to test it out. He has had to move back to his other seat a couple of times when we were carpooling and the other child was outgrown his abandoned seat, but fit in the Dimensions. Another 5 year old tester easily fell asleep in it on a long drive and was able to comfortably keep her head back. There was no forward flop and she reported that she liked it for sleeping (yet denied that she’d fallen asleep at all – do your kids do this?!).
Fit to Vehicle
The rear-facing install has been great in many different styles of vehicles. One of the great things about the shape of the seat is that it creates a space ideal for using in vehicles with odd shaped seat bights, raised seat bights or with plastic hinges. One vehicle that often has compatibility issues is the Dodge Journey’s centre seat. The large plastic hinges often interfere with proper installs of some seats, but the Dimensions works around this and installs nicely.
Both belt paths are quite high and seat belt installs work well with many different styles of seat belt buckles, including those with long buckle stalks that can interfere with a good installation. The rear-facing belt path has a nice wide opening and is easy to route the belt through. You can also access the belt path by moving the cover out of the way to get better leverage when tightening the seat belt or lower anchors.
The natural slope of the seat will work well behind vehicle seats with forward leaning head restraints. It is also a good bet for a centre install, leaving ample room for front seat occupants even at a newborn recline. Most vehicles prohibit use of lower anchors in the centre so unless you have a dedicated set of centre lower anchors you must use the seat belt.
2012 Honda Civic – a great bet for tall drivers with the seats all the way back!
Rear-facing the seat fits very compactly front to back and works well in small vehicles. This seat is also very narrow, especially at the base and child’s foot area and has worked really well in several 3-across situations I’ve tried it in, both rear- and forward-facing. It is an ideal choice next to booster seats due to its relatively high shell, and narrow base, leaving room not only for boosters to fit beside it but for young hands to reach down and buckle.
We were easily able to install the Dimensions in several vehicles at the newborn recline level without any added rolled towels to increase the angle, but doing so is an option if necessary. The recline indicator on this seat is a roller ball that can be anywhere in the blue range for 3+ months, and within the light blue range for 0+ months (newborns). Make sure to park on level ground when installing, and recline as much as allowed for newborns to protect their airway.
2012 F-150 extended cab – Dimensions installs easily in the centre with lots of leg room for driver and passenger.
2003 Honda Civic (with an upright MyRide in the background).
2013 Ford Focus sedan at a newborn recline, with lots of leg room remaining.
One issue I can see is in vehicles with fixed head restraints, forward leaning head restraints and head restraints that may not be removed when installed forward-facing (always check your vehicle manual to know whether the head restraint may be removed when installing a seat). Since the Dimensions has a natural recline the headrest moves up and back, not simply straight up. When extended past the shell of the seat the headrest of the child’s seat may be impeded by the vehicle’s head restraint. See photos below for a comparison with and without head restraint in place.
The naturally reclined shape when forward-facing is a great comfort feature for kids with low muscle tone, for kids who are forward-facing earlier than we’d recommend, or for those who sleep a lot in the car and are otherwise inclined to flop their head forward. Those who like to sit more upright will not enjoy the recline.
The forward facing belt path is closed, which makes it a great option for air travel since the aircraft seat belt buckle won’t be running behind the cover along the child’s back they way it does in many other seats. It weighs 16lbs, so not overly heavy. The narrowness of the seat’s base should also fit well in an airline seat.
- Narrow base and slim shell will fit 3-across in many vehicles
- No-rethread harness adjusts up and down without loosening the harness with the same butter-smooth harness adjuster we have come to know and love on the Graco Argos
- All parts attached except infant insert – nothing to store or lose track of
- Quick and easy switch from rear- to forward-facing
- Range of install angles for rear-facing
- IMMI buckle and non-twisty harness
- UAS connector system is simple to change from rear- to forward-facing
- Detachable cup holder works on either side of seat
- Easy to read manual and seat stickers are clear, and are colour coded rear- and forward-facing
- Rear/forward-facing flip foot is easy to use and is clearly labeled
- TALL harness! Top Harness height ~18.5” from bum to shoulder
- LOW harness! Adjusts small enough, ~7.75″, to fit the average newborn well
- Small tether strap adjuster fits easily through truck tether loops and other small spaces
- Shape when rear-facing makes a good fit for vehicles with plastic hinges and awkward seat bights
- Naturally reclined when forward-facing (may be a “con” for you depending on your preference!); this may be a great seat for kids with low muscle tone
- Lower (35lb) rear-facing weight limit
- Naturally reclined when forward-facing (may be a “pro” for you depending on your preference!); kids who prefer to sit more upright will not enjoy this positioning
- Not compatible forward-facing with fixed and/or forward leaning vehicle head restraints
- Little choice in fabric colours – I’d love to see some teal, green, orange, purple, pink…
Thank you to Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat used in this review; all opinions are our own!
Are you in the Edmonton AB, Langley BC, London or Burlington ON areas? Graco and Walmart are offering free car seat clinics no matter what brand of seat you have! Space is limited so register for your appointment time now!
Lightweight, colour options, inexpensive ($85), narrow, and long-lasting? YES PLEASE! What’s not to love?!
Dorel, parent company of Cosco, has brought the Cosco Scenera NEXT to the Canadian market and it is a fantastic addition to our line-up. They are also bringing some interesting features that are unique, so like always, you must read your manual. Available online at Walmart.ca or possibly in store from time to time we think you’ll like what you get for the price.
Rear-facing 5-40lbs, 19-40″, head level with the top of the shell.
Forward-facing 22-40lbs, 29-43″, at least two years old, top of the ears level with the top of the shell.
We very much like the layout in the NEXT manual – clear, concise, easy to follow. And to highlight an important minimum a child MUST be at least 2 years old to forward-face. Go Dorel! This a trend we expect to see on more and more seats in the Canadian market.
- Machine washable and dryable cover
- Removable cup holder
- Weighs less than 8lbs
- Use of lower anchors (UAS, LATCH) for the full harness weight of the seat
- Large range of install angles when rear-facing
- 8 years until expiry
It is also extremely important to note that if you use this seat to the max rear-facing, as we encourage you to do, it will not be usable at all forward-facing. You may not know this looking at the specs and so it’s important to understand why. When rear-facing the harness comes from at or BELOW a child’s shoulders, keeping him down and contained within the seat during a crash. When forward-facing the harness comes from at or ABOVE a child’s shoulders. The design of the NEXT is such that a child will fit longer rear-facing than forward…and that’s okay. It does it extremely well, so read on!
Here is the same child rear- and forward-facing: At age just-turned-two (the minimum to use it forward-facing), 35″ tall, and 28lbs it is outgrown already forward-facing as the harness is no longer at or above his shoulders…but LOTS of room left rear-facing.
Take home message here? Consider the NEXT a rear-facing only seat, something it does with ease. Kind of like an infant seat with no handle. It is highly functional in rear-facing mode so that is what we will focus on.
Fit To Vehicle…
…is spectacular. Truly. It fits in small spaces. It’s on the narrow side. It’s lightweight and easy to install. When mine arrived I dangled it from a digital fish scale (everyone has one of these, right? maybe it’s for luggage…) and it came in a 7lbs 10oz. Amazing!
The NEXT has a line on the side that must be parallel to the ground for children who can not sit up unassisted – this is to protect the child’s airway and enables them to keep their heads properly tilted back. For children who can sit up unassisted the NEXT can be installed more upright, and this is where its amazingness comes out. It can fit in extremely small spaces front to back, leaving ample room for front seat passengers.
Those of you who had a second child and felt the only way to have room to drive was to turn your child forward? Rejoice! Chances are excellent that the NEXT can enable rear-facing a good long while yet. Pretty awesome eh? Some visual examples of just how much room it gives; even more front to back space can be gained installing with this body positioning technique (a different seat is shown but the pelvic brace + peeling the cover back is what you’re after). We also like that the harness adjuster mechanism (that button you push to loosen the harness) isn’t buried when rear-facing.
2012 Ford F-150 extended cab with suicide doors – my tallish self can sit in the passenger seat no problem even with the NEXT at the fully reclined newborn angle.
2012 Ford Focus hatchback. With the NEXT at the newborn angle behind the passenger I had more room in the passenger seat in this car than I have had with any other rear-facing seat. Install it more upright in the middle and both driver’s and passenger’s seats can be all the way back.
NEXT also makes a 3-across pretty doable. This is of course dependent entirely on the vehicle and what seats it is beside but the compactness plus narrow shape at the bight (the part that makes contact with the vehicle seat back and bottom) is very 3-across friendly. Furthermore it leaves room to buckle a booster next to it.
3-across in a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback.
3 across in a VW Jetta – NEXT is the blue one in the middle.
Bottom line is it installed everywhere we tried it. While I’m sure it is possible to have an incompatibility out there somewhere we haven’t yet discovered one rear-facing.
Truth be told…we didn’t much bother with forward-facing. If you’re going to forward-face an under-two then you can’t use this seat to do it, and if your child is average-to-large in height or torso length chances are it’s nearly outgrown forward-facing so again, not the seat for you! Plenty of other rear- and forward-facing options on the market though.
Fit to Child
Like all things car seat, reading your manual is SUPER important. The NEXT has very specific, very unique harness routing and crotch buckle routing for use with a newborn. If you use the lowest harness position you MUST route as directed. This is to shorten the harness sufficiently for a newborn, enabling proper tightening. With the 5lb minimum weight, and low harness height, combined with ability to properly shorten the harness, we expect it will fit the average newborn quite well.
2 weeks old, 7.5lbs, 20.5″ long this wee one is already on the second-lowest harness slot!
NEXT does not come with infant padding but please do use rolled receiving blankets, such as pictured here, for side support if needed. Don’t put anything behind or around baby’s head — no aftermarket head positioners as they’re not approved for use with this seat.
6 weeks old; 11.5lbs, 22.5″ long.
15 months, 22lbs, and 31″ tall.
2.5 years old, 25lbs, 34″ tall.
This evenly proportioned child is right near the height limit at 39.5″ tall and 35lbs…but at 3 years, 9 months he fit for a long time, with ample leg room.
Longevity and fit also depends, of course, on child proportions. In the green shirt: 2.5, 30lbs, 37″ with a long torso. In the purple shirt: 4 years old, 31lbs, 38.5″ tall. Loads of leg room too! Although these kids are similarly sized the long torso on the younger child means he won’t fit in the seat quite as long as his older sister. Most seats require at least 1″ of shell above the head (in addition to being within height and weight limits); the NEXT allows a child’s head to be even with the top. Both of these kids have lots of room left by shell height and weight but are coming close by standing height. The seat is outgrown whenever ONE limit has been met, so keep an eye on all three!
Other points to note:
We quite like the new look of the manual. Easy to follow and hopefully easy for parents to use properly. Please read your manual – car seat and vehicle – before installing!
NEXT is a super option for airplane travel. Remember it weighs less than 8lbs so not only will it be easy to transport through the airport, it will be easy to carry on to the aircraft. The compact size and no limit to how upright it can be is a handy feature. If you’ve never traveled with a car seat before please consider it for your next trip; your child can sleep in a familiar place, and s/he can be safely restrained in case of turbulence, rough landing, or aborted take-off. Bonus? Rear face that kiddo and no worrying about stopping him from kicking the seat in front of him.
The seat padding is pretty comfy, and the cover is machine washable and dryable. You have to remove the harness to remove the pad but that’s quick and easy. We love that it’s available in six different cover options !
Do you love colour? Patterns? Prefer for your car seat to match your upholstery? Want something to best camouflage kid dirt and detritus? You have lots of choice with the NEXT! We love choice.
Superb value and longevity in this seat provided you use it as a rear-facing only option. That is its true use, and it will easily get most kids rear-facing past age 3. If your child is long-torsoed and hugely tall then you might want to explore other options. The NEXT will enable those of you with small cars to keep on rear-facing your kids even behind a tall adult. Remember that 2 year minimum to forward-face…we’re going to see that on more and more seats in the future and huge props to Dorel for bringing the NEXT to market with that limit. Easily removable cover, detachable cup holder to store treasures, cute covers, and lightweight shell make the NEXT a winner in our books.
Now…want to win one? Thank you to Dorel Juvenile Group for providing one Scenera NEXT in the colour of your choice (based on availability) to one lucky person in Canada! Giveaway is over – thanks to all who entered, and congrats to our lucky winner!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Harmony once made a seat
Simple, lightweight, pretty neat
It came in pink and tan and grey
Purple, black, more on the way?
It fits in really tiny spots,
Pick up one, or buy lots.
For carpooling, or every day
Quite important, you might say.
Route the belt, remove the slack,
Remind them always to sit back.
It makes the seat belt fit just so,
Snug on the hips, nice and low.
It’s comfy, padded, sleek and slim,
Fits really well on her and him!
Sit up tall, nice and straight,
Maturity matters, there’s no debate.
Boosters aren’t for everyone,
Although they might seem kind of fun.
Wiggly kiddos? Under five?
Consider a harness for the drive.
Boosters for 40lb+ kids who are
Able to sit well in the car.
Use the booster, we do request,
Until they pass the Five Step Test.
Are we silly? Yes. Did we get your attention? We hope so, even if it took some lame rhymes to do so! Is the Harmony Youth Booster (aka Lite Rider, its old name) the only booster we like? Of course not! Belt fit is what matters
It’s not very often that a new seat blows me away…but that honour goes to to Harmony‘s new forward-facing only harness-to-booster seat: the Defender. It appeared in the US quite a while before hitting the Canadian market and we could.not.wait for it to show up here. Our patience, or lack thereof, was rewarded with an exceptional product at a superb price point.
Available online and in store at Walmart, or direct from Harmony, the Defender is $160, and with that comes a tremendous number of features often found only on higher priced seats.
- With harness:
- For children who weigh between 22-65lbs AND are between 27-57″ tall AND whose shoulders are at or below the top harness position of about 18″ (18.75″ if you remove the foam in the seat area with a child over 50lbs)
- As a booster:
- For children who weigh between 40-110lbs AND are between 34″-57″ tall AND whose ears are below the top of the high back booster seat in high back mode, or the top of the vehicle head restraint in backless mode. The seat belt must fit properly on the lap and shoulder. Highest high back belt guide is about 20″ (20.75″ if you remove the foam in the seat area with a child over 50lbs).
- Lightweight. Move your seat often? Save your back!
- Use of UAS to a child weight of 46lbs (unless your vehicle indicates a lower limit)
- Long-lasting by torso height, often the measure by which a seat is outgrown
- No-rethread harness – adjust on the fly for multiple children
- Excellent price point of $160
- Harness pads for added comfort at the child’s neck
- Lots of bum padding
- Two crotch buckle positions
- Easily adjustable up-front recline adjustment to mesh with vehicle seat
- Smooth harness adjuster – no fighting to tighten adequately
- IMMI buckles, and non-twisty harness
- Narrow and ideal for tight seating situations
- Ten year expiry period
- Award for cover name. Whoever named the debut fashion deserves a high five and a plate of cookies (for real, whoever you are, I can bake like nobody’s business, and I will put some in the mail). “Pirate Gold” might be my most favourite cover name ever.
The Lowlight (singular)
- Comes partially assembled (scroll down for a picture tutorial) and requires two Phillips screwdrivers (the X shaped ones) at the same time to put it together. Because of that you MUST read the directions and FOLLOW them. Carefully. It is not IKEA furniture. It’s a lifesaving piece of equipment. Take 10 minutes and read the steps and do it properly. It’s not hard, nor time consuming, just important that it is done properly and with care. If you have difficulty following step by step instructions and assembling things…find a friend who can help.
Let’s get the potentially scary part over with first, shall we? Assembly. Harmony has worked hard to bring a high-featured seat to the Canadian market at a very good price. To do so the Defender ships partially assembled which saves on shipping. But don’t worry, you can do this. Get yourself two Phillips screwdrivers (the X-shaped ones) and a spot on the floor to spread out and work.
Make sure you have all of the washers and screws and bolts, and the long metal rod.
Follow the step by step instructions in YOUR manual to orient the loose parts, and line up the seat bottom with the seat back. You are installing a screw set into each hip area, and a long metal rod through the lower back area. Make sure to use all of the parts in the order as indicated!
Hip area: make sure the sticking out bit of the black plastic screw is pointing DOWN and nestled into the space intended for it.
Lower back area: long metal rod goes here, and is secured with a washer and screw. Tighten both ends simultaneously with a screwdriver in each end.
And that’s it. Not so bad eh? Even while pausing for photos it only took a few minutes. Now on to the good stuff.
Fit to child:
The Defender fits a broad range of kids. Really broad. The littlest here is just big enough to use this seat at 24lbs and 13 months old…and to be honest it’s hard for us to even put a child this little in a forward-facing seat (rear face as long as you can!). The largest child (green jersey) is 7.5, 53lbs, and 54″ tall, pretty close to the top end by height and weight.
The Defender is a nice fit on small kids for those who choose to forward-face that early (not what we’d recommend), and on the upper end there is still plenty of harness length left for the bigger kids. Those who have reached 50lbs but need more torso height can remove the EPP foam pad under the bum for another 3/4″ or so of growing room. The head is well contained within the wings, and while the seat is narrow there is ample room for sitting cross-legged.
Child fit in harness mode
Our kid testers liked the harness covers to make it comfy at the neck, and the cup holder (removable, it swivels, and can attach on either side for convenience). The crotch pad is optional and can be removed (most kid testers pulled it off but that is common on a lot of seats). Most have found it quite comfortable. Although a sore bum is possible in any seat this one is well-padded, and it’s worth experimenting with the recline of the seat itself, in addition to considering foot support if your child complains. For those who have slept in the Defender it provides nice side-to-side head support and so far no head flop. This will of course vary by child and angle of install.
Our parent testers especially liked the ease of adjusting harness height – squeeze the handle at the top of the head rest and slide to adjust. The handle is a bit hidden inside the fabric cover but it is there. The harness must be at or above a child’s shoulders at all times. The crotch buckle slides along a channel and has two options, at ~6” and ~8”. Choose the position at or just in front of your child’s crotch.
Child fit in booster mode
Harmony is well known for having booster seats with excellent belt fit, and the Defender in booster mode was no different. While the belt fit was truly great it’s not as easy to use in booster mode as their dedicated boosters that we love (Dreamtime 2 and Youth Booster). Our 7.5 year old experienced booster rider found it comfortable but had difficulty buckling. The distance from the vehicle buckle to the front edge of the arm rest was greater than she was used to and although she is mature, practiced, and tall, she had difficulty reaching that far to buckle. The space between the arm rest and seat pad is also very closed so she had trouble sliding the seat belt into the space. Once buckled though she found it very comfortable, but struggled with the lack of independence she was used to, and that frustrated her. The younger booster tester also had magnificent belt fit but as she has no experience riding in a booster all buckling was done by an adult. The Defender is so great as a harnessed seat but that seems to mean a little bit of convenience is lost when moving into booster mode.
Converting the seat from harness mode to booster mode and back was tedious and not something I would be keen to do on a regular basis. I’m really much more of a fan of dedicated boosters though, and don’t really consider this a deal breaker. If you do use the Defender as a booster you’ll convert it and leave it. Make sure to save all of the parts and store them clean and dry for safe use later on. I admit to not taking the extra steps needed to convert from high back to backless mode. It meant removing the metal rod and hardware from the assembly steps above, and I just didn’t want to. I was looking at Harmony’s Youth Booster sitting next to me and my professional and parental opinion is that once you get to that stage of boostering you’ll be pleased to spend $18 for the convenience of a dedicated booster, passing down the Defender to a child who still needs to be harnessed.
Fit to Vehicle:
We tried the Defender in a wide variety of vehicles and are very pleased with the ease of installation. If you have lower anchors in the seating location of choice you can use UAS up to a child weight of 46lbs (unless your vehicle states a lower limit).
The Defender requires use of the top tether at all times, as does every other forward facing seat in Canada, NO EXCEPTIONS. The Defender’s tether adjuster mechanism is slim and easy to use and should not be a problem at all in vehicles where the tether must be passed through a small space. If you vehicle’s head restraint interferes check your manual to see if it can be removed and stowed.
Up to 2” of overhang off the front edge is permitted. Whether you have any or not will depend on the depth and shape of the vehicle seat.
Experiment with the recline of the Defender using the up-front knob to make it best mesh with the vehicle seat. Aim to minimize gaps behind the seat back wherever possible, as you want maximum contact between vehicle seat back and Defender seat back. If you have overly large gaps either at the lower back or upper edge of the seat take a photo and send it to Harmony; they are best positioned to advise consumers as to what is acceptable. Those of you with fixed and forward-leaning head restraints might run into issues, but unfortunately this is the case with most forward-facing seats in vehicles with that unfortunate design feature.
Seat belt installations and UAS were both successful. Pro tip: most seats have some way of exposing the belt path. Doing so will make installing infinitely easier. On the Defender this can be accomplished by separating the cover at the lower outside corner and peeling it back. Tighten the belt from the inside of the seat – this works for the UAS strap as well as the belt. Clever body positioning means you can get maximum leverage without requiring herculean strength to tighten.
Will it install perfectly everywhere? Of course not, but no car seat will. It was a nice fit in the vehicles we tried it in though, using a mixture of UAS, lap/shoulder belt, or lap belt (not all at the same time of course — pick one!)
- 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan – installs well in all seating positions with a tether anchor (captain’s chairs and 3rd row centre)
- 2012 Ford Focus
- 2003 Honda Civic
- 2003 Honda Odyssey – installs well in all seating positions
- 2012 Ford F150 Super Cab (extended cab with suicide doors) – installs well and just fits on the vehicle seat without too much overhang.
- 2011 Honda Odyssey- fits like a glove in the middle ‘8th’ seat 2nd row centre, leaving room for the passenger side seat to flip forward
- 2010 Jeep Patriot – works well centre, not so much outboard with the really protruding and non-adjustable head restraints. A nice option in a 3-across!
2010 Jeep Patriot
2011 Honda Odyssey
2009 Dodge Grand Caravan
2003 Honda Odyssey
2012 Ford Focus
2012 Ford F-150 Super Cab on the ’40’ side of the 60/40 split
Removing the Cover
I followed the manual to the letter to remove the cover for cleaning, something I like to try with new seats to see how it washes up and how the process goes. The manual directs a parent to remove the harness and then remove and wash the cover…but I had a lightbulb moment and after conversation with Harmony they are behind this alternate method and intend to update their manual or online FAQ with this simplified method for cover removal. This method avoids re-threading the harness at the shoulder and is much easier for parents to accomplish.
1. Lay the seat on its back and locate the rectangular metal plate that holds the harness under the hip.
2. Gently separate the harness from the metal plate with a flat-head screwdriver.
3. Use the screwdriver to carefully pry up the metal plate from the plastic base. The metal plate is now hanging loose from the shell.
4. You’re then going to pop that metal plate up and through the bottom of the seat. To start fold it like the below photo shows.
5. Insert the metal plate into the slot in the seat pan.
6. Pull it through to the other side and it’s free!
7. Now the harness is still attached to the seat at the shoulders, but is loose at the hips. The cover can now be quickly and easily slipped off around the harness; wash per manual instructions. Reverse the process when putting it back together.
Harmony aimed to produce a long-lasting, comfortable, easy to use seat at a very attractive price point. They nailed it, absolutely, and it positively shines as a harnessed seat. The biggest potential issue is assembly, but don’t let that scare you. You get enormous bang for your buck here if you can round up two screwdrivers and few minutes of your time. We love it in our house and has been the main ride in our vehicle for the last month.
Are you super pumped about the potential of this seat? Yay! Win one for yourself or grab one at Walmart. Thank you to Harmony for providing a giveaway prize to one lucky winner, in your choice of fashion, subject to availability (Pirate Gold or Raspberry) – all opinions here, however, are our own. To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below. For your entry to be valid you MUST comment on this blog, answering this question: what feature of the Defender do you find most appealing? Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
It’s b-a-a-a-c-k! Back and better than ever is the Diono Monterey booster, seen here in review (and scroll down, as a giveaway!). It had disappeared from the market for about a year and we were very sad…and then thrilled to learn it was making a comeback! The Monterey is a favourite of techs, and for very good reason. It is one of the tallest boosters on the market, kids find it very comfortable, and it generally provides excellent belt fit in a variety of vehicles.
The Monterey retails for $160 and is available in a variety of places, including Shop.ca, Amazon, Toys R Us, and many specialty boutiques.
It is currently available in three fashions: Bloom (pink), Surf (blue), and Heather (grey, reviewed here).
What we love
- Fits children 40-120 pounds and 38-63”, making it one of the longest-lasting and tallest boosters available
- Provides excellent belt fit on most kids in most vehicles
- The adjustable seat back width means it can be adjusted for different-sized kids, helping smaller children stay contained and in position, while still being comfortable for larger kids who would still benefit from the back portion
- Long seat pan provides lots of support for long-legged kids
- Has UAS so it’s not a projectile when not in use (optional)
- Variable recline positions for comfort and to fit various vehicle seat shapes
- Stowable cup holders can be tucked away when not in use or if you need more room (what treasures would your kids keep in theirs?)
Fit to child:
The Monterey in high-back mode provided excellent belt fit on every child we tried. As always though, we do recommend always trying a seat before purchase if possible. The children we tested said they love how cushy and comfortable it is and the retractable cup holders. One 7 year old said she liked it even though it wasn’t pink – gasp!
At 21″, the backrest adjusts to one of the tallest heights on the market, meaning it is a great choice for tall and long-torsoed kids who could still use the support of the back.
When evaluating belt fit of a booster seat to a child, you want to ensure the lap belt is low and flat on their thighs (not up high on the belly) and that the shoulder belt is centered in the middle of their collar bone.
On the smaller end of the spectrum, the child below is five and is just 40 pounds and 43”. Her regular seat is still a harnessed seat. The lap belt fit was excellent and she declared the seat to be very comfortable. I appreciated the ability to adjust the side walls narrower.
Another smaller child, at five, 42 pounds and 42” tall. Again, the belt fit is excellent and the seat pan gives lots of support to her legs.
These two kids have very similar stats, at 50” tall and 51 and 55 pounds respectively. Again, excellent belt fit and they found it very comfortable.
At 9 ½, 62 pounds, and 56″ tall, this child normally rides in a backless booster (and is clearly super thrilled to be testing this out in highback mode!), but she is within the specs and still just fits. This would be very useful for a young but tall child who would still benefit from the support of the high-back, or for a child who still falls asleep in the car to give them somewhere to rest their head so they don’t slump out of position.
Road tripping with her family this 8 year old is 90lbs and 4’8″ (54″) tall and prefers to have the back on the 2012 version of the Monterey (virtually unchanged except for the style of the upper belt guide so we included this photo for comparison).
Using the Monterey as a backless booster may or may not work for your child/vehicle combination. When buying a seat now for a 5-6+ year old it is hard to predict their build, or know for sure what you will drive, when they have outgrown the back and need to use it backless. Pictured here without the back we don’t like the belt fit on the lap belt; it’s too low on the legs and isn’t making contact with the hip bones — because without the back portion on the child has scooted back away from the belt. If you do find that is the case consider a backless booster such as Diono’s Solana, or another option well-suited to your child.
Fit to vehicle:
The Monterey also worked exceptionally well in most seating positions and vehicles that we tried. It does have UAS hooks to latch the booster into the vehicle with an up-front adjustment mechanism to tighten and loosen each connector. This does not provide any extra safety to the booster rider, but does mean that the booster seat isn’t a projectile when not in use, and is a convenience feature that we find, well, convenient! Use of UAS is an optional feature, and if you don’t have UAS in the position you use the booster in we always recommend buckling the booster in when not in use.
Sometimes with high-back boosters the shoulder belt won’t always retract properly through the belt guide. This is not ideal as the belt won’t be in a good position to keep a child restrained properly if, for instance, the child has leaned forward (hopefully while the car is not in motion!) or if you have had to brake suddenly. Compared to previous versions of the Diono and Sunshine Kids Monterey this revamped Diono Monterey has a redesigned belt guide that tends to be very friendly with most shoulder belts. We found it worked very well in most of the vehicles/seating positions that we tried, including one position where the belt comes at an awkward angle that generally doesn’t work with high back boosters. We did find one seating position in one vehicle where the belt didn’t retract, but in general the Monterey would be an excellent bet.
Diono wants the Monterey seat back to make contact with the vehicle seat and to minimize gaps; if there is a gap, they have advised to contact them for evaluation. Some larger or fixed and forward-leaning head restraints may create too large of a gap to be safely used with the Monterey but as vehicle geometry varies so widely it’s best to leave the decision making to the manufacturer. Take a clear photo or two from more than one angle and let them evaluate the fit for you.
The Monterey does require vehicle head support behind it, even in high-back mode, so it is not an option for vehicles with no head restraints. Diono does not allow the vehicle’s buckle to cross the lower belt guide, so it also may not be an appropriate choice if your vehicle has very long buckle stalks.
The Monterey is an excellent booster seat that is loved by technicians, parents and kids alike. It provides excellent belt fit on a large range of children, is one of the tallest high-back boosters on the market with one of the highest weight ranges, and has features to make it a comfortable and convenient seat to use.
It is not the seat for you if you need a booster in a position with no head restraint or if your vehicle has exceptionally long buckle stalks. It may not work if you have fixed, forward-leaning head restraints. As always, if possible try before you buy to ensure it fits your child in your vehicle.
Thank you to Diono for providing the seat shown in this review. All opinions are our own.
Thank you to Diono for providing one booster seat in “Heather” fashion to one lucky reader! Please remember that booster seats aren’t an appropriate option for a child until s/he is consistently over 40lbs, and has the maturity to sit properly in position at all times, usually beginning around age 5-6+. Do you have such a creature? Please enter!
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Introducing the Evenflo Symphony LX, an “all-in-one” seat that is a 2015 Today’s Parent approved product (based on TP’s opinion of quality, ease of use, and value for money).
Evenflo has packaged a number of attractive features into one bundle, available in the LX (reviewed here) and DLX versions. It does a pretty decent job of all of the stages (rear facing, forward facing, booster) and that’s not a statement we throw around lightly. To be clear it’s perhaps not the only seat you’ll ever need; at a minimum you’ll at least need a backless booster once your child outgrows the booster function. We DO think it’s a good bet for those who transport multiple children…such as grandparents. In fact this is an ideal seat for the casual transporter, and will accommodate average/large-sized newborns up to the 6-8 year old crowd, at which point a backless booster is a very reasonable (and inexpensive) option.
The Symphony is available for purchase at Walmart, Shop.ca, Babies R Us, Best Buy, and Canadian Tire. Prices and trim levels vary between about $240-300.
The Symphony is designed to accommodate children who fit the following criteria:
5-40lbs and 19-37″ and the child’s head is at least 1″ below the top of the child restraint head rest in either of its two lowest positions.
22-65lbs and 28-50″ and the tops of the ears are below the tops of the child restraint head rest and child is at least one year old and the harness is coming from at or slightly above the child’s shoulders.
40-110lbs and 43.3-57″ and the tops of the ears are below the tops of the child restraint head rest and child is at least four years old.
- up-front easy-to-use recline mechanism
- up-front easy-to-use head restraint adjuster mechanism
- premium UAS connectors (LX has SureSafe connectors, DLX has SureLatch connectors)
- included funnel guides for easier use with UAS
- harness buckle storage pockets for easier loading of child
- infinite slide harness
- infant body support included
- cover is easily removable for machine washing
- use with UAS until child weighs 40lbs (unless your vehicle states a lower limit); after a child weight of 40lbs install with the seat belt
- cushy fabric and well-padded
Fit to Child:
At 7lbs 12 oz and 4 days old this average-sized newborn (left) and 11lbs and 4 weeks old (right) fit nicely in the Symphony with the harness tabs sitting at shoulder height, and included infant insert that aids in fit and positioning. Use is for rear-facing only, and optional.
If there is too much space between baby’s crotch and the crotch buckle, allowing baby to slouch down and potentially compromising the airway, try using a crotch roll (small rolled cloth or receiving blanket) to fill the space. Ensure first that the harness is adjusted tightly to pass the pinch test and then slide the cloth into place. Once baby is older (and larger) a crotch roll likely won’t be needed to maintain position.
Children may rear-face in the Symphony until a standing height of 37″ or until the top of the head is within 1″ of the top of the movable head rest in either of the bottom two positions. A standing height of 37″ will get a 100th percentile child past age two, the minimum we recommend for turning a child forward-facing.
Forward-facing children can be accommodated from 22lbs and 28″ but we strongly recommend (as do Transport Canada and other child passenger safety advocates) to rear face as long as possible. So don’t rush things!
Our model here — a fairly representative 50th percentile 6 year old girl — is 44lbs, 45″ tall, with a torso height (bum to shoulder) of about 16″. She has about 1/2″ of torso height left before the seat is outgrown as the harness must be coming from at her shoulder level. Of course shorter torsoed children will last longer, and the long torsoed ones will outgrow it sooner.
The no-rethread “infinite slide” harness will come in handy when using this for multiple children – simply slide the red tabs to the needed height AT your child’s shoulders.
Booster fit is where most so-called 3-in-1s fail in either fit or realistic longevity – but not the Symphony.
From left to right:
At 44lbs she’s heavy enough for a booster but at only 3.5 she’s much too young (and wiggly! see the hands?) and still fits with oodles of space in the harness – absolutely how we’d recommend she still ride. However it is encouraging to see that the belt fit is good on the lap and shoulder for those kids who are her size at a booster-appropriate age (5-6ish or so).
At 44lbs, 45″ tall, and 6 years old our model in the fancy dress also has great belt fit, low and touching the hips and centered on the collarbone. She has two “clicks” to go in head rest height, giving her more room in the torso to grow and still fit this seat.
At 56lbs and 49″ tall, and 8 years old this tester also has some space left height-wise, with one “click” to go to the tallest position.
Fit to Vehicle:
The Symphony is neither the most compact seat nor the largest, falling somewhere in the middle for how much space it takes up front to back when rear-facing. As always we recommend trying before you buy wherever possible. The seat has three recline positions and it’s critical to make sure that it is fully reclined to position 1 when rear-facing. Furthermore look for a raised arrow on the base of the seat and make sure it is parallel to the ground. Use a tightly rolled towel to assist in achieving the needed angle if you have very sloped vehicle seats.
Premium UAS connectors store handily on easily accessible rings on the side of the seat, seen here in the “SureSafe” version on the LX. Evenflo includes two plastic “LATCH guides,” aka funnel guides, to make installing their seats with premium connectors a breeze in vehicles with buried UAS anchors. No more digging around in the seat bight, the LATCH guide makes it simple.
Buckle storage slots and dual cup holders round out the convenience features found on the Symphony LX. The Symphony DLX features “SureLatch” self-ratcheting UAS connectors plus OUTLAST temperature regulating performance fabric.
Many seats on the market claim to be a “3-in-1” or to cover all stages of seating for your child from birth through booster use. While an appealing idea for parents – buy only one seat and be done with it – it’s not a realistic expectation for most seats as they often fall short in one or more modes. We’re pleased to discover that the Symphony shines, and does all modes well.
It’s not the seat for you if you plan to rear-face your off the charts child to age 4, if junior has the world’s longest torso, or if you have a tight 3-across and need to eke out every spare inch of real estate.
We think its true niche is for people who frequently transport a variety of ages and sizes of children. Switching between modes is not tedious, and it has a reliably good fit across the whole range of children the seat is made for. Grandparents (and aunties and uncles!) we’re looking at you!
- you can use lower anchors and tether in booster mode, eliminating the need to buckle the seat when empty
- when the seat is in booster mode there is an on-seat storage location for unused parts (harness, crotch buckle) so no risk of losing parts.
- 8 year life span
- the belt fit is great on all of the kids we tried it on
- up to 20% overhang of the base is permitted in all modes
- cover is easily removable and machine washable
- the tether length (required when forward-facing) might be too short in some vehicles; call Evenflo for a tether extender.
- the harness is not removable or replaceable (potentially a concern if your child is really, um, leaky)
- not ideal for tight seating scenarios as the Symphony is on the wider side.
- Due to its width and height it will be challenging for smaller booster riders to reach down and around to buckle.
Thank you to Evenflo for providing this seat for review – but all opinions are our own.
Now we’d like to send this seat out to one of you! The only requirement is that the seat must be destined to a location where it will be used by more than one person. Maybe Grampa wants a seat in his car for when the kiddos visit? Maybe you’re a daycare provider and would enjoy the flexibility of quickly and easily adjusting a seat for multiple kids? Tell us! And then maybe you want to meet up with a tech near you to learn to install it like a pro!
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A fantastic new option in high capacity infant-style seats snuck onto the shelves recently, but we’re about to blow its cover. Because we LOVE it, and we’re here to tell you why.
Introducing the Evenflo Embrace 35, available at Walmart for $140. This is a rear-facing only infant-style seat with stay-in-car base and removable carrier. It is meant for children who are between 4-35lbs and 17-30″ tall.
You know us – we like to chatter on about fit-to-child and fit-to-vehicle and show you lots of pictures of same. But let’s start with the highlights:
- Exceptionally good fit on low birth weight babies. Expecting multiples? Unexpectedly find yourself with a preemie? The Embrace is a very good bet, and readily available on your local Walmart shelf.
- Long-lasting specs: the average child will fit until 30″ tall, and with most seats on the market it’s the height limit that will be reached well before weight.
- Easy to use and lightweight. It’s simple and straightforward with some ease of use features often found on higher end seats.
Now for the nitty gritty, the detailed analysis you know we will always provide.
Fit to Vehicle:
The Embrace installed quickly and easily in the test cars we put it in. We tried it with lower anchors, with seat belt, and without the base. We’re quite good at it of course – but it’s straightforward and there’s nothing tricky to contend with.
03 Honda Civic – front seats all the way back!
03 Honda Odyssey – front seats all the way back again.
3rd row of the same Odyssey – the 2nd row slides forward enough to leave ample room for the Embrace.
03 Civic installed baseless – so much room you could have a party in there.
03 Civic behind the passenger, with the driver’s seat all the way back for reference. If this seat is installed behind a vehicle seat (i.e. not in the middle) you must leave 1.5″ of clearance between the top of the car seat shell and the vehicle seat. Even so, plenty of room in the front for my 5’8″ self.
The Embrace (and many other Evenflo seats) now come with these nifty little additions. Evenflo calls the little plastic guide a LATCH Guide but they are also generically known as funnel guides. They make it easier to quickly secure a premium connector onto a buried lower anchor. Photo on the left is what the seat bight looks like. The anchor is there but you have to dig for it. Photo on the right is with the LATCH Guide in place, enabling very quick access to the lower anchors. You won’t need them on vehicles with exposed lower anchors, and should not use them with simple hook-style connectors (you’ll never get them out again) but this is a very nice option for those of you with Evenflo seats who move your seats often.
Another handy feature that aids in successful installation is the recline indicator, easily visible on the base. You want to make sure it’s all in the green, always. For a newborn recline it as much as possible while still staying green; this will protect the airway and prevent chin to chest head flop. Use the built-in three-position recline adjustment on the base, or a rolled towel if needed to achieve the needed positioning.
Perhaps you’ve heard that only a certain amount of a car seat can overhang a vehicle seat? For most seats no more than 20% can hang over the edge. Some don’t allow any at all. We expect the Embrace to be a good bet on shallow vehicle seats such as extended cabs because it’s quite compact.
Fit to Child:
The Embrace is a a spectacular fit on very small babies and should be a go-to option for those needing to fit a low birth weight baby. There are two important steps that need to be done to ensure the harness is adjusted properly.
1. Shorten the harness and route it properly onto the splitter plate. The manual describes this but here is a photo showing the proper orientation of the excess length.
2. Shorten the crotch buckle to best position it for baby, which will also further shorten the harness. This means you can tighten it sufficiently for a wee one. There are special routing instructions for how to do it, so check the manual carefully.
Overall fit features:
The Embrace has three harness heights (the lowest is around 5.5-6″), and four crotch buckle positions (including the special newborn position as described above). The harness length is both short enough and long enough, meaning it fits properly at both ends of the spectrum. The harness adjuster is smooth and easy, and the cover is well-padded with energy-absorbing foam. Handle positioning is smooth – no fighting with release buttons, and must be in ant-rebound position toward baby’s feet at all times while driving.
This is Lucy, my small newborn tester. The harness is adjusted short and on the lowest setting, and the crotch buckle is set for a newborn, and I still have room to tighten the harness further. The included head pillow is optional but fills the interior of the car seat nicely.
I got to hang out with not one but two adorable babies to model this seat. Babe on the left is about 11lbs, 8 weeks old, and easily on the 2nd harness position already. Mom found the carrier light weight (7.5lbs). Babe on the right is also about 11lbs at 7 weeks old and with her long torso she easily fills out the seat.
At the other end of the spectrum we wondered would the seat actually fit a child to the height or weight limit? This 18 month old model is right at the height limit – 30″ – but at only 21lbs she has outgrown it by height. She’s evenly proportioned and has the required 1″ of shell above her head still. Long-torsoed children might outgrow it by that measure before reaching the standing height limit. There was still ample harness length left as well, so a bulkier child would fit too.
Storage compartments for the buckle tongues to hold them out of the way while loading your squirmy offspring.
Smooth and simple carrier release. Push the top of the release bar in and the carrier can be lifted easily out of the base.
Quick connector with pull release (the red loop) makes for a nice fast uninstall, and works beautifully with the LATCH Guides mentioned above.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Evenflo Embrace. Lightweight, easy to use and install, with some nice features all in a tidy, compact, well-priced package — it absolutely has earned a place on our favourites list. Big thanks to Evenflo for providing the seat used in this review, but as always out opinions are completely our own. Will it be the perfect seat for you? Maybe! Best to check it out at Walmart, and wherever possible try installing it in your car before committing.
Once again, Shop.ca is having a super deal! We want to take advantage of this with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their shopping. We will be using random.org instead of Rafflecopter for this one. Just fill out the attached form and we will draw at 9pm est on Wednesday, June 3rd (6pm pst). You can choose between any of the MyRides or the Snugli SecureKids linked below as long as they are in stock and showing free shipping.
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate families. Void where prohibited by law.
Choices available for this contest:
Snugli Harnessed Booster in grey (Evenflo SecureKid) $124
Snugli Harnessed Booster in camo (Evenflo SecureKid) $137
Graco MyRide in Spritz (pink/brown) $142
Graco MyRide in Marston (green/brown) $132
Contest is now closed! Thanks to those who entered. Big congrats to Kelsey G, the lucky winner!
Want to take advantage yourself? Here’s how!
The deal is good for anything, not just car seats. If you would like to take advantage of it yourself, go through these steps.
- Get a shop.ca account here and we get $25 for our seat donation fund the first time you make a purchase of $75, and you get a bunch of Aeroplan points if your order is over $99, and a big Aeroplan bonus on the first order with your number added to your account; http://www.shop.ca/?plcktb=ZwBzWm4KZg2
- Add your item to your cart – specific links for spectacular deals below.
- At checkout use coupon code RMN50OFF125JUNE for $50 off an order of $125 or more. If you have a second seat to order (or anything else for that matter) do a separate order and use coupon code RMN40OFF100JUNE. You can use each code once per account.
- Tell us here or on Facebook what awesome deal you scored because we like to live vicariously through you!
ALL car seats and booster seats
We couldn’t have a Hump Day post without a camel picture!
The other day was National Heat Awareness Day. It’s a thing.
The below story was shared with us recently and it we found it really struck a nerve. It just sounds so normal. And because of the normalcy it is terrifying. Think you could never leave your child in the car and forget? Brace yourself.
I love my children a great deal. But I’ll tell you what — last summer our routine was hubby always dropped our daughter off at the day home. We both had to drive past it on our way to work but he left later than I did so he would take her. Then he was away for 2 months so I had to start taking her. I was 16 weeks pregnant. Working shift work in an understaffed ER. I was sleep deprived and stressed. It was about the 3rd day after he left, 6 am driving to work. My daughter had fallen asleep in the 5 minutes it takes to get to the day home. I was 5 blocks past it before for no reason in particular I remembered I had her. Thank goodness. I have tinted windows. She’s rear-facing. I park on a side street about 5 blocks from the hospital. If she had stayed asleep and I HADN’T suddenly remembered her? I’m quite positive I could have very easily driven to work, parked, walked in and never noticed. And no one would have seen her. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about how differently that day could have gone if whatever random thing that reminded me I had her, hadn’t happened.
Am I bad parent? Am I neglectful? Do I not love my child enough to remember her? No. Absolutely not. I know I’m a kick ass parent thank you very much. But I would never be naive enough to say “I would never do that”. Now my habit is to put my bag in the back seat on the floor behind her seat. Do I value my bag more than my child? Of course not. But when I’m on autopilot my bag is part of that routine., and my child isn’t always.
For some good safety tips visit http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke
For a longer, more thorough read including information from memory researchers, check out this Pulitzer Prize-winning article.
Car seat techs are a funny bunch. For fun we do things like check online stores for sales. Once we found a spectacular deal on Graco MyRides for $88 and several hundred of you bought one – score!
So imagine the frenzy that ensued when this showed up:
That’s right. $3.94 for a car seat that is usually in the neighbourhood of $250. It’s not our favourite seat because it’s quite large rear-facing at lower weights, and the booster fit isn’t great — but when used properly it’s just as safe as any other seat.
So one tech, intending to donate them all to a seat giveaway program, ordered a whole bunch.
She was a bit perplexed because the shipping weight on her order confirmation was quite low. She wondered if the order would be canceled due to the obvious error. But who knows. She waited.
And then this showed up at her door.
Obviously 8 car seats would never fit in a box so small. What was inside? Camels. CAMELS! 8 of them.
What’s a gal to do with eight camels? Why — make camel jokes of course!
Canadian techs chat, learn and support each other in a private group called CCSN, the Canadian Car Seat Network. Too easy.
We wondered how many would fit 3-across in a car.
We wondered if the non-elite version (it was the “elite” version that was on sale for $3.94) lacked any camel humps and was actually a horse.
Want your own $3.94 “car seat?” It’s still here, but sadly out of stock. No camels for you.
Another tech managed to buy one before it sold out online, but she hasn’t received hers yet. We’re all waiting anxiously, wondering if she’ll get a car seat or a camel. Odds are on the camel.
Have a camel joke to tell us…somehow related to car seats? Please, tell us. You’ll make our day.
Update: turns out camels are quite popular on the internet.
Camel statue in China.
Camel crossing sign. Huh.
Camels and their shadows in a stunning National Geographic photograph.
A quick and dirty run through of how to make sure your boostered kids are as safe as can be! Want to read in more detail? Start here. Do you drive other kids? Send yours with others for a carpool? This might be handy.
Don’t Rush In. Don’t rush to get your child out of a 5-point harness and into a booster seat. It is not a milestone that you want to celebrate early. Prematurely moving to a booster is a very high risk time for injuries. Boosters do much more than just enable a child to see out the window. They reduce fatalities by ensuring proper belt fit, and also reduce injuries for the same reason. Life-altering, debilitating injuries.
Maturity Matters. How’s your child’s impulse control? Do siblings squabble in the back seat? Is your child fidgety or wiggly (who can say no to that?). Once in a booster seat the child becomes responsible for their own safety. They must sit with their bum scooted back. They must not wiggle. They must not lean. They must not mess with the belt. They must remember to do this the entire ride and not get distracted and forget. Even when asleep. And that is really really hard to do until kids are at least 5 or 6, sometimes older. “Forgetting” at a crucial moment could have disastrous consequences.
Think “B” – Boosters are for Bones and not Bellies. Feel for your hip bones (for real, right now); that is where the lap belt should make contact when properly seated in a well-fitting booster seat, and preferably low and under them. If the belt is riding up on the belly you risk something nasty called seat belt syndrome in a crash. The seat belt has nothing hard (hip bones) to contact and instead causes major damage in the abdomen and through to the spinal cord. Not good. Shoulder belt fit matters too – BONES again people. Collarbone to be precise. Not on the neck or face, and not off the shoulder. Centered nicely on the strong parts of the body and touching the chest.
Lap/Shoulder Belts ONLY. Never, ever, ever just a lap belt. If you need to rearrange who sits where to ensure the boostered child gets the lap/shoulder belt please do. Lap belts are handy to install car seats with but they’re nowhere near as safe as a lap/shoulder belt for anyone else to use.
Weight. No Canadian booster seat can be used with a child under 40lbs (18kg for you metric users). Some have a higher minimum weight limit (and a max as high as 120lbs!) Kids must also be consistently 40lbs to safely use a booster. Not 40lbs dressed in heavy boots and all their clothes before using the bathroom and after a big meal. Nope, not enough of a buffer. Ensure that a child is holding that weight before moving to a booster.
Go Shopping Together. With your child and with your car. Try booster seats out to check for good belt fit. Does the booster sit properly in the vehicle? Is the belt able to be buckled properly? If your child leans a bit (not ideal, but we all do it) does the shoulder belt retract back without hanging up and causing slack? Have your child try. Most kids who are ready to ride in a booster are also ready to learn to buckle themselves. How’s the lap belt fit? How’s the shoulder belt fit? If at first you don’t find the perfect combination try and try again. Here are a few we often recommend.
Misc Bits and Features. Your booster seat will come with a manual. Read it. Find out what those miscellaneous bits and pieces are that came with it. Find out how to use any special features on your seat like lower anchors or a belt guide. Find out how to wash the cover. And then store that manual somewhere handy (like the glove box) so you can easily double check if you forget something.
Head Support. This can come in the form of a high back booster (that has the added benefit of often providing superior shoulder belt fit and a place to rest a sleeping head), or a vehicle head restraint (head rest). All boostered kids require head support up to at least the tops of their ears (adults too by the way). Some high back booster seats require a vehicle head restraint in behind them too. How will you know? Read the manual of course!
Belt Routing. Every booster seat comes with this nifty little picture on the side called a belt routing diagram. Study it. Show it to your child. Teach your child proper belt routing, and practice, so that if they ever ride with someone else they will know how and not have to rely on an adult who doesn’t. Tips for carpool drivers/riders here.
Don’t Rush Out. Don’t be in a hurry to move your child out of the booster seat and into the adult seat belt alone. Again a high risk of injury if done prematurely. Teach your child the Five Step Test. Teach them to advocate for their own safety and be able to evaluate if the adult seat belt fits them. Teach them why they might still need one through age 10-11+…that nasty seat belt syndrome again. Most provinces and territories have booster laws that end well before most kids will actually fit the adult seat belt but remember that bare minimum laws are just that. Provincial and territorial laws also require the adult seat belt to fit properly and that part is often glossed over or misunderstood. We advocate for way more than the minimums!
Clek continues to blow us away with exceptionally well-designed and executed products, and the latest addition to their family of funkily-named products (totally a real word) is the “Infant Thingy.”
Not a stand-alone infant seat, the Infant Thingy is an add-on to Clek’s previously reviewed and loved Foonf and Fllo and enables use of either of those seats from birth. Disclaimer #1: I do not have a newborn of my own anymore. Disclaimer #2: I didn’t drive around with a doll pretending to be my newborn while testing the Infant Thingy although the thought did cross my mind. Not creepy at all, right?
Are you reading this in confusion, wondering how on earth a person is supposed to use an infant/child, aka convertible seat, from birth? Don’t you have to use an infant-style seat instead? No my friends, no you do not. Many choose to, and for those really tiny babies who need a low birth weight seat I would continue to suggest that you do to ensure best fit on the tiniest humans, but for the average 5lb+ newborn do consider a Foonf or Fllo plus Infant Thingy right off the bat. This means you probably need some kind of baby wearing plan but that’s not a topic we’ll cover here.
Here’s what you need to properly use an Infant Thingy:
1. An infant, or one on the way, who is between 5-22lbs and 19-33″ tall.
2. A Clek Foonf or Fllo to put said Infant Thingy in.
3. A vehicle in which a Foonf or Fllo properly installs.
4. A strong desire to say fun-sounding words like Foonf, Fllo, and Thingy.
The Infant Thingy comes only in black, but it coordinates nicely with all of the colours I had handy to contrast it with. There are a few solids and prints missing from this spread – see the full range for Fllo and Foonf.
Some important things to note:
- 2015 models of Foonf and Fllo will ship with an extra set of lower harness slots (6 instead of 5), positioned just at the top edge of the Infant Thingy when installed in the seat (all seats pictured here are older and have only 5). Some seats, produced during the transition phase, might have an extra slot in the shell of the seat but not in the fabric cover. That’s okay, just use the lowest slot apparent in the cover.
- 2014 and 2013 seats can still be used with the Infant Thingy, it just means the harness will fit the baby a bit differently, and that’s okay too.
- The long-standing rule that when rear-facing the harness must come from at or BELOW the child’s shoulders is tossed out the window when using the Infant Thingy for a very small baby. Clek has assured us that it is absolutely fine to use the Infant Thingy even if baby’s shoulders are lower than the lowest harness position on your seat. For real. Once baby’s shoulders do reach that level though we revert back to AT or BELOW for choosing which harness slot to use.
When using the Infant Thingy the manual for it trumps the manual for the seat, such as the instructions for harness position as above. If there is a point of confusion Clek’s fabulous customer service team is always available to answer your questions.
When using any seat it’s extremely important to make sure you’re reclining it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For newborns it’s absolutely critical to make sure you’ve reclined the seat as much as is allowed to protect the baby’s airway. Thankfully both Foonf and Fllo are reasonably compact even when at the most reclined level. The car seat head rest is removed when using the upper head support attachment piece of the Infant Thingy, because that’s what the instructions say to do.
When I first began putting the Infant Thingy into my Foonf (shown in pink in all photos here) I realized that if you don’t read the manual you’re going to probably make some errors. Not that it’s complicated – not at all – but don’t think it’s just some comfy fluff to pad your baby’s derriere. Like all things car seat reading the manual is really important.
You need to put the head support pad on right way up. If you do it upside down it will gape and not sit nicely at all, possibly compromising baby’s airway. Simple to fix though – pop the plastic tabs back through the harness slot and flip it around.
Similarly the routing of the hip strap OVER the hip support flap needs to be done with care, otherwise you’ll get bunching and a poorly fitting harness on baby.
Lastly, if your baby is small enough that you need to remove harness length to ensure proper tightness, route it as shown relative to the splitter plate (on the back of the seat). The extra loop of harness length will slide more easily along the underside of the seat as you tighten it for a small baby. How tight is tight enough? Until it passes the pinch test with no excess slack in the webbing.
It’s very easy to adjust the crotch buckle on Foonf or Fllo to maximize fit on your baby. With use of the Infant Thingy only you may use the longer or shorter crotch buckle length on the inner slot of the car seat. This means you can lengthen or shorten the crotch buckle as needed for a smaller or larger baby. Those of you with 2013 Foonfs can purchase a two-length crotch buckle straight from Clek; everyone else: your seat came with this nifty feature.
Note that when a child is under 22lbs — also the maximum weight limit for use of the Infant Thingy — you MUST use the circular belly pad with Foonf and Fllo. See the two lengths of crotch buckle shown below? Adjust as needed for best fit on your baby. With my newborn doll (fits perfectly into ‘newborn’ sleepers), I had no trouble at all getting the harness tight enough with the harness shortened and crotch buckle in the shorter setting, with room to adjust smaller for an even smaller baby.
When do you remove the head support and put the Foonf or Fllo’s head rest back on? You can’t use both at once, there simply isn’t room. Remove the head support — a cushy pad several inches thick — when the top of your baby’s head reaches the top of the head support.
As baby fills out you may choose to discontinue use of the Infant Thingy before it is outgrown, and provided your child meets the minimums for use in the Foonf or Fllo alone (25″ and 14lbs and able to sit unassisted) that is completely appropriate. There is overlap between minimum use for Foonf and Fllo, and maximum use for the Infant Thingy. This is lovely, because all babies are shaped and proportioned differently.
The smallest baby I know (7 weeks old, 11lbs) fit really nicely in the Infant Thingy + Foonf; with how much more I could have adjusted the harness I have no doubt a much smaller baby would fit easily.
Update: we found a smaller baby! 6 days old, 7lbs 14oz, and 20.5″ long. Delicious. If you happen to know one even smaller, and the parents are cool with sharing a photo we’d love to add it in for future readers. Please get in touch.
This 6 month old (from our original Foonf review) fits beautifully in the seat (and would in the Fllo as well) at 15lbs and 28″ long. She could use the Infant Thingy as she’s well within the weight and height limits, but doesn’t need it. Your mileage may vary but I likely would not purchase the Infant Thingy for a child of this size.
So, are you sold on the awesomeness that is the Infant Thingy?
- cushy pad with the same fabulous Crypton fabric on most Foonf and Fllo seats for easy wiping up of spills (if you are expecting your first and are unfamiliar with the messes that babies can make let me tell you, this is a very nice feature)
- excellent harness fit with small babies
- overlap between maximum use of Infant Thingy and minimum use without it – customize use to your baby’s shape and needs
- fits perfectly in the seats it is designed for – meaning you can truly use the same seat from birth, through extended rear-facing to age 3-4+, all the way to booster readiness, for the vast majority of kids
Where can you find the Infant Thingy? It’s almost ready for sale directly from Clek (Canadians shop here and Americans shop here), and from Clek authorized retailers near you, for $69.99. In the market for a Foonf or Fllo? Available at the links above, and also at Amazon.ca, and Shop.ca.
Would you like to WIN an Infant Thingy? Contest is over – congrats to Julie K.! Thank you to all who entered! You need to already own a Clek Fllo or Foonf, or be in the market to purchase one. Contest open to residents of the US or Canada. See the fine print in the widget below for all of the details. Huge thanks to Clek for giving us a sneak peek at the Infant Thingy, and for providing the one shown in this review. Disclaimer #3: I love this so much I almost want another baby so I can use it. Almost.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
We can scarcely believe it – we’re creeping up on 5,000 readers and despite our regional name have become known from coast to coast. Yay us! And yay you for keeping us going!
A milestone like that deserves a contest, but since we like to mix things up and keep it interesting this one is different.
The entry form will move about. We might give a clue for where it is, or you might happen upon it by reading through our website materials: blog posts, lists of favourite seats, FAQs and the like.
Every time it moves you’ll the get opportunity to earn extra entries.
And most importantly – what can you win? Well…that depends on what you need. We don’t want to limit it or cap it, and everyone has different wants and wishes. So dream big! If you are the lucky winner we’ll consult with you and decide what is in stock, readily accessible, and works for your situation (within reason – final decision is up to us as we’ve not yet had luck getting our money tree to grow).
Good luck! And don’t forget to go hunting for the entry form (it will disappear from THIS page after a little bit), and keep watching on Facebook for where to find it next. Contest closes at 11:59pm Pacific on March 31st. We thought that would be amusing to contact the winner on April Fool’s Day.
The only mandatory entry requirement is to leave a blog post comment on THIS POST, but you must use the Rafflecopter to actually submit the entry. But first you have to find it. Check Facebook for a clue about where to look!
Thank you for all the entries! The contest is now closed.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
A quick and dirty run through of how to make sure your rear-facers are as safe as can be! Want to read in more detail? Start here, and then more here.
1. Do it as long as you can. Really. Not the minimums. Who wants minimums when it comes to safety? And not just any old easily avoidable dangerous situation – but the most dangerous place your kids are every day…the CAR! The longer you can rear face for (two years, three years, ideally as close to four as you can get) the better, as that’s most protective for the head, neck, and spine.
2. Research what will fit your car, and try before you buy. You can use a rear-facing only infant-style seat from birth (most common for sure) or you can skip straight to the infant/child seat. Pros and cons to both and what you choose will depend on your lifestyle. But go into your purchase eyes open, knowing how the seat will fit your car long term. Imagine having other back seat passengers, such as visiting parents or future babies. Are you or a partner tall? Is your vehicle very small? Do you carpool? Have to reinstall frequently? Consider all of this. Do you make big babies? Having twins? Growth patterns matter, and not all seats start at the same minimum weight, and they certainly don’t all last as long by height, weight, and fit. You want everyone in the vehicle to be safe and comfortable, not eating the dash (and too close to the air bag) for years.
3. Rear-facing seats are outgrown by height OR by weight OR by some fit criteria, usually how much clearance there is above the head – whichever comes first. The seat that’s labelled to 40lbs rear-facing might have a relatively low height limit on it. The seat with the high height limit might have an overall shorter usage if your child has a long torso and a big noggin, maxing out the functional usage time by fit.
4. Use the rear-facing belt path with a rear-facing seat. Huh? Infant/child seats (the type that later also install forward-facing) typically have one path to route the seat belt or UAS (LATCH) strap through when used rear-facing, and another totally separate one for forward-facing. Not okay to mix them up. The rear-facing belt path is under the child’s knees, whereas the forward-facing one is behind the lower back. Sometimes they’re hard to see, so poke around and make sure you’re threading the seat belt or UAS strap correctly. Then, make sure you have tightened the belt or strap so that the seat moves 1″ or less at the belt path in any direction. Give it a firm handshake – if it shifts more than that something isn’t right.
5. Leg room. Some seats have more than others, for sure. That is a comfort issue though, and not a safety issue. Legs touching the back seat — or scrunched up cross-legged, dangling over the sides, or sticking up into the air (or, ahem, poking the sister in the face) — is not a safety issue. Most crashes are frontal, where everything moves forward in a crash. This is the most common type of crash, and the most frequently fatal, so that’s the kind we plan for. Legs move too, away from the back seat. At the same time, handily enough, the head, neck, and spine are well-protected because they’re also moving forward, directly into the shell of the car seat. Well done, car seat. Protect that melon.
6. Strap positioning and tightness. When rear facing you want the harness to be coming from AT or BELOW the level of the shoulders. This is so if you’re in a crash the child will be held down in the seat. That tight harness will prevent the child from sliding up the shell of the seat. You want the child to stay in the seat, so the seat and its highly engineered parts can take the brunt of the crash, not your baby. How tight is tight enough? We like to do a pinch test to check, every time, and no bulky clothes.
7. Child preference for forward-facing. This is a reasonable consideration with a 4 year old. Probably also a 3 year old. But small children do not get to make their own safety decisions. Furthermore, if they don’t know any better, how can they prefer to forward-face? We don’t let young children dart into traffic, play with steak knives, or take the family car for a spin just because they want to. All kids go through phases of not wanting to be contained, of not wanting to cooperate (this phase does end some time, right?!), and certainly those phases can be intensely frustrating. But stick it out, as long as you can!
8. Physics yo. There’s parental choice and then there’s physics. You know, force and mass and vectors and stuff? So many things in parenting is choice, with pros and cons to each. But the laws of physics are such that a big wobbly bobble-head perched atop an underdeveloped, weak little neck (it’s like an orange on a toothpick!) is absolutely best protected rear-facing. Having an opinion to the contrary doesn’t make that little body and brain safer in the car, because it’s not substantiated by anything. You can tell yourself that your baby is just as safe forward-facing but that doesn’t make it true.
9. Read the manual. Cover to cover, even if it seems like gibberish. It often does seem like it was written in a language you don’t understand, but there’s a ton of info in there. Even if it doesn’t make any sense it will give you a starting place to ask some questions. Also haul out your vehicle manual and read the child restraint section and the air bag section. Lots of good stuff there too. No matter what you read online, are told at playgroup, or by your doctor, the car seat and vehicle manuals have the final say.
10. Meet with a certified Technician. We’re quite friendly, and we like what we do. Even if you are 100% confident that your car seat is installed and used properly you might learn something. And if it is perfect, you’ll be the golden unicorn in car seat Tech communities, fodder for celebratory stories about The Perfect Check (we have secret meetings and handshakes and stuff – wanna join?).
The LATCH Manual is a comprehensive tome published every two years by Safe Ride News. It covers all things vehicle and child restraint, and while not a substitute for a vehicle manual or child restraint manual, it is an excellent companion and extraordinary resource for Children’s Restraint Systems Technicians everywhere. This year we Canadians organized a bulk order, and with a little international cooperation from our American counterpart Wendy, we then proceeded to distribute them from network to network. Read all about “LATCHY’s” journey.
Scroll down to read a poem (for real – we take this very seriously).
Our very helpful American CPST friend Wendy kindly picked up our manuals for us from Safe Ride News in Edmonds, WA, and then delivered them to the Victoria Clipper ferry terminal.
On the Canadian side of things, in Victoria, BC, the manuals were transferred into Vanessa’s van.
Manuals then traveled north to Duncan for a Car Seat Techs vs the Dodge Grand Caravan Showdown of 2015 (link to that to come!).
This was spotted en route:
Valerie took possession and went further north to Nanaimo. For those following The Incredible Journey of the 2015 LATCH manuals, the 8 Vancouver manuals are toasty warm inside, cuddling in bed with her. Whoever gets the one on the top – that’s her bedtime story.
The Vancouver/Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley manuals hopped on board BC Ferries with Val’s helpful husband and disembarked at Horseshoe Bay, mocking the rest of frozen Canada with pictures of flowers and greenery.
Hand off in Vancouver got the batch of manuals to Elaine for further distribution. Elaine’s garden is NOT buried under 6′ of snow.
Meanwhile back in Nanaimo, Val took LATCHY to Costco for a snack and some light reading. Val, do NOT get gravy on that manual.
Where Val spends most of her days, also known as LATCH Manual Central.
Laura in Duncan also settled in for a snack while reading.
Back at her store, Val was getting everyone else’s ready to ship.
First to ship – Wendy and friends in Toronto, Ontario, with side trips planned to Guelph, Oakville, and beyond. The night supervisor at the post office thinks Val is nuts.
Hand off, and looking east toward Mission, B.C.
This is Mike. He had no qualms about being photographed with the packages destined for Jen and Marianne in Ontario. Thanks, Mike!
Deanna (Ontario) on the left. Shalan (PEI) on the right. Mike came back to get them all!
Some packages were smaller. Techs in Canada are sometimes all by themselves.
Val’s manual is keeping his friends company, waiting for Mike to come back. Katherine and friends in the Maritimes, and Gillian in Ontario. And yes, that IS a headless mannequin in that car seat.
Stacey and Janice get theirs in the lower mainland outside of Vancouver.
LATCHY catching up on Facebook at Patricia’s house in the lower mainland.
LATCHY does not 5-step.
Box of manuals en route from Toronto to Oakville, ON. Buckle up for safety!
6 manuals arrive in the frozen wasteland of Barrie, ON for dispersal locally and north. One had a special autograph page. And gravy. See picture with poutine. Included in the box was a special gift – was it for me or the resident 4 year old?
Another special gift. Who KNOWS what will be inside when the box is opened?
A bit of a stroll down memory lane in Alberta, showing LATCHY where things used to be in the car seat world. We’ve come a long way baby!
Another snowy delivery, to London, ON.
Chilling on a nursing pillow. (LATCH Manual….breastfeeding…get it?). And many more special deliveries in London, ON courtesy of Marianne.
Safe arrival (and transport home) into Ottawa.
LATCHY made it to PEI ! This packaging comes with special notes from the west coast.
LATCHY has arrived in Halifax! Hanging out with his older siblings (2013 and 2011 editions). PS – don’t forget to email Darlene.
Passed off from Katherine in Halifax to Kayle for distribution to Antigonish, New Glasgow, and Truro (and massage school!).
This one is bound for Newfoundland. It probably won’t actually travel north of the Arctic circle…but maybe!
Welcome to Kiddie Proofers in Whitby, new friend!
LATCHY made it to Windsor, ON…complete with a dog bum photo bomb.
This LATCH Manual now lives in a NICU in the Maritimes.
Alainna from Guelph, ON picked the right mailbox and snapped a quick selfie when she went to pick up from Wendy in Oakville.
It’s really hard what to say is happening in this photo, but that kid has some style.
We love our LATCH Manuals. Happy Valentine’s Day! What says “I love you” more than a glass of wine, a LATCH Manual, and a partner not asking why you have acquired a new car seat?
Hand off in Kingston, ON. What better place than in the car seat aisle, and at a clinic?
Hand off in the Lower Mainland (BC), and Barrie, ON.
Clearly this LATCHY inhabits Vancouver Island with that attire.
Overlapping seat belts. Sigh. On the way home to Lindsay, ON.
So much snow to negotiate but LATCHY made it home to Berwick, NS.
Trying out baby’s new ride in PEI:
Hand off in BC, and LATCHY’s first road side stop.
This LATCHY is bound for Winnipeg. Better wear a coat.
Some are still in transit…who knows what adventures they’ll have and what they will contribute to seat checks everywhere! THANK YOU to everyone coast to coast who participated in our distribution project!
Poem for the LATCH Manual
Ours manuals have traveled
So far and so wide,
Passed hand to hand,
On quite the ride.
Safe Ride News gave them life
And a bright coat of RED,
Retrieved by friend Wendy,
Who put them to bed.
Loaded up on the Clipper
The border they crossed.
An epic journey ahead
We hoped none would get lost.
Retrieved in Victoria,
Packed up for a drive,
Driven north up to Duncan to
Hand out out six, maybe five
Passed the rest on to Valerie,
Kit n’ Caboodle’s shipping queen.
Busted out her tape gun,
In Nanaimo, where it’s green.
The flowers are blooming
On Canada’s west coast
LATCHY posed for a photo
Lack of snow they do boast.
Crossed the Strait then by ferry,
Lower mainland does beckon
Fraser Valley techs are awaiting
Their arrival, we reckon.
Back in Nanaimo
Val wowed and amazed
Tape, boxes, and messages,
Some might think she’s crazed.
UPS and the post office
Young truck driver Mike,
The boxes and envelopes,
Oh yes, we do like.
Our manuals would arrive
By truck and by plane,
Stalking our mailboxes,
In snow and in rain.
Some went to Alberta,
Another to the ‘Peg,
Lots more to Ontario
Where there were many more legs.
To Windsor, and Barrie,
To Guelph and Toronto,
The SEATS crew in Ottawa
Kept lots to hold onto.
Kingston and Muskoka,
London has a great showing!
Sudbury and Brockville,
Even when it’s snowing.
Nova Scotia took hold
Of a big delivery too
Halifax, New Glasgow,
Truro, Antigonish got their due.
Through blizzards and deep freeze,
Onward to St. John,
Driven from Halifax,
For Moncton and Fredericton.
From one island to another
East coast from the west,
PEI might be small
But they represent with the rest.
One lonely LATCHY
Flew all the way to the Rock,
If only they could talk.
Oh WAIT! But they CAN!
The people they’ve met,
The stories they share,
Bring us close, you can bet.
Technicians in Canada
Are scattered about
We’re far and we’re wide
But we’re mighty, no doubt.
With zest and with flare,
We network and talk,
We learn and share notes,
With those in our flock.
5,000 kms from west to east coast,
We’re north and we’re south
To us all we do toast:
To our passion and drive,
Our hours of work,
Helping parents and caregivers,
On forums we lurk.
We wander the aisles at our big box stores,
We read and we learn,
Always thirsting for more.
More ways to reach out,
To help and to give,
So kids and families
Stay safe and can live,
Happy and confident in their car seating skills,
Amongst goldfishy crackers and apple juice spills.
We have law enforcement, public health, and retail,
We have stay at home parents,
We just can not fail.
Helping in person, by phone and online,
We have the knowledge,
And we share it, big time.
Child passenger safety!
Listen up please.
We make it look easy,
Once again, Shop.ca is having a super deal that a purchase over $250 gets $70 off. We want to take advantage of this with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their shopping. We will be using random.org instead of rafflecopter for this one. Just fill out the attached form and we will draw at 9pm est on Thursday, February 5th (6pm pst). You can choose any car seat between $250-$300 that shows as in stock and free shipping. If you’d like a more expensive seat, you must be around tonight or tomorrow morning to e.m.t. the extra funds. Please select a seat off one of our “favourites” lists.
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate families. Void where prohibited by law.
This contest is now closed – thanks to all who entered!
Want to take advantage yourself? Here’s how!
The deal is good for anything, not just car seats, and it’s possible if you go through ebates you will get an additional 20% off as well. If you would like to take advantage of it yourself, go through these steps.
- Get a shop.ca account here and we get $25 for our seat donation fund the first time you make a purchase of $75, and you get a bunch of Aeroplan points if your order is over $99, and a big Aeroplan bonus on the first order with your number added to your account. Then close the window without adding anything to your shopping cart.
- Sign up for ebates here and they’ll donate $5 to our seat fund; get 20% back–> it comes quarterly via cheque. In the search window look for shop.ca, and click through to it. Sign back in.
- Now that you are in shop.ca via the ebates portal find your item(s) and add them to your cart. All car seats and booster seats here (travel systems are categorized differently).
Add Aeroplan if you use it to collect points.
- Try coupon code RMN70OFF250FEB for $70 off – click on the bolded “here” in the paragraph about not being able to use both, and type it in. Although it says you can’t use both it seems to still work.
- It’s also possible that if you are NEW to shop.ca you will be given a promo code for $15-20 off when you activate your account.
How about a quick New Year’s Eve contest as a thank you to everyone for shopping through our links? Thanks to you all, we have managed to take advantage of sales and secure donation seats to help local families in need, and for a booster drive we hope to run in the new year.
Shop.ca is having a super deal that ends tonight where a purchase over $250 gets $70 off. We want to take advantage of this with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their Christmas shopping. We will be using random.org instead of rafflecopter for this one. Just fill out the attached form and we will draw at 9pm est tonight (6pm pst). You can choose any car seat between $250-$300 that shows as in stock and free shipping. If you’d like a more expensive seat, you must be around at 9pm est to emt the extra funds. Please select a seat off one of our “favourites” lists.
The deal is good for anything, not just car seats, so if you would like to take advantage of it yourself, add your items to your shopping cart, and at checkout use code RMN70OFF250 Bonus? we get $25 into our donation fund if you are new to shop.ca!
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their families. Void where prohibited by law.
Contest is now closed! Good luck – and happy 2015!
~Laura, Lindsay & Jen
Having loved and recommended the Graco Nautilus for many years for its high harness height and weight and its ability to transform into a high-back and then a backless booster, we were delighted when Graco sent us the newest child/booster seat in their line up: the Argos. The fashion currently available in Canada is Link, available for purchase from Amazon.ca, Babies R Us, and Sears Canada, retailing for $289.99.
The Argos is a forward-facing only seat that later converts to a booster — important to note that it does not rear-face. The Argos’ grey cover is smooth and silky with an added accent of beige polka-dotted trim. It’s comfy and well-padded, more so than an older Nautilus in our collection. The memory foam is sure to make any child’s derriere happy! It comes with harness covers, a crotch buckle cover and an optional body support cushion that must be removed by 35lbs. We did find the crotch buckle cover slightly fussy as it has a minimal amount of velcro on it, and didn’t stay attached as a child was removed. The built in cup holder and cubbies are perfect for snacks and small, soft toys in the car. The smooth bottom of the seat plays nicely with upholstery, leather included.
The no-rethread harness is the most significant difference from the Nautilus, and what we are most excited about! From high to low in seconds – voila!
Height & Weight Limits:
Harness mode: 22-65lbs, 27-49”, 1 year of age, capable of sitting up alone.
High-back booster: 40-100lbs, 40-57”, age 4-10
Backless booster: 40-120lbs, 40-57”, age 4-10
Seat Dimensions and Measurements:
Highest Harness slot: 18.5”
Lowest Harness slot: 14”
Top Height of Booster Shoulder Belt Guide: 20”
Crotch strap slots (2): 6”(inner) and 7”(outer)
Internal seat depth: 13.5”
Internal Side to Side seat width: 12”
Back of seat height to top of handle: 34”
Widest point across: 20”
Useful life (expiry): ten years
No-rethread harness (adjust harness height on the fly with a handle to squeeze and pull – great for use with multiple kids!)
Harness covers to avoid irritation at the neck
Comfy and padded
Butter-smooth harness adjuster
Cup holders (be careful of projectiles though – aim for soft things!)
Hidden cubby that kids love
UAS and/or tether may be used in high back booster mode (to prevent the seat from being a projectile when unoccupied; if not available in your seating location just re-buckle it instead)
Comparison to Nautilus:
Comparing a new seat to a familiar stand-by seems to be our m.o. so here is the obligatory side by side with the Nauti (Nautilus is pink and brown, Argos is black and tan):
While the Graco Argos is approved for use with a child of 1 year old and 22lbs we recommend keeping a child rear facing to the limits of their seat – as long as possible really, and the longer the better. The Argos is an excellent choice for children who are ready to forward face but don’t have the maturity to move to a booster seat full time. As you can see the fit is acceptable on this 16 month old child, but this photo was for demonstration purposes only and she will ride rear facing for years to come (by the look on her face we think she agrees…mom, what the heck?!).
This child is 4 years old and fit very well in the Argos. She loved the fabric and was especially enamoured by the cubby holes in the sides where she could stash her soft treasures (a perpetual favourite of children everywhere!). She said the seat was comfortable and she has lots of room left to grow in it.
The Argos still had another harness height to go with this 6.5 year old model. She now rides in a dedicated booster but thought the seat was comfortable and soft. She would most likely fit beyond age seven. A Nautilus was her primary seat for some time and she found the head rest comfortable for daily use; the Argos’s head rest is comparable and may, like the Nautilus, cause “head slump” for some when sleeping. The likelihood of this is very much child-dependent, and may or may not be a deal breaker for you. Child/booster seats are naturally quite upright compared to rear-facing seats — another reason to keep kids rear facing as long as possible. By the time they are an appropriate age to ride in the Argos most can learn to sleep with their head to the side.
At 7 ½ years old, this child rides full time in a booster now, but she agreed to try out the Argos in harnessed mode. She fit with plenty of room to grow, as this is only the second-to-last setting. However, while she is average height at 49” (and at the standing height limit for harness mode), she does have a shorter-than-average torso, so this is not typical. That said, the Argos definitely has a nice, long-lasting harness that should get most kids to a good booster age.
Installation of the Argos is a breeze with UAS or the seat belt. The UAS connectors are a basic hook style and easily connected in Laura’s Honda Odyssey and Hyundai Santa Fe. We do wish for the price they would have included some type of premium UAS connectors. However, UAS can only be used in this seat to a child weight of 42lbs, unless your vehicle places a lower child weight limit on use of lower anchors. Chances are excellent that a seat belt installation will be necessary sooner rather than later anyway.
The UAS strap was easily tightened by lifting up the corner of the cover closest to the tightening mechanism while pulling the tail parallel to the webbing. Similarly pulling up the cover closest to the buckle while locking the belt made the installation quite easy. Lindsay even managed to get a good fit in her notoriously difficult third row of her older Kia Sedona with three full twists of the buckle stalk. Not many seats have worked for her there.
The Argos has three recline settings although the increments are small and don’t recline the seat a whole lot. It can help align the angle of the seat to the vehicle seat though for easier installation and it is worth experimenting with when installing.
The beauty of the Argos over the Nautilus is the no-rethread harness. It has 5 harness heights, the same as the harness slots of the Nautilus. We found it very easy to adjust the harness height of the seat while it was installed. It would be ideal for a situation where you had multiple children using a seat. You simply push in the red adjuster button on the top of the seat while pulling up. It is also handy for those sneaky growth spurts that children seem to have. Just loosen the harness a bit and pull up the adjuster to the next slot. No uninstalling and reinstalling to change harness heights. One of the nicest things about the seat is how smoothly the harness adjusts. It is easy and you could probably over tighten the harness without difficulty.
Changing from harness to high-back booster seat was much easier than anticipated. The manual had very clear, concise instructions and took less than five minutes. The harness and the crotch buckle must be removed. The manual clearly states that while in booster mode the whole bottom of the seat must be on the vehicle seat (i.e. no overhang permitted) so definitely try this before committing to the Argos if you have a shallow back seat and intend to use it in booster mode eventually. Some truck models with extended cabs come to mind. The seat must sit flush to the vehicle seat so if you have fixed forward-leaning head restraints it may not work in booster mode. We always recommend you try a seat before you buy if possible.
Like the Nautilus, the Argos can be used with UAS and/or tether while in high back booster mode. This is a convenience feature so don’t stress if your seating location does not have lower anchors – simply have your child re-buckle the booster when it’s unoccupied to prevent it from being a projectile. Also make sure that use of lower anchors does not interfere with adjacent seat belts, and that the vehicle’s lower anchors and seat belt align side to side.
The fit of the seat belt in booster mode can be hit or miss, but as far as the booster fit of child/boosters go it’s a decent bet. While it was acceptable for the 6.5 year old model shown here it might vary widely for children who are closer to the minimums for booster use. The fit will very much depend on the geometry of your particular car and seat belt and the size and shape of your child, as is the case with every booster seat. We want to see the lap belt down and low and touching the thighs, and not riding up on the belly.
Removing the back for use as a backless booster also was easy and quick. The belt fit of the 9 year old model below was quite good although it wasn’t a lightweight option compared to many backless booster options. While moving it from car to car isn’t a hard thing by any means it would be a heavy option for a child to tote around for carpooling or a play date. It does come with an optional seat belt clip to use to position the shoulder belt if needed to improve the fit.
The Graco Argos is an excellent addition to Canada’s options for child/booster seats. Its ease of installation and use make it one of our favourite seats to recommend. Its ease of adjusting the harness height is simple and would please many parents and caregivers. The harness is smooth and doesn’t twist easily. The fit and finish of the seat is very polished. It gets the majority of kids to a safe booster age and then converts to a high-back and then backless booster. The fit of the booster can be hit or miss with regards to the vehicle and child’s statistics. Hopefully in the future we will see some varied cover choices. Bottom line: two thumbs up. A great bonus of a no-rethread harness to a seat we have loved for a long time.
Huge thanks to Graco Canada for providing this seat for review – all opinions are our own. EXTRA huge thanks because they’re giving another one away to one of YOU! Yay! This contest is now closed! Congratulations to our winner.
a Rafflecopter giveaway