Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Car Seat Safety

I was shocked when I learned that it is unsafe for my child to wear a coat while in their car seat.  It had never occured to me that loosening the straps to fit over my child with their jacket or coat on would allow the straps to be too loose to safely keep my child in their seat if we were involved in an accident.  Clothing, especially big fluffy coats, will compress in an accident and the straps will not adiquately secure your child in their seat.

The delema once I knew this bit of information was what to do to keep my child warm.  Taking their coat on and off while entering and exiting the vehicle did not seem practical when it was cold and windy outside, especially when you just needed to make a short trip from the car to a warm building.  So after some searching, I found that many people have solved this problem by using ponchos.

A poncho allows the seatbelt to be buckled underneith it.  Some people use ponchos that have an opening in the back and others simply drape the back of the poncho over the back of the car seat.  These ponchos can easily be made yourself using a little fleece.  There are lots of instructions on-line for no-sew ponchos like this one, but I wanted one that was double layer and circular, so I came up with something a little different.  You can easily make one too.

Here's what I did.  Warning, I am not a crafty person or an experienced sewer, but I'll do my best to describe how I made a circular fleece ponch for kids:
  • Fold your fleece in half and then in half again so your fabric is in quarters.  Repeat with your other fleece if you are planning to do two layers.
  • Measure the distance from your child's neck to where you want the poncho to fall (I recommend about halfway down their hand).  Take that measurement and measure from the inside corner fold of your fleece out towards the edge.  Mark the measurment and then move the measuring tape from the corner like a compass marking what will be the bottom edge of the poncho.  Also mark the inside corner fold (this will be the center mark of your poncho and become the neck opening).
  • Cut all four layers along the marks you made.  If you are doing two layers, line them both up together and cut all at once.  You will need good scissors and to go slow, but this will make sure that both layers are cut the same.
  • Next you need to measure around your child's head, then divide that number by 3.14.  This will give you an idea of how wide the neck opening needs to be, but it's better to start out too small and need to make it bigger, so you may want to take a little off that measurement and then try the opening over your child's head.  If it's too small, cut a little more until it fits.
  • Open the fleece so it's only folded once in half.  Lay one layer of fleece over the other lining up the center points.  Measure the opening with equal distance on each side of the center mark and then cut a half oval through both layers of fleece.  This is your neck opening and should be an oval shape when the poncho is opened.
  • Now open the outside or top layer of fleece and lay it flat with the right side of the fabric facing up.  Line up the second or inner layer of fleece over the top of the first, also right side facing up.
  • Sew the two layers together at the neck opening.
  • Now take the top layer (which will be the second or bottom layer on the finished product) and feed it through the neck whole.  This should make that layer of fleece now be underneith the top layer and the neat side of the seam should be showing.
  • Finishing touches:
    • Cut about an inch of fleece off of the top layer to allow the bottom layer to peek out from the bottom
    • Leave the bottom edge of the poncho raw, or finish each layer with a hem.  You can also cut strips in the bottom and tie knots in each one for a different look.
Sorry I don't currently have pictures of the instructions, but I did my best to explain them.  I'll try to get some pictures of the finished product up when I can.

To find out more about car seat safety, check out these pages:

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families-2010.aspx

http://babyproducts.about.com/od/carseats/a/carseatcoat.htm

http://pediatrics.about.com/od/carseats/a/0107_wintercoat.htm

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