It’s time to get back into the rhythm of real life as we know it. I honestly don’t know about your kids, but mine seem to stand in fertiliser in winter and then the moment spring hits – shjoop, they’ve outgrown all of their winter stuff and yet it’s not cold enough to buy any new ones, so I just muscle through the season of Tom Sawyer (or hit the sales rack and make my kids look like the clothes are way too big for them and just keep them for next year)
So with this, comes other aspects of their lives I need to take into consideration. Besides the clothes and shoes, I always take the time to look at them in their car seats. Obviously it’s a lot easier to assess when they’re itty bitty babies and you can see that they aren’t that little newborn you thought would never fill out the seat but have become a 12 month old and moving around – actually engaging the world at a different level in the car.
Ok, so I have three kids, right. 9, 7 and 2. If they all have to graduate to a new seat at the same time – I’m pretty much broker than broke, right? But luckily with the age gap, I’ve been penny wise and kept my hands on the car seats we’ve had from the beginning and then some – should anyone decide they don’t want theirs anymore. So when the opportunity to be a part of the #CarseatFullstop campaign, I put my hand up for graduation days.
I term it “Graduation Days” because this is when it’s time to move up a level after finishing up with the previous one. I also got a double bonus feature with the campaign, in that I’m also going to tell you about “Wheel Well”. Ok, don’t yawn yet – you might find this really interesting, even if you don’t have kids of your own – it made me think about a lot of things again (and I’m on kid number three).
Ok, so I assess my kids – do they need to move to the next level in car seat or not? here’s the check list of questions I’ve come to learn to ask over the last few days…..
- Are they physically mature enough to move to the next level? I’d have to look at weight, height and body strength.
- Where are the belts sitting on their bodies? are they in the right positions?
- Are my kids still comfortable?
- Is the car seat still doing what it’s supposed to be doing for my child’s safety?
Ok, so I’m going to give you a literal run down of the two kids, I now I have to move over to the next level. (note – Age wasn’t a main question in the questions. No two children are the same) but since age is a thang – let’s pull in the basic Car seat size facts to note.
Infant seat (the bucket with handle)
Toddler seat (5 point harness, either rear-facing 9 to 18kgs / forward facing 9-18kgs)
Child / Booster seat (avoid the booster cushion, choose a high back that allows safest positioning of the car’s seat belt on their body)
Ok, so here’s my munchkins.
He still looks ok in his seat. He’s still the right weight, height etc but because he’s facing forward in a bulkier Toddler seat, he’s losing leg room between him and the seat in front of him. And as much as I’d love to keep him in his current chair, it’s time to move him to a less bulky Toddler seat that accommodates his length without frustrating the passenger in front of him. Also, something I learned is that in order to maintain head and neck safety – the head rest around your kids head has to be higher than their head. So, the old chair didn’t have an adjustable head rest to cover his precious noggin. This “graduation” has turned out to be more of a transition without compromising on his safety.
As much as she’s 7 years old, its still important for her to have the seat belt go across her body in the right place. So even though she’s in her booster seat, the seat belt isn’t going across her body in the right place. She needs a seat that fits her better and also doesn’t compromise my precious car space. Plus, she’s really expressed her “need” for the head rests and so doesn’t want to sacrifice them. This one can come across as a want rather than a need, but in light of the head rest thing with Jude – we needed something that positioned around her head better anyway. I also have to take into consideration that she still needs the back support to assist with the positioning of the seat belt. (A seat belt should sit flat across the body from midway between the shoulder and neck and not across the neck and belly as is the case before a child is big enough).
I’ve since learned that if she were in a seat belt alone, her legs aren’t long enough to reach over the edge of the car’s seat to rest comfortably on the floor of the car. With her legs hanging over the edge of the seat with no support from the floor, they would get tired, which would cause her to slouch herself lower in the seat to let her legs rest making the seat belt move from the right position to across her neck and belly – which is dangerous. (I honestly didn’t think about this before – and so quickly sat Aislyn down in the car to make sure she was ok. She’s luckily the right weight and length for the normal car seatbelt to cross her body – being tall and strong has it’s advantages. She ticked all of the boxes)
Now, I have been ahead of my game – in that, I have waited in the aisles for other people when they get rid of their old car seats with this “graduation” in mind. So now, what do I do with my old ones? I can’t sit around with 4 car seats and just wait for the right person to hand it over to.
This is when Wheel Well comes into the picture. After chatting to Mandy at #CarseatFullstop – she told me about this organisation called Wheel Well, that take old car seats – assess them, refurbish and then give them to families that aren’t able to afford ones at all. So I thought, this is a great opportunity to give back, make a bit of noise about and make sure that another kid is kept safe when travelling around with their families or transport.
I contacted Peggie at Wheel Well and she told me that it’s as easy as contacting my nearest Renault dealership and organising a drop off. She would then be contacted and organise to have them picked up. So, with my little troop I decided we would pay a visit to the Renault dealership and have a formal handover.
Ok, I honestly thought that it was going to be a very “drama” free process – but boy was I in for a treat. So we do the thing of taking the old car seats out and walk into the Renault dealership in Tygervalley, Cape Town and do our little hand over. The staff were very helpful, but thought it odd that I wanted to take pics of the whole endeavour – but this gentleman humoured our blog life and posed while holding up our heavy car seats. Iraina was glad to hand hers over because she understood the process, whereas Jude was not having it. He didn’t like it that this man was taking his car seat and when I asked him to smile for the pic – he flat out refused and said cheese with a sulky face.
Note to parent…… don’t do this without fully preparing the toddler (that’s in the thick of everything is MINE). So with the exchange over – I went outside to put the “new” car seats into the car. (a little back story – the car seat that Iraina is getting has been sitting in our house staring at Jude for the last 2-3 months and he was told it was for him because of the BOY colours. AND the other “black” seat is from my nephew who out grew it and he hasn’t ever seen it before……… que the music)
So when he see’s me putting the black seat in his spot he starts throwing an absolute fit and the tears are rolling and he’s shouting, “no! no! no!” “mine! mine!” “not dis! not dis!” pointing at his “new” car seat. Guys, the melt down was priceless and as sick as it sounds – I whipped out my camera and took pics of him. I also decided to video his reaction. Have a giggle.
Yes, I’m that mom that documents my kids meltdowns. But you have to admit you giggle just a little, right? He’s still going to get that chair one day.
After having a good look at my pictures and the positions my kids are in, I sent the pics through to Mandy from #CarseatFullstop – she gave me a few pointers about head rest positioning and why it’s important for their head and neck position. So after a few adjustments – these are the correct positions with smiling kids and a lot happier about their seats.
Anyway, let’s close this post with a reminder that it’s really important to make sure that you’re not just putting your kid into a carseat to “save face”. Do it right. Make sure that it’s secured properly that it isn’t moving around – especially with the little people in them.
Don’t just move your kid to a bigger seat because they’re the “right age”. Look at them, every kid is different and if you move them too soon or too late there’s massive implications should an accident happen.
Lastly, and here I’m talking to myself as well – The most important safety feature in any car is still the driver – so drive to protect your precious cargo as well as yourself.