KidsEmbrace Carseat Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Combination Booster

Turtle stockWhile most other car seat companies are producing fashions that appeal to parents, KidsEmbrace has been cornering the market on styles that appeal to kids, which is probably a smart move. Batman might not be your thing, but if he gets a kid excited about a car seat, how can that be bad? (Unless the Batman car seat is scaring people in parking lots, but that’s a different matter.)

Last fall, people went crazy over the prospect of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle seat. My own daughter barely even knows what a Ninja Turtle is, yet she couldn’t wait to sit in this seat. It was too cold to play with when we first got it, but she actually gave it a hug every day when she passed by it in the garage. That’s love.

So, what’s the low-down on the KidsEmbrace seat? Is it totally tubular or just a pretty face? Let’s find out.


  • Forward-facing only combination seat
  • With harness: 22-65 lbs, 29-52 inches, at least 1 year old
  • Belt-positioning booster: 30-100 lbs, 38-57 inches (and tops of ears below top of headrest), at least 3 years old
  • Harness slot heights: 13″, 16″, and 17″ ***
  • Highest shoulder belt guide (booster): 20″
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5.5″, 7″
  • Seat depth (interior): 12″
  • Internal seat width: 10″ at bum, 11.5″ at shoulders, 9″ at headwings
  • Widest exterior measurement: 19″ (at cupholders)
  • Widest exterior point at shoulders: 18″
  • Width at back of base: 14″, enlarging out to 15″
  • Two recline positions

Naked turtle front Naked turtle back Turtle bottom


***Note: we had some confusion regarding the harness slots on this seat.


Happy Earth Day 2014

recycle carseatToday is Earth Day, the day we love our planet and reduce, reuse, and recycle without abandon. To celebrate, we thought we’d share our list of carseat recycling centers found around the country. This way, we can keep carseats out of landfills when we can and put them to better use after they’ve been crashed or aged out.


What other ways do you celebrate Earth Day, either today or every day? In my family, we recycle anything that can be recycled, heat our pool with solar power, have solar panels to provide some of our electricity, and one of our cars is fully electric. I still feel like we don’t do enough though. Call it green guilt?

Dorel Extends Useful Life (Expiration) on Most New Carseat & Booster Models

Dorel LogoDorel (parent company to Cosco, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer & Maxi-Cosi) has increased the useful life, a.k.a. expiration, on many of their products. It is not retroactive, but it does apply to both Canadian and American seats. In line with many other manufacturers increasing the useful life of their products it deflates the theory that expiration dates are there as a ‘cash grab’ designed to make consumers spend more money. If that were true expiration dates would be shrinking!

Looking for expiration dates on seats not listed here?  Expiry dates on products new and old can be found here.

Model Current Expiration Previous Expiration Implementation Date
Alpha Omega Elite 10 years 8 years 15-Dec-13
Apex 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Apt 40 RF 8 years 6 years 16-Dec-14
Comfy Carry 8 years 6 years 13-Dec-13
Comfy Carry Base 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Designer 22 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Boost Air Enroute 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Go Hybrid Booster 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Highback Booster 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Highrise Booster 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Mico 8 years 6 years 12-Dec-13
Mico Base 8 years 6 years 15-Dec-13
onBoard 35 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Prezi 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Pria 10 years 6 years 13-Dec-13
Priori 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Pronto 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Prospect 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Right Way 10 years 6 years 20-Dec-13
Scenera 8 years 6 years 15-Dec-13
Summit 10 years 6 years 1-Jan-14
Summit 65 10 years 6 years 14-Dec-13
Vantage 8 years 6 years 1-Jan-14

Merritt Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Review- the end of the line for the carseat escape artist!

I just have to preface this review by saying how thrilled I am that these two products are now available and that they’re made by a trusted and reputable manufacturer of special needs carseats and related products. Merritt Manufacturing produces many of the most widely used carseats for children with special healthcare needs including the Hope Car Bed, The Churchill Booster and the Roosevelt 5-point harness seat. The innovative Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard were originally designed as “escapism prevention” accessories for the Roosevelt. Recently Merritt made them available for purchase separately and for use with conventional carseats. For families with children who continuously escape from their 5-point harness, this is VERY good news.


The “Carseat Houdini” presents a huge challenge to safety-minded parents and also to the CPS Techs trying to help these families. I’ve seen parents do some pretty crazy (and creative!) things to try to keep their kid in his or her carseat over the years. I’ve also seen a lot of questionable aftermarket products that target desperate parents who are willing to buy anything when discipline and the usual parenting strategies don’t stop the behavior.

This review covers both of the accessories available from Merritt.

For younger kids who don’t have the thumb strength to actually unbuckle the buckle but rather escape from their seat by pushing the chest clip down and wiggling their arms and shoulders free – the Chest Clip Guard is probably all that is needed. You can use this product if you have a carseat that allows you to detach the harness from the splitter plate. If you just need the Chest Clip Guard – it should work with most current seats including the Diono Radian models, Evenflo Mastro, Evenflo Secure Kid, Graco Nautilus, etc. It won’t work with seats like the Evenflo Symphony, Evenflo Triumph or Chicco NextFit because those carseats either don’t have a splitter plate or it’s inaccessible.

Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard

For Britax seats with rubber HUGS pads – the HUGS will have to be removed. I know that’s a conflict with the instruction manual but in these cases the parent has to decide if the benefits of using the Chest Clip Guard outweigh any potential risks of using the seat without the HUGS pads. I think it’s important to point out that most kids riding in a Britax convertible with HUGS are not anywhere near the maximum weight limit of 65-70 lbs. and that the Roundabout 55 (rated to 55 lbs.) does not have HUGS. Along the same lines, the Britax Pioneer 70 harness-2-booster combination seat is rated to 70 lbs. and doesn’t have HUGS pads either.

The Chest Clip Guard $49.95

Merritt Chest Clip Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard

The Chest Clip Guard is truly a brilliant concept. The idea is so simple and yet so effective. I’m just mad that I didn’t think of it first. It’s an attachment to the harness with height-adjustable harness pads that hold a lockable chest clip in a fixed position. The harness pads are attached to each other via a piece of webbing that goes behind the child’s neck. The chest clip can also be locked by using the “key” tool that comes with product. If you lose the key, it’s not a big deal because it’s not really a key and you can insert a variety of different things (including a regular house key or car key) to operate the locking mechanism inside the chest clip. A buckle tongue from the buckle on the carseat harness will do the trick too.

Plastic "key" to lock Chest Clip Guard

Plastic “key” to lock Chest Clip Guard

This video explains how the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard function.


The Buckle Guard $29.95


IMMI buckleAs I explained in the video – the Buckle Guard can ONLY be used with the IMMI buckle (pictured right). FYI – the buckles used on the current Diono Radian models look similar to the IMMI buckle because it also has a square release button but upon close inspection you’ll see that it’s not the same buckle. This guard will NOT work with the current Diono buckle.

Once the Buckle Guard is attached, it cannot be removed without carefully prying it off with a flat head screwdriver. Once the Buckle Guard has been removed it must be discarded. Therefore this is a product that is intended to remain on the buckle until it is no longer needed.

If you need the Buckle Guard for a seat you already own or if you’re in the market for a new carseat that can accommodate the Buckle Guard – below is a list of higher-weight harness carseats that are currently sold with an IMMI buckle:

Manufacturer Models with IMMI buckle
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Chicco NextFit convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Clek Foonf convertible
Evenflo Symphony convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Graco New MyRide and Size4Me/My Size/Head Wise convertibles
Graco New Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models


Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Combo $79.90

If you need both the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard accessories for your talented escape artist, that will narrow down the choices since you need a carseat with an IMMI buckle that also gives you access to the splitter plate so you can remove the existing chest clip and attach the guard in its place. Again, I’m only going to list model with a higher-weight harness because Houdini kids benefit from staying in a 5-point harness beyond 40 lbs.

For children with special needs who will likely benefit from the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard for an extended period of time, the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 offer the highest weight and height limits of any conventional carseats currently on the market. However, both the Frontier and the Pinnacle come with HUGS pads on the harness and technically Britax requires their usage. Use of the chest clip guard necessitates the removal of the HUGS pads so that will have to be a “parental decision”. My personal feeling is that having an older child with special needs who continuously escapes from the carseat while the car is moving presents a much greater risk than the potential risk of using a Britax seat without the HUGS pads. However, as a CPS Technician I cannot recommend that a parent go against the carseat manufacturer’s instructions. The updated Britax Pioneer 70 (no HUGS pads; rated to 70 lbs. and now with 19.5″ top harness slots) would be a reasonable compromise if the child is slender and likely to outgrow the harness by height before hitting the 70 lbs. weight limit.

CRs that can accommodate both Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard 
Manufacturer Model
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Clek Foonf convertible
Graco MyRide and Size4Me/MySize/Head Wise convertibles
Graco Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models


The Bottom Line

The Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard products can be a lifesaver (literally!) for parents with children who are persistent escape artists that do not respond to typical parenting tips and tricks. These accessory products are well-designed and come from a reputable carseat manufacturer that knows how to think outside of the box – safely. That doesn’t mean that the other CR manufacturers are going to give their blessing to using these accessories with their products – that’s probably asking too much. However, these niche products fill a serious hole in the market and the reasonable prices make them a realistic option for most families. I’m beyond thrilled that there are legitimate products on the market now that I can feel comfortable recommending for children with special needs and also occasionally for the very stubborn and determined 2 year old who just doesn’t respond to the usual suggestions that we tend to give parents in these situations.

For more information on the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard see the manufacturer’s website:  http://www.escapeproof.net


Thank you Merritt Manufacturing for supplying the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard samples for this review. No other compensation was received and the comments and opinions are entirely my own.

Recaro ProSPORT Recall Coming? FMVSS 213 Noncompliance

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they have denied a petition from RECARO Child Safety, LLC and that denial will likely result in a “remedy” or recall on all Recaro ProSPORT models in the near future. In the notice, only the original Recaro ProSPORT model was cited by NHTSA for having a performance-related compliance issue. The newer Recaro ProSport II and Recaro Performance Sport models were not included. Recaro Child Safety informs us that they are awaiting approval from NHTSA to proceed with a response to consumers. In the meantime, we want to assure parents that there are easy ways to avoid any possible risk indicated by NHTSA.

Potentially affected are 39,181 ProSPORT models manufactured between June 16, 2010 (inception) and Jan 31, 2013 (when production ended). Again, ProSport II and Performance Sport models are NOT affected, as we are told these newer models were introduced after a design change effective from February 1, 2013. The updated Performance Sport model continues to be one of our Recommended Carseats.

According to NHTSA, the ProSPORT model is not passing FMVSS 213 standards for head excursion limits when tested with the 6 year old dummy (which weighs 52 lbs.) if the seat is installed with just the lower LATCH anchors and is NOT tethered. This testing scenario actually conflicts with Recaro’s installation instructions which mandate that you discontinue using LATCH and switch to a lap/shoulder belt installation once the child weighs 52 lbs. Regardless, the standard is the standard and all carseats are required to pass the testing as it is specified in the standard. Just because a CR manufacturer states a specific LATCH limit or mandates a particular type of installation or belt routing does not exempt them from the requirements of FMVSS 213. In this case, Safety Standard 213 requires all forward-facing harnessed seats that are rated beyond 40 lbs. must pass minimum crash testing standards with both the 3-year-old dummy and the 6-year-old dummy, both with and without the use of the tether. With a tether, the dummy’s head excursion must not exceed 720 mm during the crash test. Without the tether, the dummy’s head excursion must not exceed 813 mm.  According to NHTSA, the ProSPORT had a head excursion measurement of 907 mm in their compliance test.

What does this mean for parents or caregivers who own a ProSPORT model?

  • If you are using this carseat in high-back booster mode (without the 5-point harness), then this type of use is not included in this notification.  Continue using your ProSport as a booster according to the instruction manual,  until we know more.
  • Similarly, if you use a lap/shoulder belt for installation with the 5-point harness, with or without the top tether, then this type of use is also not included in this notification and we believe this is an acceptable method of installation until we know more. Recaro instructions indicate that beyond 52 lbs. you must detach the tether and use the lap/shoulder belt alone for installation.
  • If you are using your Recaro ProSport in 5-point harness mode, using the top tether along with a lap-only seatbelt or lower LATCH anchors, according to the instruction manual, then your child will be well-protected and you should continue to use your seat with the top tether until we have more information.
  • If you are using your Recaro ProSport in 5-point harness mode for a child under 52 lbs. and have installed it with the lower anchors but are NOT using the top tether, then you should simply attach the top tether to an approved tether anchor if at all possible.  Use of the top tether resolves the non-compliance issue for installations with lower anchors up to 52 lbs.  All seating positions with lower anchors have a top tether as well, though you may need to check your vehicle owner’s manual if the location of the top tether is not obvious.
  • For the uncommon situation of a ProSport installed with just a lap belt or lower LATCH anchors without a top tether, and a tether is not available, you have the option to switch to a seating position that has a lap/shoulder belt or use the seat in booster mode (which also requires a lap/shoulder belt) until a remedy is provided.  We suggest children remain in a 5-point harness until they are at least 4 years and 40 lbs in general.

Again, this performance issue identified by NHTSA applies to installation with lower LATCH anchors ONLY, when not using the top tether.  It is fine to continue using your ProSport according to our suggestions above, until we learn more from NHTSA and Recaro.

It is important to point out that NHTSA doesn’t test harnessed seats with a lap/shoulder belt.