Colder weather introduces exciting times for kids. It signals coming school breaks and fun holidays, the return of great fall and winter time activities, and the magic of the turning leaves and year’s first snowfall! With the drop in temperature, the sweaters, sweatshirts, and coats are freed from their summertime storage and donned for much needed warmth, but introduces a new challenge and danger parents may not be knowledgeable on how to deal with: the car seat.

Doubtlessly, your child’s usual strap length won’t fit the extra bulk that comes with the warm wear of winter, but you don’t want to sacrifice on their safety through the car ride. Nigh every car seat brand warns not to dress your child in bulky clothes that will hinder the snugness of their harness, and many brands automatically void their warranties should you forgo their directions.   We’re here to break down the rules of winter car seat safety and offer you some solutions to keep the whole journey comfortable and safe for your child.

You might think their straps are tight when buckling in bulk-wear, but there’s a lot of room to deceive the eye.  Test it out yourself: bring the car seat inside and buckle your child in tightly with their fluffy winter coat on, then do so again while their coat is off without adjusting the strap length and the difference will be a little startling!  Even on infants and toddlers, puffy coats can add up to four inches of extra, unsecure volume around their torsos that slackens their safety straps. These four inches significantly increase the chance of injury in a crash, particularly a head injury, and it’s a lot of space compared to the recommended distance of only a quarter-inch – just enough to comfortably slip your finger under.  So how does one fight the winter fluff?

Warm your car up ahead of time
If you foresee a trip soon, idling your car takes car of the outside frost and the inside chill. It takes about ten minutes for your car to be toasty pumping out plenty of hot air, combatting the need for a winter coat once everyone gets inside for the journey to begin.  

Thin layers
Fleece is soft and super warm for its volume, providing plenty of comfort without bulking up.  Nearly every garment can be found in this great, kid friendly material, from cozy leggings, zip ups or hoodies, and buntings or onesies to tight-fitting fleece-lined jackets and blankets. Even thin jackets should preferably be unzipped to allow the straps to be buckled as close to the child’s torso as possible. Then, you can zipper your strapped in child back up to keep the warmth in!  Speaking of blankets:

Cover up
Plenty can go over your child once they’re securely strapped in, making blankets very user friendly to be tucked around your infant or toddler while they’re in the car seat. Older kids can get ingenious and use their thicker winter coats backwards to have their torsos covered yet still have their arms free. The folks at Rockland Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Nanuet, NY suggest checking your car seat brand’s aftermarket products, too!  Many offer special seat-cocooning insulated easy covers, seat ponchos, and poncho blankets specifically designed to surround your child once their safely buckled in. Because it’s from the brand itself, you know these products are specifically crash tested along with the car seat and safe to use. Some bulky children’s jackets these days are being designed with two zippers, one in the front and another on the rear. The back can then be unzippered while the child is seated so that they’re flushed to the car seat, and then following the previous tip, their straps should be secured under the front of the jacket and zippered up afterwards.

Every car seat is different; always consult your car seat’s user manual to see the best configuration of strap length in the winter.  Many come with additional brochures to detail the safe aftermarket products specific to the brand, making research and shopping a little easier for you.  Now you’re ready to journey on, warm and well secure!


Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.