Coats And Car Seats: How To Keep Safe AND Warm!

Can you stay safe AND warm in the car this winter! YES! Learn all about coats and car seat safety and how to tell if you child’s coat is too bulky to wear in their car seat!


Winter has definitely arrived and we’ve had some pretty cold days here in Central Kentucky. Heavy winter coats may seem like the perfect solution for keeping your little ones warm in the car on these cold winter mornings. But are they really? Do coats and car seats mix?

Coats And Car Seats How to Stay Safe AND Warm

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As I said in my last post about my favorite winter coats for toddlers and preschoolers…warm enough is warm enough. And I truly believe and stand by that. However, there is no such thing as safe enough. A scenario is either safe or unsafe. There is no in between and there is no settling when it comes to the safety of my children.

Coats And Car Seats: How to Stay Safe And Warm

Last month I wrote about how my kiddos are only ever put in the car in a fleece jacket and that heavy winter coats are reserved for outside play. You may have been very confused by this and had lots of questions about my choices. (I would absolutely love to hear them…so please comment!) There is a very good, strong, and important reason why my children will never wear a heavy winter coat in the car. It simply isn’t safe.

Why? Let me share with you!

Heavy winter coats are incredibly bulky and create airspace between your child and the car seat straps. You do not want any airspace. In the event of an accident, the force of the crash would cause the jacket to compress even more than it did when you tightened the straps initially, and suddenly the straps would be too loose and would allow your child’s body to move freely out of the car seat via the airspace. Scary isn’t it? Yes!

In order for your child to be safely restrained in the car seat the straps should fit tight against their body while they are wearing just a shirt, or a lightweight sweater. You should not be able to pinch any the strap material at the shoulders. Also, the chest piece should be at armpit level.

If you put your child in the car seat in a winter jacket and had to loosen the straps so they would fit, the straps are too loose! They should never be looser than they need to be to buckle them in wearing just a shirt; if you loosen the straps to accommodate a bulky jacket, the straps are no longer tight enough to keep your child safely restrained should an accident occur.

Now let me assure you that you are not a bad parent if you have ever put your child in the car in a winter coat. There simply is not enough being done to get this information out to all parents! Hence why I’m writing this! Ha! So please, please don’t beat yourself up. I’ve made plenty of parenting mistakes in my days and am sure I’ll make more of the next 18 years. (Yikes…that’s a scary thought!)

So, is it possible to keep your kiddos safe AND warm in the car when it’s below freezing? Absolutely! Put them in the car seat in a lightweight fleece jacket. Make sure they are fastened in tightly and appropriately. Then put their winter coat or a blanket over them. This will ensure they are safe (the main priority) AND cozy. This is one small change with an incredibly big impact.

So, am I just one of those moms getting on her soapbox and preaching about something I think I know more about than you do? No. There’s fact to back up everything I have said in this post. Well, maybe not everything, but at least the facts! (My opinions are my own and you can do what you want with them. Completely disregard them if you want…don’t mind if you do!)

Emily A Tomas Ph. D for Consumer Reports wrote:

As a general rule, winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness because that can leave the harness too loose to be effective in a crash. Here’s a simple way to check whether your child’s coat is too big to wear underneath a harness:

Step 1: Put the coat on your child, sit him or her in the car seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
Step 2: Without loosening the harness at all, unhook it and remove your child from the car seat. Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat, and buckle the harness straps, which should be adjusted just as they were when the child was wearing the coat.
If you can pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger now, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

You can read the full article here.

So how big of a deal is this really? Big enough that even the TODAY Show did a segment on it. You can watch it here.

For whatever it’s worth, I do care about you and your kiddos. I want them to be safe in the car. That’s why I took the time to research and write this post, to help get the word out so more and more parents are informed and more and more of our precious little ones are safely restrained in their car seats during these cold winter months. Please spread the word with all your friends with little ones so that they can stay safe, too! Remember…there’s no such thing as “safe enough”. You can make a difference in the life of a little one. It’s a small change with a huge impact!

Protect your little ones and inform your friends!



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Jessica Johnson

I'm a recently single mom to two amazing little boys ages 1 and 5. Life is definitely busy and my heart is so full! When I'm not teaching 18-24 month olds at daycare I love to spend time playing with my boys, organizing and setting up our new home, creating helpful and fun digital projects and building my Virtual Assistant Business, Just Let Jess! When I'm not working on something (which is rare! Ha!) I love relaxing on the couch with my amazing man.

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Reader Interactions

  1. Dee says

    6 years ago

    Please don’t take this as my disagreeing with your post. However, that child dummy in the Today clip is not properly strapped in when the coat is on. The chest harness is waaay too low.
    Freeze frame it at 1:35 and you’ll see what I mean.

    They need to actually show it done properly if it’s going to have an impact enough to change minds.

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