By Virginia George, Contributing Writer
Where I live in the Midwest it gets cold. Really cold. Because it’s jacket weather for at least 6 months out of the year, finding a safe way to buckle my kids into their car seats while staying warm is a real concern.
All of this, of course, assumes that simply wearing a winter jacket in the car seat isn’t safe. So, is it?
Puffy Jackets Are Not Safe
The problem with simply loosening up your child’s 5 point harness to accommodate winter gear is this: jackets are mostly air.
Most winter jackets insulate with air. There is a liner on the inside, a shell on the outside, and they are designed to hold in… air. This warm pocket of air insulates us against the cold. The problem is, air compresses.
Try this experiment. Buckle your child into their car seat with their coat on. Get it nice and snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch the webbing by their neck). Pull your child out, take off their coat, and put them back in the car seat. See the difference.
In the case of a car accident, as your child moves forward against their restraints, the air compresses, the harness becomes loose, and your child can either sustain injury from being jarred against their loose straps, or they can be ejected from their car seat.
It’s not worth it.
In many states it is illegal to leave your vehicle running while unattended to warm up. It’s unsafe to buckle your children into a car seat with their jacket on. What, then, can we do to keep our children both warm and safe?
Here are 3 ways you can ensure the safety of your children while in their car seats without leaving them exposed.
3 Tips for Winter Car Seat Safety
One simple way to keep your child warm and safe is to simply remove the child’s jacket, buckle them into their seat normally, and put their jacket back on backwards.
This can be a little annoying to the child if their coat has a hood, but once the vehicle has warmed up, the child can simply remove their coat.
Any kind of blanket will do, but fleece is light, warm, and inexpensive. Keep a couple fleece blankets in the car to use on cold days. Simply remove your child’s jacket, buckle them in, and cover with the blanket.
When they get stepped on or dropped in the mud, just wash and repeat! (Tip: to keep fleece snuggly soft, always air dry. The dryer can begin to melt the fleece fuzz and it won’t be as soft.)
Ponchos are my favorite way to keep kids warm and safe in the vehicle during winter months. You don’t even have to sew.
These are my favorite because the kids can walk out to the car in them, and they are removable once buckled in if the child warms up. They are also so simple to put on that even small children who can’t find sleeves or zip can don them on their own on your way out the door.
To buckle in with the poncho, put the back of the poncho over the back of the seat and settle your child in. Lift the front up and buckle them in as normal! You can see the child is totally covered by the poncho, keeping toasty warm, and the car seat straps are snug up against your child’s clothes.
How to Make a Fleece Poncho
Making a poncho is very simple, and can be done with nothing more than a yard of fleece and a pair of scissors. I added hoods to mine, but it’s completely optional.
- Take 1 yard of fleece, cut it into a square.
- Fold into a triangle, then a smaller triangle, and smaller, until it’s as small as you can get it.
- Round the bottom of the poncho (optional).
- Cut 1.5″ (or less) off the point. This is the head hole. You can make it bigger later if you want, but you can’t make it smaller!
That’s it! There’s no front or back, right side or wrong side. Just a little something to keep your little one warm on the way to the car!
If you’d like to add a hood it’s not very difficult, there are just a couple things to consider.
- Find a garment with a hood that fits well. Fold the hood in half and trace it onto an extra piece of fleece. You’ll need 2. Make sure to leave a seam allowance (1/2″ all around).
- Measure the circumference of the head hole. The length of the bottom of the hood should be the same as the circumference of the hole, plus 2″.
- With right sides together, sew the seam down the middle of the hood, connecting the 2 halves. Fold and pin the seam around the face and sew.
- With right sides together, pin the hood to the hole in the poncho, overlapping the front. Sew.
And that’s it!
Booster Seat Safety
What about booster seats? Are jackets safe to wear in boosters? I have a blog post today discussing Booster Car Seat Safety. Hop over there and check it out if you have bigger kids.