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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Simple guide to child seats

So the big debate in Singapore following the announcement of the cooling measures for car ownership was centered around the fundamental question of whether car ownership in Singapore should be viewed as a luxury or a necessity.  I do have some views on this topic but I'll leave them to another time.  In the meantime, this post will begin with a similar question on a related matter - Are child seats a luxury or a necessity in Singapore?


Although there are plenty of ostentatious child seats out there in the market, the word luxury is not to be interpreted literally.  Instead, to many parents, being able to fasten their child into a little seat that limits their movement and perhaps vision, is really a luxury.  To their children, a child seat equates to an instrument of torture, a seat of death, and they will do their utmost to show how much they er... embrace life.  Whenever I tell these parents that Aiden has long been conditioned to look forward to being strapped in for all car journeys and is very comfortable being in a child seat, three words would usually be uttered - "You heng ah!".  In truth, I had to earn this luxury by making it a point to repeatedly explain to him why he needs to belt up until he stopped whining/crying.  I forgot how many journeys we had to endure with Aiden crying incessantly.  We now know that Aiden has very powerful lungs.

This is how a child seat looks like to many children.

This is easier to answer.  According to the latest law, anyone below 1.35 metres tall is required by law to use child restraints, booster seat cushions or adjustable seat belts when in a vehicle.  Age will no longer be used as a criterion to determine if child restraints or booster seats are required.  So there you go, the answer must be that child seats are a necessity in Singapore.  Nuff said!

Not quite.

Actually, my answer would be neither of the above.  A child seat is not a luxury nor a necessity, but is really the logical thing to have.  The truth is, normal seltbelts in our cars are not designed to save the lives of children.  No, that is not a reason for not belting them up altogether!  One study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US estimates that child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 69% for infants and by 47% for toddlers.  We love our children so much, so there should be no reason why we won't insist on putting them into a child seat that could save their lives in an unfortunate accident!  It is also a lame excuse when some parents insist that it is ok as long as they drive safely!  With the increasing number of driving bullies/idiots unleashed upon our Singapore roads, no one is spared from an accident no matter how safe you may be!  Remember the unfortunate Ferrari accident in Rochor?

If you drink, don't drive.
So here are a 3 simple tips to remember when it comes to getting a child seat:

1.        Shop early

There are many types of child seats out there, never mind the brand.  There are car seats for infants, toddlers and children, convertible car seats, booster seats and more!  As many of these systems may overlap or complement each other in their usage, you do have to plan ahead to save yourself time and money later on as you move from one age/weight group to another.  Choosing the type of mounts is easier.  If you car is equipped with ISOFIX, then get a child seat that has ISOFIX mounts.  If not, you will need to use the seat belt to fasten the child seat.

For us, we chose the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix baby car seat and we use it together with the Maxi Cosi FamilyFix ISOFIX base.  This configuration means that we can leave Aiden in the seat undisturbed for the longer time, as the CabrioFix can be easily removed from the FamilyFix base and mounted directly onto our very stylish Quinny Zapp Twine stroller.  We can also hand carry the CabrioFix with Aiden in it.  Perfect when he's already sound asleep but we have reached home!  After Aiden outgrew the CabrioFix, we immediately changed it for the Maxi Cosi Pearl, which also attaches to the FamilyFix base.  Eventually, we plan to ditch these to get a slimmer child seat, perhaps the Maxi Cosi RodiFix, or a booster seat.

2.        Don't skimp

We all know kids grow fast so there is a tendency to decide on a over-sized child seat that is not age/weight appropriate at the point of purchase.  This ultimately sacrifices safety, which is against the whole point of getting a child seat!  There are some child seats that market themselves as all-in-ones, but I reckon the Jack of all trades would inevitably be the master of none.  So please get the right ones and upgrade accordingly!

3.        Use it

A badly installed child seat is as bad as an ill-fitting child seat, which is as bad as no child seat.  So read the freaking manual and install it properly!  I don't know about you, but having seen salespeople demonstrate how 'easy' it is to use the seat belt to fasten the child seat, I am convinced that these people should make pretty good astrophysicists too.  It looks impossibly complicated!  And so I chickened out by going the FamilyFix route.  This wonderful system comes with a 3 point safety system, which monitors and tells you whether all the connections are properly attached.  If somebody tried to make a living by writing a Dummy's Guide to using the FamilyFix, he would be bankrupt!

Last but not least, don't give yourself the excuse not to use the child seat because your kid refuses or suffers a meltdown whenever you try.  Ask yourselves this question - If your kids refuse to go to primary school, would you give in to them?  Or would you try whatever is necessary to ensure that they go to school?  Do the logical thing!  Good luck!

Thank you for keeping me safe!


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