When it comes to having a big family, one of the concerns you have is logistics. Where is everyone going to sleep, eat, and sit in the car? Putting more than two children in a vehicle, mean there are definitely something you have to some things to consider when buying car seats for large families.
Things to Consider When Buying Car Seats When You Have a Large Family
1. Seat Width and Car Equipment
If you are expanding your family, it doesn’t always mean you can afford to expand other things, like your vehicle size. Buying a new car, minivan, or SUV to contain your growing brood just isn’t an option for everyone. So, it is often very important to consider the width of the car seats, booster seats, or infant carriers and their bases you are buying or already own. Those built-in cup holders on both sides, super huge head supports, and wide bases may not cut it when you have to fit three car seats across one row of seats in the back of your small car. You can also look for infant car seats that do not require you to use the base and simple secure them with the lap belt. This can free up more room in the vehicle as well. While three across in a car (versus in an SUV or van) will always be a tight squeeze, there are slimmer, narrower bases and seats out there that can make it still at least possible to fit them all in there, well depending exactly on how small your vehicle really is.
The great thing is that you can take your car to a place like Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby and test out some of their demo car seats in your own vehicle to see how well (or not) they will fit. BabyCenter also has a list of 27 car seats that fit 3-across as well.
If you will also be transporting car seats from one vehicle to another for whatever reason (childcare at grandma’s, split custody, etc), you may also want to keep in mind how heavy or bulky some seats are. Some are very heavy, not easy to install or uninstall quickly or easily, and may not fit in the other vehicle as well as in your own.
Another thing you want to be aware of is the availability of top tethers and LATCH anchors in your car. Not all cars have them three across, which might limit how the seats fit in your vehicle, as well as how long you can rear or forward face using them.
Since many large families do hand down the car seats to a younger child, it’s important to think about what fabric, colors, and patterns you are choosing when buying a new car seat. It can be so much fun and so tempting as a first time parent to buy everything blue or pink, but going with neutral colors for the car seat (at least) is often a very wise decision. While a boy certainly can use pink products, and a girl blue ones, the older they get, the less they may appreciate being in a “boy” or “girl” color as much.
No matter if you choose to buy an infant car seat, convertible car seat, high backed booster, regular booster, you do want to think about the quality of the seats. How well will a certain car seat hold out, how easy is it to clean, to buckle in (aka not like a jigsaw puzzle) and to install. If you are going to be using a car seat for multiple years, it also needs to have a long time until it will hit the manufacturer’s expiration date (yes, car seats do have expiration dates).
4. How Many Car Seats: Hand them down or buy one each?
There seems to be a few options when it comes to the passing down of car seats between family members.
One Car Seat to Last Each Child
One option is to buy extended height and weight convertible car seats that will allow one child to safely remained in a 5-point harness from birth until they are no longer required by law to use a car seat or booster seat at all, especially if your children run small to average in size. This usually means buying a more expensive car seat for each new child. However, it should mean you only have to buy that one seat, and not an infant carrier, convertible, backed booster, and then a backless booster for every child (or at least the first child). So, it could potentially save you money, as well as time spent looking for new car seats later. But, there are disadvantages of this, like not having that easy to carry around infant car seat, or a lightweight booster or car seat to move from one vehicle to the next (as several of these types of seats can be pretty heavy and bulky).
But, some children are extra large and still will need a booster seat someday anyway. Other families don’t want to do extended rear-facing for four years or have their child in a 5-point harness until they are 8 years old. And unfortunately, a few just don’t have the means to spend what the higher price tag on one of these top of the line car seats asks, let alone for every single child. And for some, three (big) convertible car seats would just not fit their vehicle.
Multiple Car Seat Options – Passing them Along
In our family, we have chosen to buy (or acquire) the different sized seats as we need them, and to then move the next child up into them.
For our twin daughters, we used two infant car seat carriers. These were priceless with two babies to transport around. Shortly after a year, they outgrew them in height, and we started using some very basic convertible car seats, rear facing them for a few more months before turning them forward facing. When our son was born, he simply used one of his sister’s infant carriers. He used that until about a year old and then moved up into one of his sister’s convertible car seats. This meant we bought some very basic backless booster seats for our 4 year old girls so that Michael could have one of their seats.
However, we are now expecting baby #4 in about three month’s time. We again intend to use the same infant car seat for her as with our older children. However, the car seat’s expiration date is coming up in December of this year. Many parents with large families recommend getting the infant carriers that fit a child up to 32″ and/or 35lbs (ours is 29″) so as to give yourself more breathing room between the seat juggling.
So, while we are debating some about buying a new infant carrier, we do have another option. We can move our son up to a new car seat that will still be safe for his age and size, and our new babe can start using the convertible seat he’s been using.
We recently received an Evenflo Advanced Transition 3-in-1 Booster Seat. This car seat will allow our (then 2.5+ year old) son to stay in a five point harness and forward face safely, and then be able to move up into the next phases – backed booster and then a backless booster – when the time is right.
The forward facing 5-point harness supports children from 28″-50″ and 22lbs up to 65lbs (or until their shoulders are above the highest harness level). This means our son can easily move up into this seat at any time we need him to. And once he’s ready for a booster seat at 4 years old and 40lbs, he already has two different options built into this seat! All three versions of the seat meet or exceed all applicable Federal Safety Standards and has a two position recline and height adjustable headrest.
The seat itself is pretty awesome, with the extra Comfort Tech padding, sporty design, dual seat integrated cup holders, and easy installation! The car seat comes with these great gray devices called Latch Guides that hook onto the LATCH anchors and make it easy to find them with the quick connector LATCH hooks, which are super easy to clip on and pull off. This is awesome since the LATCH hooks for us have always been a pain to install and remove, especially after you’ve tightened them down really well. This makes installation and removal really easy in case you need to move the seat from one car to the next.I honestly feel much better having a backed booster for him when he turns four. We didn’t do that with the girls, and I think it would be safer for him for at least a year to use. The seat is only $149.88 at Walmart, and since it will be the last car seat I’ll need to use with my son, I feel like it’s a pretty sweet deal.
For our family having car seats that will grow with our children, but also be convenient – infant carriers and booster seats – is how we manage multiple children of different ages.
Car seats can be very expensive, some well up into the $300 price range. Most people who are having multiple children, especially not far apart in age (with less than a 4 year age gap in particular), do not want to be shelling out hundred of dollars for new car seats every time they have a new baby every 2+ years. Many large families don’t worry so much about fit (because they do have that bigger vehicle), or longevity, or colors, as they do about one thing – cost. With multiple children going through the car seats, some seats just get worn, abused, or simply expire before you are done having a child who needs a car seat that size. So, to limit costs, they just spend less on all of their car seats. They opt for ones without all the extra padding, easy-to-install features, extended rear-facing/forward-facing capabilities, and just stick with the basics. All car seats are crash-tested and approved for use, so they are all safe options still for your children (just maybe the best and most safest ever). It’s a personal and often economical choice that many families make who have large families.
Comment below with things you find important when using car seats for multiple children.
Evenflo® is taking extended use and comfort to the next level with the introduction of the Advanced Transitions 3-in-1 car seat. Visit Evenflo.com for more information.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Evenflo®. The opinions and text are all mine.