Car Seat 101

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Cute little baby child sitting in car seat. Portrait of cute little baby child sitting in car seat.Safety concept

Car seat guides present a challenge because car seat standards can change so much. New and veteran parents alike struggle to keep track of the state and federal rules. It seems practically every year, parenting blogs feature new guidance; for example, when it is safe to face seats forward.

Knowing some of the basic car seat standards is an essential part of parenting in 2019. Every parent wants their kid to be as safe as they can be. This car seat guide is the most up to date guidance, as well as some useful rules of thumb.

Join Twin Cities Kids Club for more great tips, as well as fantastic discounts throughout the Twin Cities.

Child in a baby car seat

Rear-Facing or Front-Facing?

According to Minnesota state law, “Infants (under 20 pounds and one year of age) must be” rear-facing. Parents should be aware that Minnesota car seat law exceptions exist. Exempted situations include emergency medical vehicles, cabs, airport limousines, on-duty peace officer vehicles, or certified permission from a medical professional.

In many cases, state laws on rear-facing seats are the bare minimum for car seat safety. The consensus regarding rear-facing car seats is to keep your children rear-facing as long as possible. “As long as possible” means until a child reaches 35 – 40 pounds, or becomes too tall for the car seat.

Selecting the Right Car Seat for Your Child

Once you have determined whether your child requires a front or rear-facing car seat, you are ready to select one. Here are some things of which to be aware and to keep in mind.

Legality

If a car seat is current, it passes government standards. Car seat manufacturers have to meet specific government standards.

Suitability

Make sure that the car seat works for your child. Ensure that your child is comfortable in it and the right size for the seat. Car seats can be expensive, and you don’t want a screaming baby every time you go for a drive.

The car seat needs to fit not only your child but your car as well. A car seat that your child loves might not actually fit in your vehicle. The seat should also fit with other car seats you may already have in your car.

Location, Location, Location

This real estate cliche is valid for car seats. Children under 12 years old should stay in the back seat; never install a car seat in the front seat. Keep children in car seats or boosters until they are 4’9”. 

Toddler girl buckled into her car seat

Getting Down to Business: Proper Car Seat Installation and Correctly Buckling Your Child

Car seat installation can be the equivalent of a full-body Olympic workout. To ensure the seat is secure, parents must use all their upper body strength. The seats are bulky, and the parent doing the installation is usually crouched down in a cramped space. 

Parents must put in all of this work for the peace of mind that comes with their child’s safety. That peace of mind comes from knowing that they have correctly installed the car seat.

Some things parents should keep in mind when installing a car seat include:

The One-Inch Rule

You can install your child’s car seat using a car’s LATCH system, or you may use a seat belt. The car seat manual will instruct you on both options (it’s always a good idea to read the manual. Whichever method you choose to secure the seat, it should not move more than one inch in either direction.

family, transport, safety, road trip and people concept - happy mother fastening child with car seat belt

Straps and the Pinch Test

Always check to ensure that the shoulder straps are at the correct height for your child. The manual will have guidance, as the proper placement can vary depending on whether a child is rear or front-facing. As a general rule, straps belong at or below shoulders for rear, for forward, at or above shoulders.

Once a child is buckled in, the straps’ fabric should not give any slack when pinched between your fingers. Perform this pinch test at or near the shoulder or collar bone.

If your child is in a five-point harness, keep the chest clip at arm pit-level.

Remove Coats

Removing your child’s coat before buckling them into their seat is a pain in the winter, but it saves lives. Large, puffy coats put too much distance between the child’s body and the harness in the event of a crash. You don’t want your child to freeze, so blankets in the car are your friend this time of year.

Beautyful smiling baby girl fastened with security belt in safety car seat

Check the Expiration Date

Yes, car seats expire, just like eggs and milk. The plastics on the seat are good for about six years after their manufacture date. If you are planning to hand down a car seat to a younger sibling, make sure it has not expired.

Car Seat Safety Is Worth It

Car seats take a lot of your time and money, that is true. The cost seems relatively small when you realize spending the time and money spent can save your child’s life. 

If you are unsure about installing your child’s car seat yourself, there are places you can go for help. Some fire stations have certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians that will inspect car seats and ensure they are correctly installed.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration allows you to search for certified inspectors near you. Once an expert has reviewed your car seat, you can relax a little bit. Your child’s safety is a big responsibility, so it helps to get a second opinion from a trained authority.

Pregnant woman choosing child car seat in store. Goods for safe children transportation

Twin Cities Kids Club

You want your child to be safe and secure when you chauffeur them to their activities. Getting to a class, activity, or practice on time can be stressful enough without adding safety concerns to the list!

Let Twin Cities Kids Club help take away even more of the stress surrounding activities for your kids. You’ve got the safe car seats. We’ll get your family access to the best in opportunities in your neighborhood. 

TCKC provides information on budget-friendly family events and entertainment, and discounts of up to 50% off at local businesses. Join TCKC for affordable enrichment activities and opportunities that the whole family will love.

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