Anyone who has been doing this kid thing for a while knows how much the world of car seats has changed even in the last decade, let alone the last twenty years. I’m the admin currently with the oldest “Little” so I’ve been at this for a while now. AJ is 11.5 years old now and I’ve been a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) for almost nine years now; so I like to think I have a lot of real world experience when it comes to the changes that have been made over the years. AJ just passed the 5 step test in the past few weeks at 58 inches and 120 lbs. so I thought it was a good time to look back at how things have changed in his life time to far.
- Graco SnugRide
- 5-20 lbs. 19-26″
- rear adjust
- three-point harness
Here is baby AJ straight out of the hospital at just under 7 lbs. I don’t have a picture of him surrounded with rolled up blankets to try to help take up the space everywhere and to keep him secure. We were in a crash when he was four months old and had to replace his seat. We replaced it with another Snugride, this one had a five point harness at least, but still rear adjust. Compare that to rear facing only seats now that can harness as long as 40 lbs. and 35 inches. and you’re already in awe of the changes that have been made. In 2005, most rear facing only seats began to harness until 22 lbs. and 29 inches.
- Britax Roundabout
- 5-30 lbs. rear facing
- 20-40 lbs. forward facing
This is the puzzle buckle of a Britax Roundabout that we owned for a bit that was manufactured in 2001. This buckle and the puzzle buckle on the Alpha Omega kept parents everywhere swearing at their car seats. The name accurately depicts how it works. You have to puzzle the pieces together just so and hold them in place while then pushing them into the actual buckle to get the seat secure for a child. What fun! Did I mention I hate puzzles, especially on my car seat. The Roundabout at this time, with the shell being as short as it was, was often outgrown rear facing by two years old.
- Cosco Alpha Omega
- 5-35 lbs. rear facing, 36″ maximum
- 22-40 lbs. forward facing, 34-43″ forward facing
- Booster mode 40-80 lbs.
Dorel was the first company to make a seat that rear faced to that high of a weight and with a solid kid, we needed it. Again, when you think about 35 lbs. being revolutionary, you laugh and think of seats now that rear face to 50 lbs! AJ went forward facing in the Alpha Omega at 11 months and 23 lbs. I had heard 1 and 20, but no one had ever explained to me the why and well, he was a big kid and close to one. We learned later more about the importance of rear facing. You can see the Alpha Omega in the picture below after it had been passed to little brother.
- Cosco Scenera
- 5-35 lbs. rear facing, 36″ maximum
- 22-40 lbs. forward facing, 34-43″
Right after AJ turned two, I was introduced to the world of extended rear facing. The AAP had started recommending children rear face to the limits of their seat in 2002. Only took me three years to learn about it. Sad thing is it has been twelve years now and some people still don’t know. At this point we had already bought him a forward facing combination seat and passed his convertible down to his younger brother. We decided to give rear facing a shot using a $39 Cosco Scenera. Yup, the price (and design) really hasn’t changed much in the past nine years. We figured we needed a seat anyways for our upcoming vacation so weren’t out much if our child decided to declare war on rear facing after 17 months of facing forward. Not a peep out of him. He never made as much of a whimper about it.
- Sunshine Kids Radian
- 5-33 lbs. rear facing
- 22-65 lbs. forward facing
I bought this even though AJ was already 31 lbs and just a few months from turning three. I justified it with being able to pass it down to Evan. This seat can tether when rear facing, but we hadn’t found a place for it yet. Hard to believe Diono, the new name of Sunshine Kids, now makes seat that rear face to 50 lbs. He could’ve used something higher than 35 lbs, but that wouldn’t happen for a few more years. He went forward facing for good two months shy of his third birthday. This was no small thing in 2006!
- Evenflo Chase
- 20-40 lbs.
- 30-80 lbs. Booster mode
We decided to get some use out of the Evenflo Chase we bought for AJ’s second birthday. You know, before he hit 40 lbs. and outgrew the harness. Surprisingly he didn’t end up doing that until a year later. This seat had a funky harness adjuster that was located on the harness itself just under the chest clip. You either loved it or hated it. I’m a lover.
- Safety 1st Apex
- 22-65 lbs. forward facing, 34-57″
- Booster mode 40-100 lbs.
AJ was fast approaching the 40 lb. harness limit on his Chase. He needed a new seat (the Radian had been passed down to Evan when I realized I loved it more than my other convertibles). Safety 1st had released the Apex the year before. It harnesses to 65 lbs., has high harness slots, makes a decent booster and I could get it under $75. MSRP was around $100 for the base model. This was the start of more affordable high weight harness seats. Thankfully with the birth of baby number three at the end of 2006, we had upgraded to a mini-van so the massive size of the seat was not an issue. The requirement to have head support behind the head rest of the seat was not an issue as well in this vehicle. This seat got lots of use.
Happy fourth birthday! The requirements then to use a booster were 40 lbs. and preferably four years old. With few options to keep kids harnessed past 40 lbs, especially affordable options, if you made it to four you were lucky. Thankfully I knew better than to move him into a booster, and we had seats that fit him, so harnessed he stayed. I know now there are requirements to meet before moving into a booster. He did use this seat a few times in odd circumstances because hey, he met the requirements, so it must be ok. I was a CPST at this point but had little booster knowledge and didn’t really know what proper booster fit looked like.
Even later 2007
- Britax Regent
- 20-80 lbs.
This seat harnessed to 80 lbs. Britax introduced the first version in 2001, but it was cost prohibitive to many families. It was the first of its kind though and they still manufacture the longest lasting harnessed seat on the market. It was released even before the Marathon, which was released in 2002, and was the first convertible with a 65 lb. weight limit. I do remember having to borrow this seat from another friend later when AJ was 7. He was over 65 lbs. and was having behavior issues in his booster. Thankfully I had this seat available to reharness him for a while. Hard to see but this is the middle of my third row. There was no way to fit any other passengers back there when this seat was installed because it was that massive. It truly was a seat for BIG kids.
Later still 2007
- Nania Airway
- 22-50# forward facing, 29-48″
- Booster mode 30-80 lbs.
The Airway was quite the seat for its time. We kept the Airway at events for families who needed a new forward facing car seat. While it didn’t install well, it had a nifty locking clip, was narrow, and had an amazing 50 lb. harness limit. That was fabulous for the early 2000s. I’d caution most people now looking at a combination seat that only went to 50 lb. though, as 65 lbs. is much more standard and readily available.
- Graco Nautilus
- 20-65# forward facing
- Booster mode 30-100 lbs.
Things are going to start looking more familiar at this point. We got the Graco Nautilus for AJ’s fifth birthday. I loved this seat. We were in a crash a few months after getting it and ended up replacing it with another Nautilus. We kept the new seat until late 2013 when I gave it to a family in need. Three of the kids ended up using it over the years. It’s still very popular today and works ever better as a booster since the redesign in 2010.
Not much later 2008
- Fisher Price Safe Voyage Booster
- High back booster only
- 39″ to 100 lbs. (no lower weight limit)
AJ is finally able to use a booster part-time by this point, he’s mature enough and now with baby #4 on the way, it’s helpful. I picked the Fisher Price Safe Voyage Booster up for $40 when Fisher Price was once again going out of the car seat business. They had partnered with Britax to make a convertible and booster that were almost identical to Britax seats, but at a much lower price point. Fisher Price had stopped making seats soon before AJ was born. They actually had a forward facing only seat that harnessed to 60 lbs. way back in 2000. I loved this booster though and kept it until it finally expired in 2013. Sad, sad. It was narrow and would’ve worked well in my three across set up.
- Britax Parkway SG
- 40-120 lbs.
Still not in a booster full-time, but getting closer. Design hasn’t changed much on the Parkway, but lower anchors have been added. This was the first seat to offer the Secure Guard clip for the lap belt to help prevent submarining in the event of a crash. He looks so little here, but pushing 60 lbs. he’s getting close to outgrowing his Nautilus. He outgrew the Nautilus around 6.5 years old and moved to a booster. He did well for a while, but as I posted earlier he ended up going back into the Britax Regent around his seventh birthday for six months.
2010 and later
AJ started second grade in 2010 and was finally ready to move into a booster full-time. From here we’ve had many, many seats. We love our boosters. What can I say? AJ even helped parents choose the most comfortable boosters for their big kids.
Boosters have come a long way! This is the Evenflo Right Fit (original version) vs. the Safety 1st Incognito. The Right Fit was made 1996-2005 and had an 80 lb. maximum weight limit with a fairly narrow seating area. Pretty much all boosters at that time had that weight limit. This was a seat we kept at events for those kids who needed boosters and didn’t have one. When these were first produced, Evenflo had decided these seats had no expiration date and could be used forever! That got squashed and in the end they were given a ten-year expiration. Compare that to the Incognito’s 120 lb. weight limit and a completely different design. It is a booster made for bigger kids since we know many kids will need a booster past 80 lbs. This is the booster AJ graduated out of. He loved it. You can see how it would’ve been hard to keep kids in boosters as long as they needed when this was your choice.
Here is my baby now! He’s 11.5 years old, 120 lbs, and 58 inches tall and passes all the tests needed to ride safely in the van without a booster. It’s always emotional when your kids grow up and him passing in our van doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll pass in all vehicles in all seating positions. Next stage, DRIVING!