ABC Kids 2024

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It’s such a thrill to announce that the ABC Kids Expo has returned to much of its pre-pandemic glory. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center was mostly full of vendors touting their wares. Everything from innovations in potty seats to pre-production models of gadgets that may never see the inside of a store shelf is there, under one roof.

Woo hoo! Sandwiches!

Woo hoo! Sandwiches!

This year’s event even included free sandwiches and snacks throughout the day, though beverage availability proved quite scarce. In previous years, we’ve sent a larger team and stayed for a number of days.  This year, we sent one person (hi, it’s me, I’m the person, it’s me) and I only went for one day.  So it was a pretty jam-packed day!  I landed mid-morning and headed over to start the adventure.

babyark convertible car seat

babyark convertible car seat

First stop was babyark.  We’d seen their ads and have a few group members with their car seat so we were pretty excited about finally connecting with the manufacturer.

babyark base installed

babyark base installed

Their first product is a convertible car seat that pretty much includes every energy-absorbing feature available in today’s world of car seats.  The seat is in two pieces — a base that installs onto the vehicle seat and a shell that attaches to the base once it’s installed.  The base includes a load leg and a handle that extends to become an anti-rebound bar.  This last bit is hard to explain but is pretty ingenious.

babyark Label

babyark Label

The seat also includes rigid lower anchors (with a 15 pound weight limit that I couldn’t get enough clarification around to explain correctly even now) and some models include sensors that indicate a variety of corrections.

babyark Retainer Closed

babyark Retainer Closed

The seat’s chest clip is also pretty unique, it’s like two halves of a button that snap together.

babyark Retainer Open

babyark Retainer Open

We’re hoping to finally have one of these seats to review very soon.

Britax Cypress

Britax Cypress

Our next stop was Britax/Romer.  If you’ve been around the car seat world for some time, the name Romer might be familiar to you — it was originally a European brand.

It’s coming to the United States now, select models will be sold in certain boutique stores.  Britax has an updated version of the Willow car seat that we reviewed last year, the Willow SC and Cypress models add more inserts, different fabrics, and a pretty cool one hand handle adjustment.

All of the rear-facing only seats in the Willow line also have a modified ClickTight mechanism that solves some of the challenges we encountered during the review process so that was great to see!

Britax One4Life Slim

Britax One4Life Slim

We also met the One4Life Slim.  This multimode car seat will be available later this year, it’s a little over 17 inches wide and has some great innovations like a smooth compartment under the ClickTight panel that makes any unexpected cleanups a lot easier.

Britax One4Life Slim ClickTight panel open

Britax One4Life Slim ClickTight panel open

I still wince when I think of a particular episode with my kiddo’s Frontier so I was glad to see this kind of small but important innovation!

Romer Veni

Romer Veni

The Romer section was pretty different than the rest of the booth.

Romer Juni sitting on a delightful tree stump

Romer Juni sitting on a delightful tree stump

I can say with some certainty that this was the first time I’d seen a load leg extended over the edge of a tree stump.  The fabrics on these seats (Juni rear facing only and Veni convertible) are made from a blend of recycled oyster shells and plastic bottles that were also recycled.  They’re quite plush and not at all oyster-feeling.

Romer Juni base

Romer Juni base

The Juni’s base looks and acts a lot like the Willow SC/Cypress base but ClickTight becomes SecureLoc, there’s an empty space on the base, and it has a load leg.

Graco SnugRide 35 LX base with load leg

Graco SnugRide 35 LX base with load leg

Next up was Graco.  At this point, I had completely blown my timeline but my tardiness gave the team a chance to grab some lunch so I’m glad I could be of service there!  They showed me the new SnugLock 35 DLX base, which has a load leg.

Graco SnugRide 35 LX base with load leg

Graco SnugRide 35 LX base with load leg

The base is available both with a carrier and without, like all current Graco rear facing only car seats, the bases are interchangeable so families who want a load leg can now have one at a very reasonable price. As a side note, I really appreciated the large signs describing every item in the booth.  Thanks, Graco!

Graco TurboBooster with flowers!

Graco TurboBooster with flowers!

I also got to see COLORS! returning to the product line.  My kids had flowers and cows on their car seats, I loved all of that.  These last years with so much gray and beige have been so difficult, maybe the world is finally coming back to life if flowers and patterns are returning to car seats.

Graco is bringing colors back!

Graco is bringing colors back!

I digress but will share another of those signs with you.

At this point in my action-packed day, I had a short break so I was able to post some of the highlights on social media for you to enjoy and enjoy some of those free sandwiches.  Thanks for all of the questions, everyone!  We have almost no answers about these not-yet-on-the-market products but we do have the same questions you do about specifics.

KidsEmbrace Paw Patrol

KidsEmbrace Paw Patrol

Another question I had was why the KidsEmbrace giant-sized seats were here with no people working the booth.  That also went unanswered.

Diono Connect3 RXT backless booster seats

Diono Connect3 RXT backless booster seats

After wondering about the unattended booth, I headed over to Diono to effectively re-start our relationship with them.  They’ve got a new team and some pretty interesting new seats to go along with that team.  Easily distracted, I marvelled at the range of colors in their product line.

But to be fair, they’ve never shied away from colors and that flowered seat I mentioned earlier?  It was a Radian, circa 2011.  So seeing a booth full of colorful seats, some old (Radians), some new (LiteClik 30 R/RX, LiteClik 30 XT/RXT) was like walking back into a world that just makes sense.  The team walked me through the updates to the Radian that are intended to make them easier to install and use properly.

Diono Radian rear facing lockoff

Diono Radian rear facing lockoff

Since we’re a best practice group, this focus on ease of installation was music to my ears.  There are a number of changes to the Radian including the fact that the rear facing recline foot is now optional and my personal favorite: rear and forward facing lockoffs that appear to be placed in locations that will help to make installations easier.

Diono Radian forward facing lockoff

Diono Radian forward facing lockoff

I celebrate this change in such a profound way because installing the aforementioned flowery Radian was always a bit of a challenge.

Diono Radian same color as my glasses

Diono Radian same color as my glasses

After pausing for a moment to note the fact that my glasses were the same color as a Radian fabric, we wandered over to check out the new booster seats.

Diono Connect3 RXT backless booster seats

Diono Connect3 RXT backless booster seats

They will offer both backless and high back boosters, available with lower anchors and without.  This group of seats was designed to work together in tight spaces, the team has designed them to be companions to the Radians, which see a lot of use in three across situations.

Diono Connect3 RXT high back booster seats

Diono Connect3 RXT high back booster seats

Though some Radian models have a booster mode, our experience has shown that very few children actually fit in a Radian in booster mode so we’re pretty stoked to see narrow boosters that can fill that void and actually fit most children.

Diono Connect3 backless easy reach

Diono Connect3 backless easy reach

I want to mention some other cool things about these particular booster seats — the area behind the buckle is angled so that little hands can reach the seat belt to buckle and unbuckle it.  This sounds like a small thing but this level of accessibility is often the difference between a setup being useable or not.  The cupholders interlock so it’s possible to have multiple boosters next to each other, the widest point of these boosters is roughly 17 inches.  We can’t wait to review them and take all of our own measurements/try these in all kinds of scenarios.

The final stop on my whirlwind of a day was Evenflo.  I adore the team and enjoyed spending time with them but I think by this point we were all getting kind of tired until the snacks emerged — tots and pretzels.  Then we were a bit more lively.

Evenflo Green and Gentle Revolve Extend and Revolve Slim

Evenflo Green & Gentle Revolve Extend, Revolve Slim

I saw the Green & Gentle Revolve Slim and Revolve Extend, which have fabrics made from recycled bottles.  The fabrics were plush and didn’t feel bottlely at all.  Hidden under a cover was a premium fashion collection for the Revolve and Shyft DualRide, that was unveiled after I left.

My day trip to Vegas was something else.  I walked many miles and saw many new things.  It was like old home week as I got to see many of my manufacturer friends again while making some new acquaintances as well.  We remain so grateful that we’re able to attend this show and provide real input on the car seats that are coming our way in the future.