Graco’s product line includes more than a few multimode and convertible car seats, many of which are fan favorites around here because they fit most children well and install without too much difficulty. Joining the family is the Graco Grows4Me 4-in-1 multimode car seat. This seat is very similar to the Graco 4Ever. Both seats boast 4 modes — rear facing, forward facing, high back, and backless booster modes. The primary difference is that the Grows4Me only has one cupholder and the standard j-hook style lower anchors (and a lower price point!).
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
- Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
- High back booster weight range: 40-100 pounds
- Backless booster seat weight range: 40-110 pounds
- Children who weigh more than 65 pounds can only use this seat in booster mode
- Can use LATCH while in high back booster mode
- Lower anchor weight limit: 45 pounds forward facing, 40 pounds rear facing
- Crotch buckle: 4 and 6 inches from the back of the seat pan
- Highest harness position: 18 inches
- Highest booster belt guide 18.5 inches
- Width at narrowest point of the seat pan: 11 inches
- Width at widest point (cupholder): 19 inches
- Weight, harness mode: 20 pounds
- Weight, backless booster mode: 5 pounds
- Expiration: 10 years
- Replace after any crash
The Grows4Me ships mostly assembled and includes one cupholder. This cupholder MUST be installed. This is clearly stated on page 6 of the manual. Here’s how to assemble it.
Slide the cupholder into the groove on the Grows4Me, make sure it’s correctly aligned, then slide it all the way down. You’ll hear a satisfying click once the cupholder is in place.
Note About the Manual
When we write reviews, we get to spend some quality time with the car seat’s manual. The Grows4Me’s manual includes some really nice touches that I’d like to mention here:
- A reminder to place the top tether inside the car seat’s shell when starting a forward facing installation
- A reminder to reach through the slit in the cover to pull the lower anchor connectors straight up while installing the seat rear facing
- A page with some pro tips about removing the top tether and lower anchors when uninstalling the seat
Quick Guide to Recline Positions
The Grows4Me has 6 recline positions. Here’s a quick guide on when to use each one:
- Rear facing recline positions: 1, 2, and 3
- Forward facing, 40 pounds or less: positions 4 and 5
- Forward facing, over 40 pounds: position 6
- Booster mode: recline position 6 only
Lower Anchor Connectors
The Grows4Me includes these beauties — standard, j-hook style lower anchor connectors. They’re lighter weight than their push button counterparts but a bit trickier to use in some situations.
Harness Pads and Body Insert
The body insert is used for rear facing only. It MUST be used when the child’s shoulders are below the lowest harness position and CAN be used anytime the seat is installed rear facing. The harness pads are optional but MUST be removed anytime they interfere with placing the chest clip at the child’s armpit level. This information is listed toward the end of the manual.
Installation: Rear Facing
Recline Angle Adjustment
To adjust the recline angle, just squeeze the handle on the front of the seat — it says “Recline” right on it! — then push the seat’s shell forward or backward while that handle is being squeezed.
Recline Angle Indicator
The Grows4Me includes a ball style recline indicator. For rear facing use, the ball must be entirely in the blue section of the indicator.
Vehicle Seat Belt
Installing the Grows4Me rear facing with the vehicle seat belt is very similar to the other Graco multimode car seats that we know and love. First, place the Grows4Me on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the back of the vehicle. Expose the belt path by unsnapping the cover in the seat pan. Then, thread the vehicle seat belt through the rear facing belt path and buckle the belt. Remove the slack from the shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt by pulling straight up at the buckle while pressing down on the back of the seat pan.
Since most vehicles on the road today have a switchable retractor with a sliding latchplate, these instructions are for that type of setup. We do explore the other types of seat belt systems in our Lock It Up! article. If your vehicle has a different type of seat belt system, consult the car seat manual and the vehicle manual for instructions. Heck, we’d like everyone to do that!
Once the seat is secure, hold the vehicle seat belt in place, then lock the belt by pulling the webbing all the way out from the retractor until you hear a clicking noise. That noise will indicate that the belt is in child seat mode. Allow the now-locked belt to retract until the seat is installed snugly.
The standard j-hook style of lower anchors that are on the Grows4Me are perfectly safe. Like everything else on this car seat, they’ve been tested to meet or exceed FMVSS 213. So let me start with that as the baseline. Personally, I have some challenges with this type of lower anchors because they can be (but aren’t always!!) a bit challenging to release from a snug install. So when I’m given a choice between this type of lower anchor and the vehicle seat belt, I’ll almost always choose the vehicle seat belt when the vehicle allows it. That said, I installed the Grows4Me with lower anchors for the sake of this review. It installed without issue — the trick was to pull the slack from the lower anchor webbing up through the slit in the cover while pushing down on the back of the seat pan. Removing the lower anchors from a snug install was every bit the challenge that I’d expected.
Pro tip: if you can remove a teeny bit of slack from the lower anchor webbing, turn the hook toward the inside of the vehicle while it’s still attached to the lower anchor, then pull the anchor straight back from the seat bight.
Fit to Child
3 Days Old
I was lucky enough to spend some time with this tiny cutie while working on this review. She’s 3 days old, weighs 8 pounds 9 ounces, and is 21 inches long. She also slept through pretty much all of the experience while her older siblings were kind enough to offer a wide variety of assistance with the project.
We tried a couple of configurations for her: with the harness pads on, and with them off. I found that the Grows4Me fit her better with the harness pads on.
For the sake of science, and because she was still sleeping, I also removed the harness pads to see how well that would work. The harness fit her reasonably well but it wasn’t as nice of a fit as she had when the pads were on.
At 8 pounds 9 ounces, she’s a fairly large baby. I couldn’t assert with a lot of confidence that this seat would fit smaller babies as well as it fits her.
2 Years Old
Here’s our tiniest model’s big brother. He’s 2 years old, weighs 35 pounds, and is 37 inches tall. He’s got plenty of room to grow in the seat and it fits him well.
4 Years Old
Here’s the oldest model in our tiny model’s family. This young lady has been helping me with car seat reviews since she was born so I’m thrilled that she’s still willing to help out! This time, she required a cupcake in exchange for her services. She’s newly 4 years old, weighs 38 pounds, and is 40 inches tall. She’s at the upper edge of the Grows4Me’s rear facing weight limit but she let me know that she’s still comfortable in the seat.
Installation: Forward Facing with Lower Anchors
The seat can be used forward facing with the five point harness for a child who weighs at least 22 pounds (CSFTL recommends rear facing to the maximum height or weight limits of the car seat), but less than 65 pounds, and is under 49 inches tall. The highest harness position is 17 inches with the seat pad compressed.
The seat must be used in the 4th, 5th, or 6th recline positions when forward facing but there are a couple of rules around this. If the child weighs less than 40 pounds, the recline angle must be in the 4th or 5th position. If the child weighs more than 40 pounds, the recline angle must be in the 6th position.
The seat comes with the lower anchor connectors in the rear facing belt path. To move them to the forward facing belt path, loosen the harness and extend the headrest all the way. Then, unsnap the cover to expose the interior of the seat, then slide the lower anchor connectors along the interior bar into the forward facing belt path, then extend them back out of the seat’s shell. Attach the connectors to the lower anchors in the vehicle. Push the Grows4Me straight back into the vehicle seat belt to remove the slack from the webbing while pulling the lower anchor connector’s webbing straight up through the exposed belt path until there’s less an inch of movement at the belt path in any direction.
When the child is in the seat, the harness should be positioned at or above the shoulders and the buckle should be in the position nearest to but not under the child.
Installation: Forward Facing with Vehicle Seat Belt
Children who weigh 40 pounds or less must use recline positions 4 or 5. Children who weigh more than 40 pounds must use recline position 6.
To install the seat forward facing with the vehicle seat belt store the lower anchor connectors in the provided bars for the forward facing position, then thread the vehicle seat belt through the forward facing belt path. Set the car seat on the vehicle seat with the harness facing toward the front of the vehicle.
Unsnap the cover on the inside of the seat to access the vehicle seat belt, then pull the shoulder portion of the belt straight out from the car seat while pushing the car seat back into the vehicle seat back to remove slack. Once the vehicle seat belt is secure, hold it firmly in place, then pull the entire belt out to engage child seat mode (you’ll hear a clicking noise that indicates your vehicle seat belt is in locked mode), then feed the belt slowly back into the retractor that’s mounted inside the vehicle. At the very end of your install, give the seat one more good nudge straight back into the vehicle seat to pull a few more clicks of slack from the belt. Those final few clicks are often the difference between a loose install and a snug install!
5 Years Old
Here we have another longtime CSFTL review model. He’s newly 5 years old and was happy to help with yet another review. He’s 44 inches tall and weighs 41 pounds. In harness mode, he’s got one click to grow in the shoulder slots and the harness fits him well. He found the seat comfortable and he was able to climb in without any issues.
Converting to Highback Booster Mode
Like almost every other Graco multimode car seat and some Graco combination car seats, the harness stores right on the seat so there’s almost 0 chance that it can get lost or misplaced when it’s not in use. To convert the Grows4Me to booster mode, raise the headrest all the way up, then unsnap the cover from the inside of the seat to expose the storage compartment. Clip the two pieces of the chest clip together, then put the chest clip and buckle tongues into the compartment and close the door. That’s all there is to it! The crotch buckle remains attached — it slides into a space on the seat pan. Pull the cover back down and snap it back into place.
To use the Grows4Me in high back booster mode, it must be in recline position 6.
Highback Booster Mode
5 Years Old
Our 5 year old model was kind enough to try the seat in booster mode for us. He waited patiently while I converted it from harness mode to booster mode — this entire process took about a minute — then he climbed into the seat. The shoulder belt guide on this seat is the same one that’s used on the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 multimode car seat and I experienced the same issues with the vehicle seat belt slipping out of the shoulder belt guide. Despite that challenge, the seat fit him well in this mode.
Converting to Backless Booster Mode
To use the Grows4Me in high back or backless booster mode, it must be in recline position 6.
If the Grows4Me is already in high back booster mode, then the harness is already stored on the seat itself. To convert the seat into a backless booster, remove the ends of the harness straps from the metal splitter plate on the back of the seat. Then, remove the portion of the cover that’s over the seat pan to expose the red backrest locks that are in the seat pan. Push those red backrest locks together, then push the back portion of the car seat in toward the seat pan to remove it.
Relock the red backrest locks, then store the splitter plate on the back of the seat, make sure the crotch buckle is stored in that special cubby in the seat pan, then replace the cover over the seat pan.
All of those steps make this process sound very complicated but it’s easier in real life, I swear.
Extra Flap of Padding
When I converted the seat to backless booster mode, I discovered an extra flap of padding that I didn’t quite know what to do with. I reached out to Graco and learned that it’s supposed to be tucked behind the booster when it’s in backless mode.
Backless Booster Mode
Fit to Child
9 Years Old
My primary model is 9 years old. She’s 51 inches tall and wears a size 10/12 clothes these days. In backless mode, the Grows4Me is very similar to her very favorite backless booster seat in the world — the 4Ever Extend2Fit Platinum — so she was pretty stoked to try out this seat. The vehicle seat belt fit is the same great fit we expect from Graco booster seats, it sits right across the tops of her thighs and across the middle of her shoulder. She liked the one cupholder well enough but would rather have two. She also noted that the cover is slightly less plush than her daily driver booster seat.
I liked that it’s about a pound lighter than her 4Ever Extend2Fit in backless booster mode since our life somehow now involves moving her booster seat collection between vehicles. I realize that I may be the only person who’s able to make this comparison a few times every week.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval: the Grows4Me is approved for use on aircraft in harness mode only. Since a booster seat requires a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes have lap only belts, the best place for a backless booster seat on the airplane is in the overhead bin, so it’s ready for use when you arrive!
Date of Manufacture label: this label is located on the backside of the base. Since the seat converts all the way down to backless booster mode, it makes sense that this key piece of information will always be with the backless booster portion of the seat.
Manual storage: the manual tucks into a slot on the back of the seat’s base, right next to the date of manufacture label.
The Grows4Me fit all of our models well — from 3 days to 9 years old. There is but a smattering of car seats on the market today that could make such a claim! So families who would like to get that full 10 years of use from one car seat could conceivably do so with this seat. The primary difference between this seat and the Graco 4Ever is the lower anchors — this seat has the still functional, but harder to use standard j-hook style, while the 4Ever has premium push button lower anchors. Families who know they’ll primarily be installing this seat with a vehicle seat belt or who don’t mind the standard lower anchors have a great option in the Grows4Me.