What Baby Car Seat Accessories Do You Need?Published on 03/07/2023 · 6 min readAside from a car seat, what else do you need to keep your baby happy and comfortable in the car? Here are a few ideas from Baby & Toddler Expert Kristina Spencer!
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik
Car seats are rigorously tested to be as safe as possible so you can be assured your child will be protected while traveling. But, this does not mean it has to be a boring or uncomfortable ride! Just like with your car, there are many car seat accessories available to make your child's time in the car as comfortable and fun as possible. The number of accessories available is seemingly endless, but this article provides some suggestions to make shopping less intimidating.
Car seats are supposed to be snugly attached to the seat of the car, but this can sometimes cause wear and tear on vehicle seats. Using a seat protector under the car seat can keep indents or other damage from ruining the seat’s upholstery or leather. Seat protectors are not just for the rear-facing child, forward-facing car seats and high-back booster seats use a top tether in addition to either the LATCH system attached to lower anchors or a seat belt. A seat protector that goes over the seat back will also protect the top of the seat from being damaged by the tether.
Seat protectors require minimal installation and come in many different styles and sizes. Some are designed to cover the entire bench row of your SUV or minivan, while some are designed for just one car seat. The material of seat protectors is designed to resist scratches and be water resistant, and this durability can also help protect seats from pets that enjoy coming along on car rides.
Seat protectors aren't just for the infant car seat; they can also be very useful under a convertible car seat or a booster seat for older children. Eating in the car without spills is a difficult task even for the tidiest adults, but for a child, it is nearly impossible. So, the next time the kids plead for McDonald's on the way home from their soccer games, you can be relaxed knowing the mess from dropped French fries and spilled beverages will not get past the seat protectors.
Seat protectors can also bring an end to worries about whether moisture from wet swimsuits will seep through towels and into the upholstery. Basically, they’ll make clean-up easier and your life less stressful!
Being too hot or too cold is unpleasant for anyone, but it is especially so for babies who are typically sensitive to temperature. They are unable to clearly explain what is causing them discomfort, so even though you can't read minds, you try to think ahead about what would make them fuss and cry. Getting on top of their climate comfort is one way to do this.
If you live in the southern areas of the U.S. where summer temperatures can feel like the surface of the sun, then you know the dreaded pain of touching a seat belt buckle or leaning back against the seat while wearing shorts and a tank top. If it's so uncomfortable for you, imagine how it feels on a baby's tender skin! The last thing anyone wants to do during that heat is to strap a child into their car seat and have the fabric of the seat be too hot or the buckles burn them. Using a sun shield for the car seat will keep both the seat surface and buckles cool.
Bright and sunny days are wonderful…until you're stuck riding in the car for hours with the sun blazing down on you. Not only is it hot and unpleasant, but it can also cause sunburn. Window shades will keep the little ones shaded, cool, and protected while in the car. If you use shades with fun characters on them, you might provide some entertainment for them as well.
Blankets and Covers
For most climates, a simple knit blanket is all you need to keep a baby comfortable in the car. However, in northern climates where winter is bitter and dangerous for exposed skin, a thin blanket might not be enough. In those areas, a warm cover is necessary to get from the house to the car, but snowsuits, winter jackets, and car seats are not a good combination for a child's safety. The puffiness of the jacket can create extra space between the child and the car seat harness, which stops it from properly protecting them. Instead, a machine washable car seat cover designed to work with the harness’s straps is a safer alternative for those cold winter days because it will keep the baby warm without interfering with the harness or the lap belt used to install your child's car seat.
Children and toys go together like ice cream and chocolate sauce, or on some days, like Bonnie and Clyde! Since bringing the entire toy bin along for a quick trip to the store is impractical, how can the kids be kept entertained without it looking like the toys exploded all over the car?
To keep the children's toys organized in the car, consider a storage tote that will sit between the back seats. It can hold anything children may need or desire while in their car seats and keep it comfortably within their reach.
Infant car seats are installed rear-facing for a child's safety but this position makes it rather difficult to check on the little one while driving. Attaching a mirror to the headrest in front of the child is a great way to provide a little bit of entertainment for them, and when angled just right, allows the driver to keep an eye on them in the rear-view mirror.
It's important to follow the instructions when installing mirrors on headrests because any object not securely installed can turn into a projectile in the event of a crash.
Extra Support and Seat Belt Comfort
Infant Support Inserts or Strap Covers
If the infant car seat does not come with harness covers or an infant insert for additional support, review the car seat manual to see if either of these will be compatible with the car seat. The standard car seat harness might not always be the most comfortable, so strap covers protect the tender skin on your child's shoulders when the straps are tightened properly. Also, a head support insert is a good addition to keep the newborn nice and comfortable in their rear-facing car seat while they are still developing their neck strength.
Seat Belt Pillows
Older children that use a backless booster seat or ride in the seat itself will still get sleepy on long car rides. Instead of using a blanket, stuffed animal, or loose pillow between your child's head and the shoulder belt, a seat belt pillow is a better option to make them comfortable while sleeping. The seat belt pillow wraps around the vehicle's seat belt and provides extra padding and a soft surface to lean against. It, therefore, maximizes comfort without compromising the safety of the seat belt position.
While some aftermarket products are available, it is a good idea to purchase any accessories that attach to your car seat from the manufacturer of your car seat to ensure that they fit properly and don't interfere with safety.
These recommendations cover all the basics of what will make the car as comfortable as possible for the baby, which will also make the car a much more pleasant place for the parents. A Baby & Toddler Expert on Curated can help you understand the different accessories available for your baby’s car seat to help your little one (and you) have a good experience in the car.