Car Seat Safety 101
Keeping Car Rides Safe for Little Ones
Have car, will travel! Cars are so handy to help your little ones see more of the world, visit loved ones, and take fun vacations as a family. Having your little one sit in a car seat will help keep them safe, but just owning the seat isn’t always enough! A crucial but sometimes neglected part of early childhood education is safety. In fact, many parents really struggle with installing car seats according to proper safety protocols — but that’s understandable; there is a lot to remember, with buying new seats as your little one grows, proper installation, and more. Nevertheless, car seat safety is very important to ensure your little one’s well-being in a moving vehicle. Never fear, though — we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common mistakes we see with car seat installation, and how to make sure your little one stays safe and sound.
A mistake we see occur quite often is a car seat that is too loose. Ideally, a little one’s car seat should not be able to move more than an inch in any direction when you pull on it. If the seat is looser than this, there is the potential for your little one to hurt their face and head in the event of a crash. The easiest way to avoid this is to read the instructions for installation very carefully! Most seats can be installed using either the LATCH system or a locked seat belt. Remembering to lock the seat belt is important!
Similarly, it’s crucial to your little one’s car seat safety that the straps on the car seat itself are tightened enough. A too-loose harness can be more unsafe than you might expect. Experts in car seat manufacturing say that parents should not be able to pinch the fabric of the straps between their fingers. This may seem like too much, but making sure your little one is tightly harnessed will reduce the chances of them coming out of their car seat in the event of a crash.
The harness can be a tricky and dangerous part of the seat in multiple ways. Two other very common mistakes we see that can violate car seat safety also have to do with the harness: the chest clip being in the incorrect spot, and the harness straps incorrectly placed. The chest clip should always be at the center of your little one’s chest — this will help ensure that the harness straps are in the correct place, and it stops the straps from sliding off of your little one’s chest. Additionally, harness straps must be placed in the correct slots depending on whether or not your little one is rear-facing or front-facing. There are different levels of reinforcement to keep the seat secure depending on which way the seat faces, so it’s important to look twice when you switch the direction of the seat!
It’s also crucial to ensure that you’re not having your little one face forward too soon. Because your little one’s bones are still developing, it’s important to protect them as best as possible. If a crash were to occur, and your little one is facing backwards, the back of the car seat will best help absorb any impact and protect their tiny body! Check out this article for a general timeline on letting your little one face forward in their seat. It may seem small, but it’s a very important part of car seat safety. Whether you’re taking a big trip or on the way to your little one’s early childhood education center, safety comes first!
It isn’t enough to just have your little one facing backwards, though. If your rear-facing car seat is not positioned at the right angle, this can also be incredibly dangerous. The tightness of the straps is important, but if the seat is positioned at the wrong angle, your little one’s head, which is heavier at this stage of development, could fall forward and put them at risk of their airway being cut off. Most car seats have angle indicators, so it is a very easy fix (but very important nonetheless).
A scary car seat safety violation that may not seem serious is if your little one is a bit sleepier, and falls asleep in their car seat outside of the car. In the car, you have nothing to worry about! However, outside of the car, the seat is vulnerable to being flipped, and the straps can also be a hazard for choking. The solution is incredibly simple, though — save naptime for when your little one is either in the car or out of the seat.
Car seat safety protocols can be overwhelming sometimes, it’s true. However, most mistakes that occur are tiny and easily fixed! A simple double check can make a world of difference, and even though they may not realize it, your little one will be all the safer and will allow them to grow and have a positive early childhood education experience. Try Our Online Preschool for FREE! Playgarden Prep offers educational videos from real teachers, and numerous DIY projects that support early learning and development.
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Hi, I'm Miss Charlotte!
Miss Charlotte is an Education Director by trade, and a mom by heart. All 200+ of our DIY projects were created by Miss Charlotte, with the help of her expert DIY assistant—Her 4 year old daughter! With a MST degree in Early Childhood Education and 15 years of teaching experience, her blogs and DIY projects have been an incredible resource for our Playgarden Prep schools. We hope that your family loves them as much as we do!