We’ve received a few questions recently from parents who tell us that their child has figured out how to open the chest clip on their car seat harness. We wanted to share some information that we hope can help in this situation.
Should my child be able to open the chest clip?
The chest clip (harness tie) needs to be both easy for a caregiver to open quickly in an emergency and complex enough for a child to not easily open it. For instance, Graco’s chest clips have 2 buttons which take both knowledge and dexterity to be opened – and while the vast majority of children cannot open the chest clip, there are some children who figure it out. There are also some adults who find it hard to open. We’ve tried to design our harness tie to fall somewhere in the middle of these competing objectives.
My child has figured it out – how do I get him to stop!?
The best way to discourage your child from opening their chest clip is refusing to drive anywhere without them properly strapped in. It takes consistency and some discipline to help them understand that the chest clip needs to stay closed.
Here are some additional tips:
- Has your child been in the car too long? Allow for frequent stops and make sure they have had plenty of exercise before a long trip.
- Set a good example by always buckling yourself in when you get in the car.
- Keep soft toys and cloth books in the car – nothing heavy or with sharp edges that could injure someone in a crash – that can keep a child busy.
- Sing songs together or play music your child enjoys.
- Let your child buckle in a baby doll in a toy car seat (available in the doll section of big toy stores) to help get them involved.
- Finally, do NOT adapt or modify the chest clip in anyway to make it more difficult for the child to open, as the chest clip does need to be easy enough to quickly open in case of an emergency.
If you notice that your child has opened their chest clip while driving, we recommend that you calmly pull over as soon as possible to a safe location, close the chest clip and emphasize to your child the importance of keeping the chest clip closed. While an opened chest clip is important to close as soon as possible, it is perhaps even more critical that the harness straps are in the proper slots and snugly adjusted around your child.
Why kids need to remain strapped in at all times:
First and foremost, it’s extremely important that your child be snugly strapped into their harness at all times. A snug but comfortable harness is important for good protection in case of a crash. If there is a lot of slack in the harness at the time of a crash, the child first moves forward unrestrained but is then abruptly stopped by the loose straps. This can cause greater injury than if the straps were already snugly against the child’s body.
However, the harness should not be too tight either – it shouldn’t press on the child’s flesh or push the child’s body into an unnatural position. A common way to check that the harness is snug enough is the pinch test. After adjusting the harness so it is snug but comfortable, try to pinch the harness webbing along its length (not its width). If you can grab some of the webbing, it is too loose.
Need more information?
Carseat.org offers these and other helpful tips for parents. You are also welcome to get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, here on the blog and by e-mail if you have additional questions or concerns about your chest clip. If you have any concern that the clip might be too tight or too loose, always get in touch with Graco to check.