Car Seat Hacks You Need to Know

As parents, we are constantly juggling an innumerable number of to-dos and worries. Keeping your kids healthy, happy, and safe can sometimes seem overwhelming. The more life hacks you have under your belt, the better. That definitely includes car seat hacks.

When faced with traveling in a vehicle with car seats, questions tend to arise, such as whether you have the right one, is it installed properly, and oh my goodness how do you clean vomit out of a car seat? 

Read on to discover tips and tricks to car seat life that will help you at least appear like you have it all together. A few car seat hacks can make daily travel much safer and efficient for your family.

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Choose the Right Car Seat

Choosing the right car seat that corresponds to your child’s age and weight and having it properly installed helps to protect your precious cargo. The table below can guide you as to what type of car seat to use at each stage and can help guide you to the best options for your vehicle and child:

AgeCar Seat Type
Birth-12 MonthsRear-Facing Car Seat
1-3 YearsRear-facing 
4-7 YearsFront Facing with harness and tether (remain rear-facing as long as possible!)
8-12 YearsBooster (based on manufacturer’s recommendation)
13 Years+Back Seat is always safest but at age 13+ sitting in the front seat is okay

Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for weight and height limits allowed by each type of car seat before upgrading your child’s seat.

When shopping for a car seat it is best to look for seats that allow for extended rear-facing. Keeping your child rear facing for as long as possible is the best way to keep them safe. There may be all sorts of fun, bright colors and patterns and designs when it comes to car seats but stick with what’s most important – features to help keep your kids safe!!!

You can learn more about car seat safety and finding the best seat for your baby here.

Make Sure it is Installed 100% Correctly

You’ve shopped and compared car seats, and now you’re ready to install. The most important step, and I can’t stress this enough, follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Save the “I don’t need instructions” attitude for a less crucial project. 

When we install seats I like to have the manual out and read it aloud while my husband does the grunt work πŸ˜‰ I don’t trust myself to be able to tighten the seat as tight as it can possibly go so he usually does the majority of the car seat vehicle installation!

After reviewing the instructions, be sure to check that you have not made these common mistakes:

  • Children’s car seats should not be placed in a front seat
  • Reclining the seat at an improper angle 
  • Car seat is too loose – there should be very little movement

If you have followed the instructions to the letter and are still second-guessing yourself, don’t worry. You can have a certified inspector check your work. It’s as simple as clicking here to visit NHTSA and typing in your zip code.

Think you’ve got it installed correctly and are ready to hit the road? Be sure to check over these three crucial things you may not know about keeping your kids safe in their car seats.

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Car Seat Hacks: A Properly Fitted Harness Saves Lives

Once your car seat is installed correctly, it is time to get the little one buckled in and head out for some adventures. This safety hack for car seats involves the harness. This is the belt system that makes your kiddo look like they are ready for a space launch.

The fit of the harness should be snug but not tight.  After removing slack by pulling the tether, check that the chest clip lines up with your child’s armpits and is flat against their chest.

Be sure to use the correct harness slots for the car seat straps. They should be within an inch of their shoulders.

It is also crucial to make sure the car seat strap is not twisted. It should lay flat on the child prior to buckling it into the crotch buckle.

Just like keeping a child rear facing for as long as possible is the safest way to travel, as is keeping a child in a five point harness seat for as long as possible too. When shopping for convertible car seats be sure to look for options that allow for taller height limits and higher weight limits to keep the five point harness option for as long as possible prior to transitioning into a high back booster seat.

So often people focus on car seat safety for babies and toddlers, but it’s super important to be JUST as mindful about keeping older kids safe in the car too. Be sure to read this post on car seat safety beyond age two!

car seat hacks how to fix a stuck car seat

Car Seat Hacks: How to Fix a Stuck Car Seat

Whether it’s time to upgrade to the next stage, use a different vehicle, or discover the small metropolis of cracker crumbs and wrappers that have populated beneath the car seat, occasions arise when you need to remove it from your vehicle. 

If you try to remove the car seat and find that the buckle won’t release, thankfully there is an easy fix for stuck car seats.

Check out how easy this car seat hack is: Just move your kiddo temporarily out of the seat and kneel or sit on it. The weight of an adult will compress the seat and create some slack.

This often helps relieve tension on the buckle and allows it to unlatch. If you are petite, you may need to use some jugs of water or get a friend to help!

Car Seat Hacks: Stay Away from Bulky Clothing

Keeping your bundle of joy bundled is very important but think twice before you pack the Marshmallow Man into his car seat. 

Bulky clothing may appear as though it creates a snug cocoon; however, the air space between the layers is compressed in a crash, creating slack in the harness. This results is a loose fit that can allow for movement or even ejection from the safety of the car seat.

Here are some car seat hacks to keep kids warm in a car without jeopardizing the fit of their car seat:

  • Use thin layers instead of one bulky layer
  • Wear hats and mittens
  • Lay a winter coat or small blanket over their lap after the harness has been buckled (never put clothing or blankets under your child or between them and the straps)

Wearing an extra layer or adding on cozy mittens may take an extra minute or two, but in return, you can have confidence knowing your child’s car seat and harness are fitted properly.

There are many different ways to help keep baby warm while traveling in the car and you can find more tips for keeping baby warm and safe in their car seat here.

car seat hacks

Car Seat Hacks: Medical Information

Often, parents can be found unconscious in an accident, leaving them unable to convey important medical information about their child.

One of the most simple, quick, and inexpensive car seat hacks is to attach important medical and emergency contact information to your child’s car seat. This provides first responders with vital information such as allergies to medications, medical conditions, blood type, and emergency contacts.

You can quickly make one of these tags yourself by repurposing a luggage tag or creating one from scratch. Keep in mind that it is not recommended to use tape to attach the information due to the degradation of car seat plastic from the adhesive.

If you’re looking for a quick, readymade hack, check out these products:

 With this hack that only a takes couple of minutes, you can make a big difference.

Making Your Vehicle Kid-Ready and Mom Approved – What to Keep on Hand:

Since we spend so much time in our vehicles it’s important to be prepared. As a parent we ALL know that preparation is key to success, and often just to survival.

As a van-mom myself I have plenty of space to store must-have items as well as little kits I put together so I’ll have whatever I may need within arms reach at all times in the car.

The two most essential must-have items? Baby wipes and a roll of paper towels. My husband laughs at me for my massive paper towel roll in my passenger seat but it comes in SO HANDY. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve had to use paper towels for over the years!

I also keep plastic bags as trash bags. Yes, my car is still a wreck but it helps make clean-up go a little quicker when there is already a designated spot for trash!

Even though we live in a warmer climate I also always try to have a bottle of water on hand in my vehicle for times when a kid gets thirsty or a spill needs to be quickly cleaned up. Leather seats, leather surfaces, cloth seats, car carpet, whatever the interior of your car may be – clean water can be used on anything, anywhere and help in some way! Even if it is summertime, warm water helps clean up those messes even if you can’t really drink it πŸ˜‰

Growing up I was very prone to motion sickness (and still need to sit in the front seat while traveling) however I have never had many issues with actually throwing up due to feeling sick. I went through THREE kids who never got car sick either but my fourth baby has thrown me for a loop πŸ˜‰

We have had several times where he has gotten sick in the car and my poor van has had its fair share of bad smells, especially the smell of vomit. After a couple times of cleaning vomit particles out of the car seat I’ve started to try to be proactive in helping prevent him from getting sick and have put together a car sickness survival kit that has been a game changer and SO helpful to have on hand at all times!

It is also wise to keep some quick-grab items in the car to allow for spontaneous fun moments too! Especially during the summer months when the kids are all out of school and we are more flexible with our time to be able to go and do and create memories together as as family I like to have these 7 essential car staples in my van!

Car Seat Posts You May Find Helpful:

Thrills, Spills, and Oh No How do you Clean That?

You can say goodbye to that new car smell as soon as you drive it off the lot when it comes to having kids and being a busy family it means you spend a generous amount of time practically living in your car! That means many meals on the go and snacks in the car and, yup, even dreaded car sickness moments too.

Leftover spoiled food. Liquid spills. I’ve even had melted CRAYONS on my daughter’s car seat cover. But the worst is probably cleaning vomit that results from motion sickness or even a stomach bug. I’ve had it ALL. Car seats can easily become covered in yucky vomit stains that leave a lingering vomit smell.

When it comes to cleaning anything from car seats (which includes how to clean up vomit), it is best to use the KISS rule; keep it simple silly!

First thing the easiest way to clean car interiors is to use a vacuum cleaner to get up any larger pieces. This includes vomit particles too.

Leather upholstery is, of course, an easier cleaning process than cloth upholstery when getting up stains and other messes from the interior of your vehicle. You may want to use specialty designed car upholstery cleaners on your car surfaces but be much more careful when it comes to the seat belts and car seat cleaning!

For the fabric portion of the car seat, the important thing is to follow your manufacturer’s instructions. The last thing you need is to alter the fit of the car seat’s cover or otherwise reduce its effectiveness. It is crucial to follow the directions and not use any harsh household cleaning products on the straps especially.

Instead, use a gentle mild soap such as baby bath soap or the blue Dove soap with a wet, but not dripping, washcloth. Just a damp cloth is all you need and then dab and wipe. Let dry and repeat if necessary. 

You may also want to mix up a baking soda paste with equal parts baking soda and water to put over the stain to help absorb the scent and remove vomit as well as clean the car seat cover. This simple cleaning solution can be used anywhere in your vehicle for an easy cleaning method. Sprinkling baking soda over a sour smelling car seat can also help freshen up the overall scent.

Now for the car seat harness straps. As much as you want to put them on the radioactive setting in your washer, DON’T.

These straps are specially designed by the car seat manufacturer to provide subtle stretching in the event of an accident to absorb and reduce the force transmitted to your little one. Soaking them can cause their elasticity to falter, so follow the gentle soap method stated above.

Do NOT put them in the washing machine or use any sort of harsh chemicals or household products. Patience and a mixture of part water, part dish soap and a clean rag is your best bet to remove any fresh vomit or other spills or stains from your car seat straps as well as any stained area on a seat belt. Good luck…and you may also want to invest in a strong air freshener for awhile too πŸ˜‰

Keeping Your Kids Entertained on Car Rides

If you haven’t already needed this car seat hack, you will. Keeping kids entertained in the car can be frustrating on a good day and seemingly impossible on long road trips. But we’ve got your back.

For the itty bitties, many interactive and engaging toys can provide stimulating lights, sounds, textures, and music.

Many options are available that hang from the carrier’s handle, putting them in easy reach of baby. There are also activity bars that clip on to most baby carriers providing multisensory stimulation:

Toddlers become surprisingly capable of letting you know when they are bored in their own charming way.

So, head it off by playing some games. Not only with this be entertaining for them, but you can also help to reinforce their development. 

Some longtime favorites include:

  • Practice the Alphabet. Reinforce sequence and memorization of letters by singing along to the Alphabet Song. For older kids, you can also search for the letters in sequence on signs, billboards, and license plates that you pass by.
  • Play the Animal Name Game. Each family member takes turns naming an animal, and you can’t repeat one that has already been called out. You can kick this up a notch with older kids by incorporating the Alphabet where the animal name has to start with the following letter of the Alphabet.

My personal favorite way to keep my toddlers entertained on car rides (especially my youngest who is always stuck in a carpool line for an older sibling or being hauled around for practices or games!) is to keep several look and find books on hand, these are great for little ones and prevent ripped pages too:

If you run out of ideas, just try thinking back to the games you played in the car as a kid. Chances are they are still around and very popular!

Planning a longer road trip? Here are my road trip tips with kids!

how to clean vomit from a car seat

Kids Don’t Come with a User’s Manual

Remember, you and your child’s car seat share the same primary function, safety. Be sure to refer to the manufacture’s information for proper installation and use. Once you have that pegged down, start off on some adventures. 

Having little ones in the vehicle can be challenging at first, but with these car seat hacks, you’ll be on your way to feeling confident as a parent. That is, until life throws you a curve and your little one surprises you again. πŸ˜‰

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, FacebookΒ and Pinterest!

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