With colder weather fast approaching, it's time to turn our attention towards winter safety.
It goes without saying that we all want our kids to be safe, happy, comfortable and warm as temperatures drop, snowflakes begin to fall, and snowmen take up residence in front yards all throughout the neighborhood. With good intentions we bundle them up in their puffy winter jackets, hats and mittens, strap them in their car seats, and over the river and through the woods we go. But did you know that the warm winter jacket they're wearing could be a safety hazard when combined with a car seat? All that extra insulation in a puffy winter jacket creates more space between your child and the 5-point harness, giving you the sense that the harness is properly tightened when it is actually too loose. That extra space compresses in a crash and can allow them to move beyond the protective shell of the car seat, and even be ejected from their car seat.
How To Keep Them Safe AND Warm
Layer up! Dress your child in thin, close-fitting layers that can be worn together. Long-sleeve t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters and thin fleece jackets are great alternatives to a puffy winter jacket when traveling in the car. Once they’re properly harnessed in their car seat there’s no harm in placing a snuggly blanket over them for an added layer of warmth.
If you really want to use their puffy winter jacket, go ahead and remove the jacket and buckle your child in their seat, making sure the harness is properly tightened. Then put their jacket on backwards over the harness! They'll stay safe and warm and can easily remove the jacket if they get too hot once the heat kicks in.
Hats and mittens are totally fine too. Since we lose an estimated 10% of our body heat through our head it’s important to keep those little domes covered! What about keeping your kids warm when going from the house to the car? Take a look at a great little idea called wearable blankets, or car seat ponchos. These super smart inventions are perfect for toddlers and older children. And for the younger bambinos, wrap them in a blanket for the trip from house to car.
Keep car blankets stored indoors when not in use. Keeping them in your vehicle might be convenient but they’ll be cold when you first put them over your kiddo.
How To Check If the Harness Is Tight Enough
You’ve probably heard of “The Pinch Test.” Recommended by car seat experts and used by parents and caregivers, the pinch test is the best way to check for a properly tightened harness. Here’s how it works: Once you’ve buckled and tightened the harness, try to pinch the webbing with your thumb and finger at the collar bone. If you can pinch any of the webbing between your fingers, it’s too loose. If you can’t pinch any webbing then the harness is properly tightened.
Want to know how much extra space there is between your child and the harness when they’re wearing their puffy winter jacket? Put your child in their car seat while wearing their winter coat, buckle and adjust the harness so it passes the pinch test. Without loosening the harness, unbuckle the harness and take them out of their seat. Remove the coat and put them back in the car seat. Buckle the harness but don’t tighten it. You’re likely to notice it’s much looser, does not fit securely against their body and doesn’t pass the pinch test. This is a sign that the harness is too loose when the coat is being worn. It’s a good idea to do this test with all your child’s winter clothing so you’ll know what can and can’t be worn under the harness when heading out for winter adventures.