Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air Review

In recent months we have welcomed two new seats from Safety 1st:  the Grow and Go, and the Advance EX 65 Air +. Both of these seats are innovative: the Grow and Go replaced the widely panned Alpha Omega with a seat that functions well in all three modes (rear facing, forward facing, and booster), and the Advance Ex 65 is a truly long lasting seat with generous rear facing maximums of 50 lbs and 49″.

Now Safety 1st introduces the Grow and Go EX Air, which combines the strongest attributes of both seats, providing a 3-in-1 that fits well in all three modes, as well as an extended rear facing capacity guaranteed to accommodate  nearly all children rear facing to a minimum of age 2, and the vast majority of kids to 4+.

CSFTL Quick Stats

Grow and Go Ex Air

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air

  • Rear facing age range: Birth+
  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 19-49″
  • Rear facing fit restriction: child’s head must be completely contained in extended headrest
  • Forward facing age range: 2 years+
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 29-49″
  • Forward facing fit restriction: child’s ears must be completely contained in extended headrest
  • Booster age range: 4 years+
  • Booster weight range: 40-100 lbs
  • Booster height range: 43-52″
  • Booster fit restriction: child’s ears completely contained in extended headrest
  • Lowest harness position:  5.5″ with newborn routing, 9″ with insert, 10″ without insert
  • Tallest harness position:  16.5″
  • Tallest Booster position:  18.5″
  • Lower Anchor weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Expiration: 10 years from date of manufacture

Measurements:

  • Shell Height: 27″
  • Width at widest point: 18.5″
  • Weight: 15.4 lbs with all inserts, 14.8 lbs with inserts removed
  • Seat pan depth: 12.75″
  • 3 buckle positions: 4.5″, 5.5″, 6.5″

Features:

  • “Air Protect” feature in headwings
  • No-rethread harness except for newborn position
  • Stowaway harness for booster mode
  • Dual internal cupholders

Assembly: Not Required

The seat arrives fully assembled right down to the cupholders.   While the seat comes with the headrest in the lowest position, it does not arrive set up for a newborn.  If you are planning to use this seat from birth, you will need to convert it to newborn mode.

Padding:

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air padding

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air padding

In addition to the cover, the seat includes 3 inserts and 2 strap covers. The bottom and back insert must be used when the seat is in newborn mode. They can be used together, or the bottom can be used alone.  In order to use the head padding both the back and bottom must be inserted.

Harness and Recline Adjustment:

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air adjustable headrestraint/harness position

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air adjustable head restraint/harness position

Adjust the head rest and the harness position by squeezing the gray handle at the top and pulling up / pushing down.

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air recline positions

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air recline positions

Adjust the recline position (position 2 or 3 for rear facing mode, position 1 for forward facing and booster modes) by squeezing the handle at the front of the seat and rocking it forward or back.

Vehicle Belt Specifics

This seat cannot be installed using vehicle seat belts that include airbags, like the belts featured in many Ford vehicles.

Dorel also states an unusual restriction in the manual forbidding installation with a seat belt centered in the side panel, as you might often see in the rear of certain Dodge/Chrysler minivans. Dorel has clarified for us that their concern is for shoulder belts that are anchored so far forward that a correct installation cannot be achieved.  If a correct installation can be achieved, the seat belt is safe to use.

Converting the Harness to Newborn Mode

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air newborn harness adjustment

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air newborn harness adjustment

With a realistic 5 lbs and 19″ minimum, the seat can fit all but the tiniest newborns.  If you are expecting multiples or a premature baby, plan on investing in a rear facing only infant seat.  Otherwise, you can use this seat from birth.

Converting this seat to and from newborn mode is admittedly a bit of a pill but fortunately, you’ll really only need to do it twice per child — once to fit the seat for a newborn and once to switch it back to standard mode.

Remove the buckle from the second slot and thread it through the infant insert into the first slot.  Rather than stopping there as you normally would, grab the buckle’s metal retainer from under the seat and then route it back up into the second slot, in front of the first.  This extra step takes up some of the webbing of the buckle strap and pulls the buckle low on the torso of a tiny newborn.

Fully extend the harness and move the seat into its most reclined position. From the back of the seat, detach the harness from the splitter plate.  Pull the free straps out the front of the seat.
Pull the infant insert forward.  Thread the harness through the slots in the back of the insert, and then into the lower set of slots in the seat shell.

This process works the straps through five slots: the infant insert, the seat pad, the movable plastic pan of the head rest, a second layer of padding, and finally, the plastic seat shell.  The harness can get hung up along the way.  If you find yourself getting frustrated, work through one layer at a time rather than trying to poke the harness through all at once.

Fit to Child

Newborn Doll

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air newborn mode with 7 lb newborn

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air newborn mode with 7 lb newborn

The featured model represents a standard 20″, 7 lbs newborn with a 7″ torso.   The bottom harness position is a good 1.5″ below baby’s shoulders and the harness fits tightly with and without the pads.  The manual advises removing the shoulder pads to achieve a better fit if necessary, but the bottom and back insert are always required for newborn mode.

Converting the Harness to Standard Rear Facing Mode

In the standard rear facing mode for children larger than newborn sized, the crotch buckle may be on either the middle or most interior position, and the headrest must be positioned so the harness is placed at or just below the child’s shoulders.

I converted the seat back to the standard rear facing mode by rerouting the buckle so it is only threaded through the first slot with no extra loop back, rerouting the harness through the slot connected with the no rethread feature and placing the harness back on the outer most loops.

Fit to Child: Older Infant

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air older infant in standard rear facing harness routing

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air older infant in standard rear facing harness routing

This baby has a 9.5″ torso and has an excellent fit on the lowest harness position with the infant padding in use. Without the padding in place, her shoulders wouldn’t quite reach the bottom harness position.

3 Years Old

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air nearly 4 year old model with years of growth

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air nearly 4 year old model: years of room left to grow rear facing!

This model is 3 years, 10 months, 32 lbs and 38.5″.  I have removed all padding and left on the strap covers.  The buckle is on the second slot.

She has 5.5″ clearance above the top of her head to the top of the fully extended headrest.  Given the height and weight restrictions on this seat she could probably stay rear facing in it till 6+.

Although there is no known benefit to keeping a medically typical child rear facing that long, this seat presents reasonable options for parents who are transporting their children in older vehicles without top tether retrofitting available.  This seat would give them the option to remain rear facing until the child is old, big and mature enough for a belt positioning booster.

Installation: Rear Facing

When installed rear facing for a child who is not able to sit independently, the seat must be reclined in position 2 or 3  with the red recline indicator line level to the ground.  The seat takes up a fair amount of front to back space when installed at this angle, so if you plan to use this for a newborn, make sure your car is able to accommodate that footprint. When installed for a child who is able to sit independently there is no maximum allowed incline.  This seat can be as upright as you need to it be for a child who has head control.

Because the seat has a 50 lbs rear facing maximum, and a 40 lbs maximum for use of lower anchors, you could potentially reach a point where the child outgrows the lower anchor limit while still riding rear facing.

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air rear facing recline for a child who cannot sit unassisted

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air rear facing recline for a child who cannot sit unassisted

This image show both recline angles. The more reclined newborn position is installed with lower anchors. The more upright position uses a seat belt for installation.  When the seat belt is used the lower anchors should be properly stored as shown.

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air rear facing seatbelt installation

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air rear facing seatbelt installation

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air storage for lower anchors connector and top tether connector

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air storage for lower anchors connector and top tether connector

Recline position 2 or 3 may be used to achieve the correct recline when in rear facing mode.  The top tether anchor remains stowed and is not used when the seat is installed in rear facing mode.

Installation: Forward Facing

The seat may be used for children over age 2 who are between 22 and 65 lbs forward facing.  If you max out the rear facing capacity, your child will never be able to use the lower anchor installation forward facing, but I have featured it here, to illustrate installation for an older, but very lightweight, forward facing child.  When installed with the seat belt the lower anchors should be threaded through the rear facing position and properly secured to the side of the seat as shown.

Either position 2 or 3 may be used to achieve the correct recline when in rear facing mode.  The top tether anchor remains stowed in rear facing mode.

When installed forward facing, the seat must be in recline position one and you’ll need to unhook the tether to prepare for forward facing installation.

Top Tether

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air top tether

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air top tether

The top tether anchor is required.  There is no option for installing this seat without the top tether connector properly secured to a dedicated anchor.

Fit to Child

Forward Facing

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air forward facing three year old

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air forward facing 3 year old

This model is 3 years, 10 months, 32 lbs and 38.5″.   The harness is at her shoulders, in the same position as above.   The buckle, which can be in any position for forward facing mode, remains on position 2.

Booster Mode

CSFTL recommends that in addition to meeting all fit requirements for using a belt positioning booster, children be at least 5 years old and have the maturity to sit correctly 100% of the time before moving to a booster.

To use this seat in booster mode, you must store the harness.  Remove the buckle from the seat prior to use.  We recommend sealing it in a small baggie with a note to yourself about where it came from, and immediately storing it in the glove box, so you know you won’t lose it.

Loosen the harness all the way and remove the harness from the seat pad. The outsides of the fabric slots on the pad detach and reattach so you can slide the harness out.

Peel up the seat pad, detach the snaps, and hide the harness, buckle tongues and chest clip behind the pad.  Re-snap the cover, return the seat cover to its place and the seat is ready to use.

Booster Mode Setup

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air booster mode

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air booster mode

Safety 1st doesn’t permit the use of lower anchors or top tether to secure this seat when the seat is in booster mode, which means the booster just rests on the seat rather than being installed there. Remember that this seat ALWAYS must be buckled in when unoccupied to prevent it being a projectile in the event of a crash.

I had to remove the vehicle head restraint to make room for the seat once the head rest was pulled up to the tallest position on the Grow and Go EX Air.

Fit to Child

8 Years Old

This model is 8.5 years old, 60 lbs, and is at the upper end of the allowed booster height range of 43-52″.  As you can see, he fits, just barely, on the tallest setting. Once his shoulders exceed the top booster guide position, he will be too tall.

His head exceeds the headrest but as his ears are still contained he still technically fits, but he doesn’t have much room to move!

booster mode

Safety 1st Grow and Go Ex Air in booster mode

I was pleased with the belt fit.  The belt rested low on his lap, and crossed his chest firmly and over and back the center of his shoulder.

He filled up every last inch of useable space and didn’t have a lot of leg support.  Realistically we probably would have discontinued use a year or so earlier and invested in a longer lasting dedicated high back booster with a taller height limit than 52″.   On the other hand, we are pleased to note that Dorel assigned a realistic height limit to the booster mode and didn’t try to inflate it beyond what was reasonable for a predictable torso height.
My son is accustomed to anchored boosters.  As he clambered into the Grow and Go Ex, it shifted and tipped from the top, causing him a fair amount of alarm.  Lightweight, top heavy and unanchored are the trifecta for tippy boosters!

The shoulder belt guide was not particularly user friendly, and I found it a little more difficult than I would have preferred to slide the belt in.  However, there’s no reason you can’t leave the seat belt in the guide there once you thread it the first time.

Outside of the initial threading into the shoulder belt guide, there are no other guides or slots that must be used in booster mode; our model found it pretty simple to grab the belt and buckle himself in. Please note that the seat sits quite high. If your buckles are well buried in the seat bight or have really short buckle stalks, children might find it very difficult or impossible to buckle themselves in.

The only real concern I had with booster mode didn’t become evident until he unbuckled and jumped out.  The seat belt did not retract on its own but instead remained fully extended.

the belt doesn't retract smoothly

The belt did not retract smoothly through the belt guide

Whether or not the vehicle belt is able to retract through the shoulder belt guide will of course be vehicle dependent. The location of the shoulder belt anchor plays a huge part in whether or not the belt retracts, but it will be very important for caregivers to watch out for this slack in the vehicle belt.   If your child bends forward and then sits back up, and the belt does not retract back to where it needs to be, the child can be left unprotected in the event of a crash.

Important Information: Where to Find

FAA Approval Label

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air airline approval

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air FAA approval

This seat is permitted for use on airplanes in harnessed mode only, either rear or forward facing.  It is not permitted for use in booster mode.  The airline sticker is on the upper right exterior side of the seat.

Date of Manufacture/Expiration

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air expiration

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air expiration

This seat has a 10 year life span from date of manufacture.  The date of manufacture may be found on the label on the lower left exterior side of the seat.  A reminder not to use the seat 10 years beyond that date is stamped into bottom of the seat.

Manual Location and Storage:

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air manual storage

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air manual storage

The manual comes in a small plastic bag with the registration card attached to the harness.  It may be stored in the dedicated area on the back, bottom of the seat.

Overall Thoughts

91p5rWIvRcL._SL1500_This seat is another strong new offering in the recent excellent line up from Safety 1st and Dorel Juvenile.  Most exciting is its rear facing capacity, which covers nearly all potential situations a parent or caregiver may encounter.  We would particularly recommend this seat to caregivers who may be transporting a variety of different children of different builds under the age of four.  The forward facing capacity of the seat will get many children to a good booster age, and the seat does create a well fitted booster for another year or so beyond that, with the concerns noted in the booster portion of the review. The Grow and Go EX Air can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Safety 1st provided this seat to CSFTL, Inc for review purposes but we were not otherwise compensated for this review.   All opinions expressed in this review are, as always, entirely our own.

Giveaway!

With an unprecedented offer, our friends at Safety 1st are partnering with CSFTL to give away a brand new Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air 3-in-1 Car Seat to one lucky reader EVERY WEEK BETWEEN APRIL 22 – JULY 4, 2016.  Enter for your chance to win this week’s giveaway below!  Please read our Giveaway Terms and Conditions before entering.
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