The months are getting cooler, and we all know what that means: hot chocolate, holiday lights, and children dressed in adorable winter coats. We love a puffy jacket as much as the next person. But did you know that what your child wears while riding in the car could compromise the safety and effectiveness of their car seat? If you didn’t know that, don’t worry — we have more winter car seat safety tips for you right here. Read on to learn the best ways to keep your kiddo warm and safe all winter long. 

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips for Kids

Why does it matter?

You may be wondering what difference it makes if your child wears a coat under their car seat harness. The truth is that proper car seat safety is a matter of life and death. And even small changes, like a winter coat, can have big consequences. Imagine you are riding on your favorite roller coaster. There is a lap bar that is supposed to fit snugly over your legs for safety. But your jacket is bunched up on your lap and the bar won’t close tightly over it. The ride begins to move, and you realize that the bar isn’t really doing a lot to keep you in your seat. Would you feel safe riding the roller coaster through its loops and down its hills knowing that the only thing preventing you from falling out of the roller coaster wasn’t even properly secured? We know we wouldn’t. 

Your seat’s harness is fitted to your child’s size and weight. Keeping them safe in the event of an accident or even a near-miss. In order to most effectively protect your child, the harness must fit snugly, as close to your child’s body as possible. A puffy jacket or a few thick layers changes the way the harness fits your child. You may even have to adjust the harness to make more room for your child’s coat. This means that your car seat can’t do its job properly. And your child is no longer safe in their seat. What seems like a small adjustment to you is actually a big deal for your child’s safety. 

So what do I do? 

Now that you understand why it’s so important to ditch the bulky clothing in the car seat, you need to know some next steps. And we have them for you: 

Put your coat to the test

Before you change your winter wear game plan, check to see if your child’s coat will work with their car seat. One easy way to do this is to take our Winter Coat Test, which you can download online in our FREE resource: Winter Safety in the Seat. This will be one of the easiest tests you ever take: we walk you through a simple process that allows you to check whether your child’s coat is a good fit for their seat. If your child’s coat can work safely in their car seat, great! We will cheer along with you. But if you find that the coat compromises your seat’s safety, don’t worry — we have more ideas coming. 

Layer it up

If your child’s car seat jacket doesn’t fit under their harness, you can still keep them warm by using multiple thin layers of clothing. A long-sleeved t-shirt over another shirt, for instance, is a great way to add some extra warmth. If you’re still worried about the chill, add a thin fleece jacket as a top layer, along with a fitted hat and some warm gloves. 

Remember, while no one wants their kiddo to be cold, they will warm up quickly in the car. So you don’t have to worry about them staying chilly for long. A good rule of thumb is to consider what they would wear while inside their school or daycare and dress them similarly for your ride. 

Can’t go under it; let’s go over it!

While your child’s jacket may not fit well under their seat, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it! Once your child is safely buckled in their seat, lay their coat over them to help them stay warm. The best part about this idea is that your child’s coat will be right where they need it as soon as you get where you’re going. Meaning, they can slip it on when the car is parked and they are unbuckled. 

You can also use a blanket to spread over your child for the colder months. In fact, you can keep extra blankets in the car all winter long to ensure that you always have one ready and waiting. Make your next road trip extra fun by bringing a blanket with your child’s favorite character or animal on it!

Invest in a new coat

Did you know that there are coats that are specifically designed to be worn safely under a seat harness? It’s true — and we love them. For car seat-safe coats, check out places like Buckle Me Baby Coats and OneKid. Both offer jackets that were created with the purpose of wearing them in a car seat. And these coats aren’t just for the littlest members of your family. You can find a coat for your kiddos all the way up to ten years old! 

If neither of these brands (or others like them!) tickle your fancy, you can also invest in a thin fleece jacket for your child. Which will allow them to continue wearing their coat in their seat without sacrificing safety. While most brands of fleece jackets pass the Winter Coat Test, be sure to walk through the test steps with any jacket your child is wearing before heading out for a drive.

A car seat poncho is also a great option.  Drape it over your child’s car seat after you buckle them in.  Cozy and cute! 

Knowing how to keep your child safe AND warm might seem like a lot of information to remember, but we are always here to help. Check out our Instagram for some additional information on safe car seat coats, more tips and tricks for managing the winter weather safely, and ideas for keeping the chill away while staying as safe as you can.

And if you’re looking for more information on car safety, newest Amazon Live on all things Winter Safety in the car. We have great ideas on what to put in an emergency bag for cold weather.

Never Warm Your Car in the Garage

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a known winter threat. But some feel secure leaving their car running in the garage with the door partially or fully open. 

Contrary to popular belief, carbon monoxide poisoning can still happen with open garage doors in any enclosed space. Never warm your car in the garage even in cold weather and instead back it into the driveway if you want to get the heat pumping before everyone piles in.

Additionally, if you become stuck in a snowstorm, make sure you keep your exhaust pipe clear as the snow and ice pile up to avoid another carbon monoxide poisoning threat. 

Whether you’re prepping for a snowstorm or getting ready for a mild winter, we want to partner with you to keep your whole family safe in cold weather.

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