Whether it’s splashing in puddles or building a snowman, winter weather can be a lot of fun for kids. For parents, it means wrapping them up to keep out the wet and chills, but when it comes to putting the kids into car seats it’s vital to remember to remove bulky jackets and winter clothing.
All the extra padding of winter jackets and snow suits are great for keeping out the cold, but they can also prevent the belts of a child seat fitting properly. The difference between a child wearing a winter coat and taking it off can leave enough space for an adult to fit a hand under the belts.
This means the seat belt is simply not being allowed to do its job properly, which means it’s not safe. It also means the child could wriggle his or her hands free from under the belts while the car is driving. Also unsafe. When a child’s seat belt is properly fastened, you should be able to slip two fingers snugly between the belt and the child’s chest. Any more and the belt may irritate the little one’s skin; much less and it can be dangerous.
It is easy to slip into the mindset of bundling the kids into the car quickly because it’s cold outside and you want them to be in the car and warm. On a frosty morning, this might seem like the best plan, but it is better to take the kids’ jackets off and get the car’s heating turned up to full blast.
Let the heater do its job
As you’ll typically need the car’s heater on at a higher temperature and flow to clear the windows of fog and help de-ice the car, it will soon warm up for the kids too. Better still, if it’s safe and secure to do so, turn on the car’s engine five minutes before you need to load up the kids. That way, the car is warming up and demisted ready for you strap in the kids and set off. But don’t do this if in the process the car would become an easy target for thieves.
As such, pre-warming the car is not always possible, so think about layers for the kids’ clothing. Any polar explorer will tell you layers are what keep you warm and not one great big thick jacket. Lots of clothing layers help trap warm air between them to insulate the human body, so pop an extra T-shirt on the kids that they can take off when they reach your destination if they get too warm.
For babies and young children where dressing them can be more of a task, carry a couple of thin blankets in the car. When you take off their jacket and have them properly buckled into their seat, wrap the blanket around them snugly as you would when they are in a cot or pushchair, but never cover their head or face with the blanket.
It might seem like an inconvenience to remove the kids’ jackets every time you buckle them into the car, but it will soon become a habit and they will get into the swing of it. Then you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your children are safely harnessed into their seats.