When Your Toddler Can Undo His Chest Clip

RFFor a while, my biggest concern about having my child rearfacing longer was his comfort. It does look funny when you see a toddler facing backwards, legs dangling, up on the seat, or one of each. Still, he has never complained about his legs, so I maintained my stance on rearfacing as long as possible. He is under the weight and height requirements, so, logically, I want to keep him as safe as possible.

To be safe, however, the car seat must be used properly. Proper usage includes having the chest clip where it needs to be (level with the armpits), and of course, clipped.

Imagine the leap my heart made when, one day, I went to take my son from his seat and his chest clip was hanging open. I know I clipped it shut. I always double check the seats before I get in the vehicle, and then again in the rear-view mirror before I drive off. He had undone it himself.

My son is 3 1/2 years old. He’s at that age where he has learned or is learning different closures. Snaps, buttons, zippers, buckles… all sorts of things. If they can open and close, he’s curious. In fact, if they can just move, he’s curious. He had also been sliding his chest clip way high or way low. Obviously, this is not safe.

Logical reasoning doesn’t always work with a toddler, so what do you do in that circumstance? For me, I had to use what I know would work. My son dislikes going to the doctor and hospital (poor kid has gone a lot due to asthmatic issues), so I had to use that. I never will threaten with a visit to the doctor to get him to do something like pick up his toys, but when the doctor really IS a possibility I don’t feel bad mentioning it. I had to use what would work, and use what I know he already knew a lot about.

My son is obsessed with cars. Not just vehicles, but race cars. He loves the Disney movie CARS (and CARS II), and has seen both many times. This means he has also seen the crashes in those movies. Using his knowledge of crashes, I tried to explain that if something happens and another vehicle hits mommy’s van (or vice versa), we could get very hurt. Our seat belts and car seats are designed to help us not get as hurt if that happens, and will make it so we might not have to go to the doctor or hospital.

I then tried to explain, as simply as possible, that the clip he was playing with would help keep his straps exactly where they need to be so he will be held nice and snug in his seat if someone crashes into us. I showed him where it needed to be to keep him the safest possible. I also showed him a video of a crash test dummy (they are obviously not real… didn’t want to scare him!) showing what happens in a forward facing vs. rear facing crash test. Although he has never questioned turning around (yet), I used the video to illustrate how the straps held the “doll” in place (and I simply emphasized the rearfacing dummy).

He is still very eager to take the buckle off, but now he begs and begs once the car is stopped to do it all by himself. We made a rule that he is only allowed to touch the clip if mommy and daddy are standing next to him and the car/van is NOT running. He has accepted these conditions, thankfully, so we seem to be riding safe once again.

Christine Kangas is a mother of two who’s trying to lead a greener life for her and her family. She lives in the mid-western U.S. in a modest house (that needs a lot of work!) with her three cats.

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