Updated September 2020.

Highlights:

  • Time- and space-saving concerns in dressing rooms with COVID restrictions
  • How a car seat or booster seat works
  • Why hockey gear puts kids at risk in the car
  • Problem-solving ideas to make it all work!

In an effort to save time, change room space, congestion in hallways and lobbies, and improve the flow of kid (and parent) traffic we’ve had many parents ask us if it’s safe to dress their kids in their hockey gear at home, and arrive at the rink ready to play. As minor sports teams work out return-to-play plans while making COVID-19 precautions, we anticipate this issue coming up more and more.

Turns out none of us have hockey-playing children, so we surveyed some other CPSTs who are also hockey parents, and bring you their best advice.

UPDATE: The Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) agrees, and has some shareable resources, including:

Is it safe to wear hockey gear in the car seat or booster seat?

The short answer: nope. And here’s why.

Gear — pants and shoulder pads — interferes quite a lot with how the seat belt or harness fits on the body.

If the harness or seat belt doesn’t fit it can’t do its job: keeping your child in the car in the event of a crash.

In most places, depending on the exact wording of the relevant province or territory’s Highway Traffic Act or Motor Vehicle Act or associated regulations, that inability to fit properly or be used properly would be illegal.

If a parent called the manufacturer of their seat to ask if wearing gear in the seat was okay we are quite certain the answer would be absolutely not. Manufacturers want their products to keep kids safe, and the bulky and unyielding addition of sports padding and gear makes that impossible to do.

Hockey gear: keeps your child safe on the ice.

Car seats and booster seats: keeps your child safe in the car.

Unfortunately they don’t cooperate and can’t be mixed.

This is the slack left in the belt after buckling with pads on. To do its job the seat belt must be snug to the body, so this isn't safe.

What about helmets and other gear?

We don’t recommend anyone wear a helmet in the car. Helmets add extra weight to the head, which in a crash, puts even more strain on the neck and spine. Wearing a helmet in a 5-point harness is actually not just like a race car driver, where there is a 6th point of attachment for the helmet called a HANS device. Read more about that here, if you’re interested.

Anyway, back to the hockey gear dilemma!

Parents of goalies...we know you have even more gear to contend with!

How much of a difference can wearing gear, or not, really make in a crash?

Why is using a car seat or booster seat properly so important? Because it can reduce the risk of death or injury by up to 71%. Considering that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death of kids due to unintentional injury in Canada, that’s too important to ignore.

The most applicable instructions we have to address harness or seat belt fit are right in the car seat and booster seat manuals themselves. A small sampling is below.

BRITAX:

Adjust the belts provided with this child seat so they fit snugly around your child. A snug strap should not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without sagging. It does not press on the child’s flesh or push the child’s body into an unnatural position.

Adjust the harness to fit the clothes the child is wearing. Remove bulky coats and/or jackets before putting the child in the child seat.

DIONO:

Secure harness snug and flat on your child.
 
Take care to secure the child properly. Snugly adjust the belts provided with this child restraint around your child.
 
Avoid bulky or heavy clothing. Doing so will prevent the harness straps from being tightened properly.
 
The addition or removal of clothing will change the fit of the harness.

GRACO:

WARNING! Do not put snowsuits or bulky garments on your child when placing them in the car seat.

Bulky clothing can prevent the harness straps from being tightened properly.

CLEK:

Child must be dressed in clothing with arms and legs that will not interfere with buckling and snugly adjusting harness.

SAFETY 1st:

WARNINGS: Failure to fasten and tighten the harness system correctly may allow the child to be ejected from the child restraint in a crash or sudden stop causing serious injury or death. Do not mistake comfort for safety. Harness system must be snugly adjusted.

EVENFLO:

Failure to adjust the harness or vehicle seat belts snugly around the child may result in the child striking the vehicle’s interior during a sudden stop or crash. Serious injury or death may occur

In cold weather, DO NOT dress the child in bulky clothing like snowsuits if the child is riding in a child restraint. Bulky coats/snowsuits make it difficult to properly tighten the harness to the child, which may allow the child to be ejected from the restraint during a crash. 

 

So what can be done to make the transition from car to ice a little easier?

So there is the whole list of what not to do, but that doesn’t help a frazzled parent trying to wrangle a child into their gear, and it doesn’t ease congestion at the rink. What are players to do? Here are some tips for how to keep kids safe in the car, and dressed as quickly and painlessly as possible at the arena.

Wear base layers in the car

Put on the thin, comfortable under-layers before leaving the house, thinking strategically about what can go on in advance without interfering with the harness or seat belt.

Put skates on at home

Some parents we asked said that it does work for them to lace up before getting in the car. This will of course depend on your child’s ability to get in and out of the car with skates on, and how easy it is to get from the car to the arena, and how much you trust them not to slice up your upholstery. One parent recommended good skate guards like these to make this doable, or for even more stability and traction try SkaBoots.

The small town arena from my childhood would have made a good backup for the set of an Ultimate Beastmaster obstacle course, but hopefully yours is less icy with fewer snow banks. Lacing up at home would definitely speed things up. It’s worth talking to arena management about anything they can do to make access easier for players walking in skates: would a change in ploughing make this doable for your players? Would rubber mats help? Be creative and think beyond your own family to make the rink more accessible for everyone.

Be strategic about other gear

Is your player able to ride safely with shin pads in place? Jock?

Some kids are able to drop their pants down to their shins in the car, buckle up, and then pull them back into place at the arena. You might have to do a test run to see what works and what doesn’t for your particular situation.

Is your vehicle a portable dressing room?

Is there enough room in your vehicle to dress a player in the last layers while still in the car? If you drive a 3-row vehicle, do you have enough room to fold down the 3rd row and use the hatch? How about stowing or removing a 2nd row captain’s seat for the worst of the winter?

An organized hockey bag

Knowing exactly where things are located in the gear bag will speed up the process. Avoid having to root around to find things. Involve your child in this process, especially if they will be doing more of the getting dressed independently. Pack and organize it how they find it useful, even if it’s not how you would do it.

One parent’s routine is like this:

Put on base layer, neck guard, elbow pads, bottom gear, and skates with skate guards. When you get to the car, pop the cup out of the jock and drop pants to knees before buckling. At the rink, you put the cup back in, pull up pants, put on shoulder pads, jersey, helmet, gloves.

Practice with your child

Can you teach your child to gear up more independently? They might surprise you with what they can do on their own if you practice. Figure out a routine that makes things easier for them to be be quick and focused. Is there a pneumonic that helps them remember the order? A song? When mine were little this rhyme helped them remember the steps to get ready for bed: toilet, flush, wash hands, brush. Sometimes I notice I am humming it at bedtime…to myself.

It works for this hockey player to have his hockey socks on (yellow) and just needs to pull his pants on at the rink.

Don’t mistake comfort and convenience for safety

Ultimately it all comes down to this, which is also true for child passenger safety every day of the year. 

Is it time consuming and annoying? Yes.

Are these extra steps necessary to keep kids safe in the car – the most dangerous place most of them are every day? Also yes.

Enlist the support of other families, coaches, and league leadership to make sure you are doing what you can to help kids arrive safely to the rink. Team work on this one will make all the difference to managing during this new normal, and keeping everyone safe on and off the ice.

VICST has been around for 4.5 years now…and we’ve never really gotten around to branding ourselves. We think it’s high time!

Sadly, we lack both imagination and creative design skills. That’s where you come in. A logo contest! Or a trade, or barter, if you’d prefer. 

To the winner: your choice of a Graco Dimensions, Evenflo SureRide, Graco MyRide, or possibly something else that you need. If you win we’ll chat.

The rules:

You design and create an original logo or set of logos for our use. If you are the winner you agree to give us complete ownership of the images so we can use them as we see fit. If you submit a design it must be your original design.

The logo must be proportioned to fit in standard Facebook or Twitter profile pictures (square), and ideally would also be able to be used in header format. Perhaps there are some basic design elements that can be creatively combined in different ways! We don’t know…you see why we haven’t done this before?

One day maybe we’ll print it on a banner so a high res file would be good. Ideally it would also print well in black and white for those times when we photocopy stuff. We would prefer if it could be produced as a vector file but don’t require it.

We are under no obligation to choose any winner. We may extend the deadline if we haven’t received sufficient entries. Open to Canadian residents of any age, void where prohibited.

Please submit to info@vicarseattechs.com by 11:59pm Pacific time on Sunday May 15th. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Physics2Collision Dynamics: Dissecting Impact, by Angela Stacey

(Physics disclaimer: Assuming ideal conditions, friction out of scope, assuming no loses to H/L/S, decel/accel out of scope).

 

It’s the moment we CPST’s fear most. Impact from a vehicular collision. And rightfully so! A lot goes on in the milliseconds leading up to, during and after an impact. But by growing our understanding of how these timeframes play out, we can help to better protect the occupants of our vehicles and those of the families we help. And hey, physics is fun! (Don’t believe me? You’ll see).

First, let’s start with some basic physics: Newton’s Laws of Motion. Not a math lover? Never been one for complex equations? Well, you’re in luck, Newton’s Laws are simple to interpret and apply to everyday situations. These three laws govern the motion of anything and everything, including your vehicle. These laws will be the main tool in our impact dissection kit, so let’s take a look at them.

Laws of PhysicsFirst law: Every object in a state of uniform motion or at rest will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.

Second law: The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (meaning they have both a magnitude and a direction).

Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

Not so bad, right?

Let’s put ourselves at the scene of a rear-end collision. For simplicity, we’ll say that they are both the same model of vehicle, with the same mass*. We have been told that the vehicle traveling behind (a silver vehicle) has impacted the vehicle in front (a blue vehicle) as the pair were coming to a stop at a red light. No one is badly injured, but both drivers seek to better understand why their necks hurt.

In order to better understand what happens in a collision at the moment of impact, we must first look at what happens before that moment. Our bodies, our children and our trunk full of groceries are all traveling at the same speed as the vehicle. Now would be an excellent time to read Newton’s First law of motion again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The objects in your vehicle are traveling in a state of (relatively) uniform motion in the moments before the impact. They will carry on that way until…something acts to stop them or change their course. The silver vehicle impacting the blue vehicle serves this function. As the vehicles impact one another, the contents of the vehicles impact the surfaces adjacent to them. The force with which objects contact one another is equal to the product of the mass of the object (in kilograms) and the acceleration of the object (in m/s2 ), which is Newton’s second law: F = ma. I will point out that units are very, very important!

So that bottle of windshield wash in the foot well of your vehicle? It’s time to put that in the trunk to make sure it doesn’t continue in uniform motion and impact someone in the event of a collision!

At the moment of impact, everything (and everyone) moves toward the point of impact. Give Newton’s third law another read. In a collision between two objects, both objects experience forces that are equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. The person in the silver vehicle will feel a force “coming back” to them that is equal to the force they hit the blue vehicle with, but again, in the opposite direction. This is why the person in the rear vehicle will move forward in their primary post-impact movement, and the person in the front vehicle will move backward, pressing into their seat. Occupants of both vehicles will move toward the point of impact because of the equal and opposite forces described by Newton’s third law. Take silver vehicle’s force to be directed –> this way, then the blue vehicle’s force would be equal and oppositely directed <– this way. Giving you: S–> <–B

Rear end collisions also involve the consideration that both vehicles are moving in the same direction, though one has unfortunately “caught up” with the other. This affects the outcome such that both vehicles will continue to move along that path until they come to a stop, their original direction of travel being the same means that their force vectors (think of these as arrows that represent the direction the vehicle is moving, with a length proportional to the mass multiplied by the acceleration of the vehicle) will add. Yet another reason why rear end collisions do not represent a large amount of overall collision injuries.

A video may help, see above: (silver vehicle = silver bottle, blue vehicle = blue bottle)

I hope that this short explanation has helped to increase your understanding of the basic physics of a collision, and will serve as a motivation to learn more about physics!

*Something to note: In accordance with Newton’s second law of motion, the acceleration of an object is dependent upon both force and mass. Thus, if the colliding objects have unequal mass, they will have unequal accelerations (or rather, decelerations) as a result of the contact force that results during the collision. This is why you will see a small car slide across the road when hit by a Hummer. Mass is (sometimes unfortunately) directly related to force.

 

A fun way to recap some products new to market, and highlight our tried-and-true favourites! And did we mention a contest? YEAH! We will offer up giveaways for some of the below listed seats…but the window for entry will be short so you’ll have to check back often! See below for complete rules.

Is your child’s seat not on this list? Don’t despair – it’s just a quick, fun recap. We have LOTS of favourites and you can check them all out here! If you’re shopping for a new one and plan to buy through Amazon please start here so a small portion gets referred back to us at no cost to you. It helps funds our seat donations throughout the year.


1. Best new convertible under $150

NEXT redThe Cosco Scenera NEXT wowed and amazed us with its small size and amazing abilities. $99 at Walmart and in six cute colours it fits in places we never thought a rear-facing seat could go. Dorel is making some waves in the industry with a minimum age of two for forward-facing. Fist bump Dorel – carry on.

CONTEST #1: Congrats to the winner, Charlene C. from B.C., who won a Cosco Scenera NEXT.


 

2. Best new convertible under $300

DimensionsGraco Dimensions (with its slightly less well-dressed sister the Contender) came onto the market in late summer at $269 and available most places Graco seats are sold (Contender is a Canadian Tire exclusive). Despite the 35lb rear-facing weight limit it’s crazy tall and super compact, making it a top notch choice for rear-facing a l-o-n-g time for those slim but tall kids, even in small cars. The Dimensions has nice features like premium push on UAS and harness pads. Video tour here.

CONTEST #4: Congrats to the winner, Stephanie H., from Ontario, winner of a Graco Dimensions.


 

3. Gold star for consistent awesomeness

TurboboosterBooster fit is ALL about belt fit, and that is completely dependent on the specific seating position in a vehicle (3rd row bench versus 2nd row captain’s seats for example) and the child who will occupy the seat. The Graco TurboBooster, the high back version specifically, is such a tried and true performer that if we know nothing about the vehicle-kid combo this seat is a pretty safe bet. Found most places for around $70-80 and frequently on sale for less it is easy to use, lightweight, and provides consistently good belt fit on most kids. Is your child booster-ready? This will help you decide.

CONTEST #2: Congrats to our three winners, Tennille, Sheena & Jill, all from Ontario. We gave away one each of a high back Graco Turbo, a high back Evenflo Amp, and a backless Harmony Youth Booster. 


 

4. Best booster we don’t talk about enough

Evenflo AMPAnother seat that is a good bet in many circumstances is the high back Evenflo Amp. Readily available at many retailers for around $70 its particular claim to fame is being a good bet in vehicles with long buckle stalks, as well as being one of the very few that work in the 3rd row outboard of current body style Dodge Grand Caravan (and clones Chrysler Town & Country and VW Routan), or 3rd row of the Mazda 5.

CONTEST #2 now closed – congrats to the winners!

 


 

5. Best infant seat we don’t talk about enough

embrace stock photoSmall but mighty the Evenflo Embrace is amazingly long lasting, pretty compact, and well-priced. It’s $140 at Walmart, and accommodates kids 4-35lbs or 17-30″ tall. It’s lightweight, fits tiny humans beautifully, and is a breeze to install.

 


 

6. Best new combo seat

Harmony Defender Pirate GoldA much anticipated addition to the combination (forward-facing harness-to-booster) seat lineup is the Harmony Defender. With a cool cover name of Pirate Gold we had high expectations – and were not disappointed. Exceptionally long lasting with a lot of features we’ve come to expect from pricier seats and on the shelves at most Walmarts for $159 it has a lot going for it.

CONTEST #5: Congrats to the winner, Amelia I. from Nova Scotia. Enjoy!


 

7. If we had another baby and skipped the infant seat we’d use…

20150412_090314_resizedClek Infant Thingy plus Foonf or Fllo. Clek released their “Infant Thingy” last spring and like their other products it was well thought out, well-executed, and just beautiful. It allows a truly magnificent fit for a newborn in a seat that can otherwise accommodate most kids to age four rear-facing, and to six+ forward-facing. None of us are expecting – but if we were the Infant Thingy would be at the top of our list for the newest VICST CPST-in-training.

 


8. If we had another baby and used an infant seat we’d use…

keyfit30Chicco KeyFit 30 (pronounced KEE-ko, for real). Smooth, simple, compact front to back yet long lasting for height and weight (4-30lbs or 30″ tall), and just all ’round easy to install and use, the KeyFit 30 is a super choice for many families. It’s also three-across friendly, meaning the straight edges of the base make it a good option when trying to fit three seats in a tight space.

CONTEST #3: Congrats to the winner, Sarah D. from B.C., who won a Chicco KeyFit 30!

 


 

9. We can’t believe this is less than $20

pink HarmonyDid you know that most kids get out of a booster seat far too soon? Despite provincial laws that allow a child to ride in only a seat belt at age 8 or 9 the provincial law ALSO requires the seat belt to fit properly. For the vast majority of kids that won’t happen until at least age 11. For a mere $18 the Harmony Youth Booster (and any other booster that provides good belt fit) can dramatically decrease horrible life-altering injuries to the 6-11 year old crowd. We really like the Youth Booster.

CONTEST #2 now closed – congrats to the winners!


 

10. What we’re excited to get our hands on in 2016

IMG_0330What fun stuff will 2016 bring us? Already on the market but not yet in our hot little hands is the Nuna Pipa, an infant seat with some neat features that we previewed in the fall at a Toronto Trade Show. We hope to have more info about it soon. Also at that show was the Recaro Performance Booster and Performance Sport combo seat, and we liked the looks of them. We’ve also heard rumours of the Graco 4Ever coming to Canada but no info on it yet. What else will come to market in the next year?

 


 

And huge thanks to you for reading and sharing and getting good quality child passenger safety info out there in the world! Here’s hoping that 2016 is a good one for us all.

Contest rules: open to residents of Canada age 18 or older except where prohibited. Not open to the four admins of VICST or their immediate family members, nor to anyone who won something from us in 2015 or their immediate family members. One entry per household please. Entries must be completed in full, and winners must respond within 48hours to claim their prize. Entry time period varies by seat/day so check back often. Winners will be chosen randomly with the help of random.org. 

The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. By providing your information in the contest form, you are providing your information to VICarSeatTechs alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of verifying and contacting the winner.

If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email! (info@vicarseattechs.com)

20150905_172543_resized

Consumer Reports just released their newest test results on a long list of convertible (infant/child) seats. There is a lot of chatter about it and we want to help you to wade through the information and make sense of it. A great US read on this issue is here by our friends at Carseatblog. Also very thorough is the Car Seat Lady’s take on it.

In case this is as far as you read here are our Take Home Messages:

  1. The BEST seat for you is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, fits your budget, and that you can use properly EVERY TIME. That “use properly” bit is key as misuse piled on top of misuse is going to increase the risk of injury to your child.
  2. Take extra care to ensure the car seat is installed tightly with 1″ or less of movement at the belt path, and that your child is buckled in without bulky clothing so that the harness passes the pinch test.
  3. Rear face as long as possible — in fact don’t rush ANY of the transitions. Remain in a harness until 5-6+, booster until 11ish, and then always wear your seat belt properly.

Please remember that Consumer Reports is testing American car seats. Up here in the Great White North our seats are often a little different as our testing requirements are different. Even seats that appear to be identical often aren’t. Canadian seats tend to have more padding in the head area, have some form of anti-rebound control when rear-facing (most commonly anti-rebound bars, or a modified shape to the front edge of the car seat compared to US seats), and always require the use of the tether when forward-facing. Our weight limits are lower, and sometimes height limits too. We also have much less selection…but really, tons more than we used to! US seats are cheaper but Canadian seats are made for Canadian requirements and it’s illegal for Canadians to use foreign seats here.

It is really important to understand that ALL of the seats tested are SAFE. Let us repeat that – if they’re for sale on the shelf they are safe.

Furthermore the final ratings given to the seats are an amalgamated score combining CR’s idea of “ease of use” and “fit to vehicle” with the crash testing.

Why did Consumer Reports (CR) change the testing method for crashworthiness evaluation? According to them it was because they wanted to provide comparative information to consumers to aid in the buying process, and to develop a test protocol that was more representative of modern vehicles. Great ideas, but no need to panic at the results if your child’s seat isn’t on the top five list.

Good news! 2 of the top 5 seats are excellent budget options. What if you have a seat that isn’t on that list? Don’t freak out. Between the four of us we own…um…a lot of car seats and have absolutely no intention of swapping them out for seats on the Top 5. None. Because first and foremost we know we are using them correctly and THAT is far and away the most important element when it comes to our children’s safety.

Want to double check that you are using your seats properly? Meet with a CPSAC-certified CPST near you. Some charge a fee for their time and others volunteer but either way it’s time well spent.

20151107_104903_resizedAlainna 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.

IMG_0315 IMG_0316

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.

IMG_0318

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.

IMG_0321 IMG_0322

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

20151107_110631_resized

 

Tokidoki fans rejoice – a new space-themed print. My 5 year old spotted the unicorn straightaway.

20151107_110245_resized

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.

IMG_0324 IMG_0330

 

IMG_0335

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

 

 

20150912_092706_resizedSeeing 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:

  • Rear-Facing:
    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
  • Forward-Facing:
    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
  • $310 at Babies R Us, Amazon.ca, Sears

General Features – video tour here

No-rethread Harness
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!
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″)20150912_092820_resized
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.

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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!

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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.

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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 Vehicle20150910_184049_resized

Rear Facing:

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.

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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.

2012 VW Golf Wagon - Dimensions, Contender, Diono Radian RTX. 20150912_104630_resized

 

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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.

 

 

 

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2012 F-150 extended cab – Dimensions installs easily in the centre with lots of leg room for driver and passenger.

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2003 Honda Civic (with an upright MyRide in the background).

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2013 Ford Focus sedan at a newborn recline, with lots of leg room remaining.

 

Forward Facing:

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.

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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.

 

 

Overall Impressions:

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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!

Graco Clinics

AC RF vehicleUpdated March 2019. Note for all photos: Dorel is updating the angle at which a rear-facing seat may be installed. Newer versions of the seat may not be permitted to go so upright. Read your manual carefully, and follow the one that came with your seat.

Lightweight, colour options, inexpensive ($99), 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 at Walmart, Babies R Us, or at Amazon you’ll like what you get for the price.

Seat Specs:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 8.22.34 AM

Rear-facing 5-40lbs, 19-40″, 1″ of clearance above the top of the head now required (March 2019) – follow what is stated in your manual.
Forward-facing 22-40lbs, 29-43″, top of the ears level with the top of the shell. If your manual also states a two year minimum then you must follow that.

We very much like the layout in the NEXT manual – clear, concise, easy to follow. And to highlight an important minimum on the original batch of seats: 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. Update March 2019: newer seats have removed that requirement, but it is still recommended to rear face as long as possible.

  • 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
  • 8 years until expiry
  • Harness covers available for purchase directly from Cosco

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.

AC RF vehicle AC FF vehicle AC FF harness height

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…NEXT weight

…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!

RF level lineThe 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. Update November 2018: Cosco has updated the rear-facing angle instructions, read more here. Update March 2019: Canadian seats may not be installable more upright at all. Read manuals carefully and follow the instructions in yours.

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 rear-hinge doors – my tallish self can sit in the passenger seat no problem even with the NEXT at the fully reclined newborn angle.

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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.

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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.

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3-across in a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback.
3 across in a VW Jetta - NEXT is the blue one in the middle.
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!
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.

AL infant routing
6 weeks old; 11.5lbs, 22.5″ long.
SK RF
15 months, 22lbs, and 31″ tall.
SK RF big kid
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.

AB RF NEXT

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!

AL RF legroom AL RF 4yo

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!

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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 ability to be more upright can be 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.

AC RF plane

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 !

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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.

NEXT Moon Mist Grey NEXT River Run Blue NEXT red NEXT Lime Punch NEXT Broadway dots NEXT Otto

Overall Impressions:

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. 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

pink Harmony black Harmony purple harmony

Harmony once made a seat20150822_114256_resized
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,George
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.

VF Booster

DSC00520

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 🙂 

Defender1It’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.

Defender Specs:

  • 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 50 lbs retroactively updated to 40 lbs)
  • 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 50 lbs retroactively updated to 40 lbs).

The Highlights

  • 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)

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  • 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.

 

Assembly:

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.

Defender parts

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.

Defender hip screw

 

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.

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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.

20150618_200522 20150730_114054_resized Defender3Defender2 20150627_171752 11822800_10155858771070514_3077442226089293119_n

Child fit in harness modeHarmony Defender01

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.

Harmony Defender08 Harmony Defender06

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.

Harmony Defender03

 

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.

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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.

20150621_174604 Harmony Defender10

 

Harmony Defender05Seat 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!
Defender 3 across
2010 Jeep Patriot
Defender middle seat
2011 Honda Odyssey
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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan
Harmony Defender02
2003 Honda Odyssey
Harmony Defender09
2012 Ford Focus
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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.

cover1 cover2 cover3 cover4 cover5 cover6

 

Overall impressions:

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

11707765_10153412967887165_8408673300298440703_nUpdated 2019. The Monterey as described in this article has been discontinued, which makes us super sad because we loved it so very much.

Diono does make a seat called the Monterey XT, but it’s not quite the same as this one, although certain elements are similar.

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 retailed for $160 and was widely available.

It is currently available in three fashions: Bloom (pink), Surf (blue), and Heather (grey, reviewed here).

Diono_Monterey_Bloom_Angled_WithCupholdersDiono_Monterey_Surf_Angled_WithCupholdersMonterey Heather

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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

ML in Monterey

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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:

20150713_201522_resizedThe 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.

11265426_10153412938357165_2803299625134764172_nSometimes 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.

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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.

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Overall impressions:

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 – this giveaway is closed! 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?

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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:

Rear facing:
5-40lbs and 19-40″ 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. NEW! Retroactive change to increase the height limit to 40″.

Forward facing:
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.

Booster:
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.

Features:

  • 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.

IMG_8818IMG_8814 (533x800)

11233338_10155746888050514_4166020268480730053_oIf 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.

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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.

 

885629_10155746978470514_4087741954288351066_o 151 (533x800)

 

 

Booster fit is where most so-called 3-in-1s fail in either fit or realistic longevity – but not the Symphony.

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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:

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

150 (533x800) 152 (800x533)

Overall Impression:

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!

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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!

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03 Honda Odyssey – front seats all the way back again.IMG_7040

 

3rd row of the same Odyssey – the 2nd row slides forward enough to leave ample room for the Embrace.IMG_7043

 

03 Civic installed baseless – so much room you could have a party in there.

embrace baseless

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.20150410_154932_resized

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

embrace splitter plate

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Premium Features:

Storage compartments for the buckle tongues to hold them out of the way while loading your squirmy offspring.

buckle storage

 

Smooth and simple carrier release. Push the top of the release bar in and the carrier can be lifted easily out of the base.

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Quick connector with pull release (the red loop) makes for a nice fast uninstall, and works beautifully with the LATCH Guides mentioned above.

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Final thoughts:

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.

 

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:

 

Walmart order

 

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.

 

Walmart order2

 

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.

 

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Obviously 8 car seats would never fit in a box so small. What was inside?  Camels. CAMELS! 8 of them.

 

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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.

camel

 

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.

20150414_130615_resizedClek 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.

 

20150412_090534_resizedHere’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.

Tokidoki Infant Thingy 20150412_111153_resized 20150415_123154_resized 20150415_124044_resized 20150412_090314_resized

 

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.

20150412_090623_resized

  • 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.

20150412_103017_resized

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.

20150412_123408_resized Thingy head pad

 

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.

hip strap routing

 

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.

splitter plate routing

 

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.

20150412_091403_resized 20150412_091638_resized

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.

20150412_091055_resized 20150414_145859_resized

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.

20150412_090534_resized20150412_091322_resized

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.

20150414_130625_resized 20150414_130540_resized

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.

Newborn in Infant Thingy

 

 

Foonfreview21This 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

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.

See the epic journey on a map!

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.

LM Sleepover LM Wendy's car

 

On the Canadian side of things, in Victoria, BC, the manuals were transferred into Vanessa’s van.

LM 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!).

LM Buried in seats

This was spotted en route:

LM Zombie Patrol

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.

LM 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.

LM with flowers LM Ferry terminal

 Hand off in Vancouver got the batch of manuals to Elaine for further distribution. Elaine’s garden is NOT buried under 6′ of snow.

LM garden

 

Meanwhile back in Nanaimo, Val took LATCHY to Costco for a snack and some light reading.  Val, do NOT get gravy on that manual.

LM poutine

 

Where Val spends most of her days, also known as LATCH Manual Central.

LM Kit n' Caboodle

 

Laura in Duncan also settled in for a snack while reading.

LM Laura nachos

 

Back at her store, Val was getting everyone else’s ready to ship. LM 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.

LM at post office for Toronto

 

Hand off, and looking east toward Mission, B.C.

LM Mission

 

This is Mike. He had no qualms about being photographed with the packages destined for Jen and Marianne in Ontario. Thanks, Mike!

LM Mike at UPS

 

Deanna (Ontario) on the left. Shalan (PEI) on the right. Mike came back to get them all!

LM Deanna and Shalan LM SEATS & Mike

 

Some packages were smaller. Techs in Canada are sometimes all by themselves.

LM Jennifer

 

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.

LM IWK Gillian

 

Stacey and Janice get theirs in the lower mainland outside of Vancouver.

LM Stacey & Janice

 

LATCHY catching up on Facebook at Patricia’s house in the lower mainland.

LM Patricia

 

LATCHY does not 5-step.

LM 5 step

 

Box of manuals en route from Toronto to Oakville, ON. Buckle up for safety!

LM Toronto to Oakville

 

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?

LM Barrie arrival LM signed with Gravy LM Jen with hat

 

Another special gift. Who KNOWS what will be inside when the box is opened?

LM Marianne with butter

 

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!

LM Angie in old seat

 

Another snowy delivery, to London, ON.

LM in London

 

Chilling on a nursing pillow. (LATCH Manual….breastfeeding…get it?). And many more special deliveries in London, ON courtesy of Marianne.

LM Catherine R in LondonLM Tina in London

LM doorstep in London  LM with snacks MarianneLM Amanda in LondonLM to unsuspecting husband in London

LM Melissa & Katie in London

 

Safe arrival (and transport home) into Ottawa.

LM Ottawa

 

LATCHY made it to PEI !  This packaging comes with special notes from the west coast.

LM PEI

 

LATCHY has arrived in Halifax! Hanging out with his older siblings (2013 and 2011 editions).  PS – don’t forget to email Darlene.

LM IWK with old copies

 

Passed off from Katherine in Halifax to Kayle for distribution to Antigonish, New Glasgow, and Truro (and massage school!).

LM Kayle from Katherine LM Kayle to Nancy in Truro LM Massage with KayleLM NS fire station

 

This one is bound for Newfoundland. It probably won’t actually travel north of the Arctic circle…but maybe!

LM map to NL

Welcome to Kiddie Proofers in Whitby, new friend!

LM Kiddieproofers

 

LATCHY made it to Windsor, ON…complete with a dog bum photo bomb.

LM Windsor

 

This LATCH Manual now lives in a NICU in the Maritimes.

LM NICU with Paula

 

Alainna from Guelph, ON picked the right mailbox and snapped a quick selfie when she went to pick up from Wendy in Oakville.

LM Alainna in Oakville

 

It’s really hard what to say is happening in this photo, but that kid has some style.

LM zebra pjs

 

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?

LM valentineLM handoff in Ottawa Ivy to Sarah

 

Hand off in Kingston, ON. What better place than in the car seat aisle, and at a clinic?

LM handoff in KingstonLM Kingston Deanna to KellyLM Handoff Kelly to Ellen

Hand off in the Lower Mainland (BC), and Barrie, ON.

LM Patricia to Holly LM Jen to Mel

Clearly this LATCHY inhabits Vancouver Island with that attire.

LM Lindsay's bike

 

Overlapping seat belts. Sigh. On the way home to Lindsay, ON.

LM Stacey in Rav4

 

So much snow to negotiate but LATCHY made it home to Berwick, NS.

LM Berwick

 

Trying out baby’s new ride in PEI:

LM New seat

 

Hand off in BC, and LATCHY’s first road side stop.

LM RCMP car

 

This LATCHY is bound for Winnipeg. Better wear a coat.

LM Winnipeg

 

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,
Island-to-island transfer,
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,
We’re CRSTs!


10967665_10152998923025568_68309605_nOnce 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Argos stock picUPDATE (summer 2016): the Argos has been discontinued by Graco, and replaced with an updated Nautilus that merges the best features of both! Check for it in stores!

 

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.

 

Highlights:fabric detail 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!Argos


Argos2

 

Argos1Height & 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

Features:

  • 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): Argos7 Argos6

 

Harness Mode: 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?!). Argos Thea

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. FF Fiona feet out cubby

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.

Argos5

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. FF Meredith FF harness height

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.

belt path

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. recline adjustment

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.

Booster Mode: 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.

Argos4

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.

HB Booster Aniela

Final Thoughts: 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.

Prize 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

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While researching another project recently I came across a scattering of occupant safety milestones, and decided to dig up some more. While by no means a comprehensive history the progression is interesting!

Date Milestone
1949 First crash test dummy created "Sierra Sam" to test ejector seats for the US Air Force
1955 Seat belts were optional on Fords
1959 Volvo makes lap/shoulder belts standard equipment in their cars
1962 First car seat invented by Leonard Rivkin of Denver Colorado
1962 First crash test dummy for automotive use
1968 First car seats developed on a large scale for child occupant protection
1970 World's first seat belt law for front seat occupants enacted in Australia
1971 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted first federal standard for child seating systems FMVSS 213; requirements did not include crash testing.
1972 Volvo makes lap/shoulder belts in the rear standard equipment
1972 Consumer Reports car seat testing show most were grossly inadequate
1976 Ontario makes wearing a seat belt mandatory
1978 First law passed in North America (Tennessee) requiring infants and young children to be restrained in a seat that met FMVSS 213.
1981 Pre-tensioners introduced to seat belts by Mercedes
1987 Alberta makes wearing a seat belt mandatory
1989 (Canada) Pre-drilled holes or marked dimples required for tether anchor assembly for 1989 model year
1989 (US) Shoulder belts become standard in rear outboard seating positions in the US for 1990 model year
1995 Sept 1995 (model year 1996) seat belts are required to lock pre-crash in the US – Canada gets the feature as well on models available in both countries
1995 Driver's side air bags mandatory in the US
1999 Model year 2000 (Sept 1999) all passenger cars came equipped with factory installed user-ready tether anchorages
2000 Model year 2001 (Sept 2000) all vans/light trucks/SUVs came equipped with factory installed user-ready tether anchorages
2002 As of 1-Sep-2002 all child restraints must come with lower anchor connectors and all Canadian passenger vehicles must come with lower anchors in at least two seating positions
2005 (US) Dual-stage air bags required (some prior will also have them)
2008 (US) Lap/shoulder belt required in rear middle seating position
2011 GM introduces dynamic locking latch plates (DLLP) in the front seats of some vehicles
2011 Ford offers inflatable belts as an option in rear seating positions on some models
2015 Seat belts are required to lock pre-crash in Canada
20?? What advances are in our future? Will we look back in horror twenty years from now?