“Time to load up!”
I call to my kids whenever we are heading out to go to town.
And of course, with that, I know that it also means that it’s also time to do a vehicle and car seat check. These extra steps only take a few minutes, but it’s our little ritual to make sure that everything is good to go, safe, and comfortable.
The first thing I do is take a peek around the interior of the car to see if we’ve left any clutter hanging around from our previous ride.
(I honestly try to clean out the car each time we get home, but when it’s cold and dark and I’m tired, sometimes that just doesn’t happen as it should.)
So, I use these moments to see if a can of corn escaped from a shopping bag, if a big kid left a library book tucked away, or if last week’s sippy cup got forgotten.
This is basically my “mom effort” to eliminate any potential hazards that could become airborne projectiles in the event of an accident, while also trying to keep a bit of order in the court.
After this task, I turn my attention to my toddler’s car seat. I double-check to make sure no one has unlatched it accidentally (missing that is a sure-fire way to feel awful if you find out after you’ve arrived at your destination!).
I also periodically check for any twisting or fraying of the seatbelt, because you can never be too sure!
Then I check to make sure that the car seat is adjusted to the correct angle and that the headrest is and shoulder straps are in the right spot for the height of my child.
Usually, all is well, but occasionally I can tell that someone has attempted to adjust something and messed it all up. This is especially true if the seat has been recently moved from one vehicle to another or was carried into the house at some previous point.
(I have had to remind my family multiple times that what appears to be a handle is ACTUALLY the adjustment lever!)
If for any reason I notice during all these checks that my kid has made a horribly gross mess in their seat that I was unaware about, I generally do my best to wipe out the worst of it and then make a mental note (or physically put it on my to-do list) to have a car seat washing day as soon as possible.
In summertime, I always check the temperature of the inside of the car seat, including the metal buckle and chest clip.
If my kiddo is wearing shorts or a tank, I don’t want any screams of “Mommy, that’s burning HOT!” if contact is made with bare skin.
In wintertime, I don’t worry about the temperature (maybe I would if we lived in Alaska!) but I always double-check the clothing status of anyone being buckled into a car seat. No super thick clothing or puffy coats are allowed!
Honestly, since the walk out to the car is so short, we usually just carry the coats (or blankets!) and tuck them in around the kids AFTER they are strapped into place. It really is a hassle to put on a coat for like 2 seconds, so this is what works best for us.
Once I have lifted (or helped guide) each child into their rightful seat, we get to strapping in. Toddlers LOVE to snap their own chest clips closed, I’ve noticed, so unless I want to deal with a major melt-down, I spare a few moments for them to make that magic happen. If they are struggling I lend a helping hand, of course, but your mileage may vary.
Once all buckles are snapped into position, I tighten the shoulder straps and do the pinch test. (Gone are the days when we measure how many fingers you can slide in, rather just see if you can grab any excess slack between your fingers.
If so, it’s still too loose!). Then I position the chest clip across their nipple line and declare them safe and snug!
Beyond that, I also make sure that all children who are using boosters or seat belts have given me the go-ahead that they are all properly seatbelted into position.
We are pretty obsessed with car seat safety, so this ritual car seat check has become a way of life for us and we don’t go anywhere without going through these motions.
In fact, if anyone tries to take my kids anywhere, they insist that someone does all the safety checks because they know that their lives could depend on it.
I love how vocal they can get if anyone dares to start backing up the car before every click is finished. They make me so proud!
Do you also have a series of checks that you do before you load up your child before taking a ride?
We would love to hear about your experiences!
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