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Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Carseat Review: Raising the Bar

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2016 Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Carseat Review

Grow and Go Blue CoralThe new generation of 3-in-1 carseat from Dorel is here and it’s a solid success in practicality, installation, and fit. From a 5-position no-rethread harness, to protective head wings, to user-friendly features such as harness holders, the Safety 1st Grow and Go shows it’s up to the challenge of taking children from rear-facing through early grade school. Read on to learn how the successor to the aging Alpha Omega Elite platform is raising the bar.

Weight and Height Limits
  • Rear-facing:  5-40 lbs., and child’s head is 1” below top of headrest, and 19-40”
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., and 29-49”, and at least 1 year old (models made prior to 10/2016 had 2-year age minimum)
  • Belt-positioning booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-52”, and at least 4 years old

What are the differences between the various models of Grow and Go and similar convertibles?

*Tip – turn your phone sideways to see all the columns

Carseat Name RF Weight Limit FF Weight Limit BPB Weight Limit IIHS Rating Features MSRP
Multi-Fit 5-40 lbs. 22-40 lbs. 40-100 lbs. Best Bet Rating Costco exclusive; harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder $99.99
Ever-Fit 5-40 lbs. 22-40 lbs. 40-100 lbs. Best Bet Rating Sam's Club exclusive; harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder $99.86
Continuum 5-40 lbs. 22-50 lbs. 40-80 lbs. Best Bet Rating harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder $149.99
Grow and Go 5-40 lbs. 22-65 lbs. 40-100 lbs. Good Bet Rating harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 2 cup holders $169.99
Grow and Go Air Sport 5-40 lbs. 22-65 lbs. 40-100 lbs. Best Bet Rating harness height adjustment button on headrest; Air Protect®; cover unsnaps to machine clean and dry; 3-position recline; 1 cup holders $189.99
Grow and Go EX Air 5-50 lbs. 22-65 lbs. 40-100 lbs. Best Bet Rating harness height adjustment button on headrest; Air Protect®; cover unsnaps to machine clean and dry; 3-position recline; 2 cup holders $199.99
Grow and Go Overview
  • No-rethread harness with 5 height positions and a separate infant position
  • 3 crotch strap positions
  • Infant cushion
  • Versatile harness holders
  • Machine washable and dryable cover
  • 2 integrated cup holders
  • IIHS “Good Bet” Rating for booster mode
  • Made in the USA!
Measurements

2016 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings: Is Your Booster A Best Bet?

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks boosters as a Best Bet, Good Bet, Check Fit, or Not Recommended

JennyJust a few years ago, the list of belt-positioning boosters that fit kids really well was on the short side. Now the vast majority of boosters fit children well in a variety of vehicles making it easier than ever before to keep the “forgotten children”—kids who are prematurely transitioned to seat belts before they’re big enough to fit well—comfortable and safe in boosters. This year, the IIHS evaluated 53 new booster seat models and 48 earned the highest rating of “Best Bet.”

What is a “Best Bet”? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. But remember, your vehicle may not be “most” vehicles and may have a different belt geometry. Always try before you buy, if you can, and hold onto the box and receipt in case you need to return the booster.

A “Good Bet” means that the belt fit will be acceptable in most vehicles and these boosters shouldn’t be automatically shunned because they aren’t “top tier.” “Check Fit” means just that: it may fit a larger child better than a smaller child in some vehicles or vice versa. I’ve used “Check Fit” boosters quite successfully before with my kids in my cars—it definitely doesn’t mean you should chuck the seat out with the bathwater.

Here’s an excellent example of a Best Bet booster, the Graco 4Ever in backless mode, that fits well in one vehicle but not in another. You can see that in the vehicle on the left, the shoulder belt fit is poor whereas in the vehicle on the right, the shoulder belt fit is excellent. The lap belt fit in both vehicles is excellent. We need to have excellent fit for both shoulder belt AND lap belt in order for the booster seat to be safe.

4Ever backless

What does good belt fit look like?

Adjusting a Carseat’s Recline Angle Using Pool Noodles or Rolled Towels

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How to Fix Your Rear-Facing Recline Angle Using Noodles or Rolled Towels

2014-chrysler-town-and-country-rear-interior-view-motor-trendPerhaps you don’t have a vehicle like the one on the left, but vehicle seats like those send shivers up most child passenger safety technicians’ spines. When we see a vehicle seat cushion with a slope that deep, we know we’ll have to even it out when installing a rear-facing carseat.

Rear-facing carseats require adjustment to a particular recline angle – that angle can vary from one carseat to another and is specified by each manufacturer. Most (but not all) infant carseats have a base that has a built-in recline feature so you can adjust the angle in order to achieve the correct recline on any vehicle seat. However, if your carseat doesn’t have a built-in recline feature, or if it isn’t enough to get the seat reclined appropriately – you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel.

graco-snugride-recline-feature-on-base
Convertible carseats all have some way to adjust the angle when the seat is installed rear-facing. Most convertibles on the market today can be installed properly rear-facing without needing anything extra. However, if the recline feature isn’t enough to achieve the necessary angle specified by the manufacturer, you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel to fill the gap and support the carseat at that recline angle. The seat below is the perfect example of a situation where you might need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel.

Tribute reclined line level to ground

Which is better—noodle or towel?

Cardiff Travel Headrest Review

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Cardiff Headrest attachedMost people can stay awake on car trips for more than 15 minutes; not me. I must have been a really easy baby to put to sleep on a bad night—I’m sure my parents threw me on the floorboard of the car and only had to drive around the block once before I was quickly in slumberland. I don’t mind sleeping in the car as my husband drives, but the problem is that he and the kids derive great pleasure from my snorting myself awake as my head bobs to and fro. I just know one of these days there will be a video. Enter the Cardiff Travel Headrest.

Features

  • 14 customizable positions
  • Removable sleeves are machine-washable
  • Universal mount for head restraint poles

The Cardiff Travel Headrest attaches to your vehicle head restraint poles, you know, those silver things that hold the head restraint onto your seat. Yes, you must have this type or the Travel Headrest won’t work for you. It has adjustable wings that rotate up and down so you can place them where they are most comfortable for you.

Cardiff headrest attachment

Setup time will vary. On my ’11 Acura MDX, the head restraint poles are kind of thick, so I had trouble with the length of the hook screws being *just* long enough to fit. I’ve learned to set up the Travel Headrest the night before and it takes only a couple of minutes, rather than feeling pressured while my husband stands there tapping his foot and sighing as I try to install it just before we leave. You do not need to remove your vehicle head restraint to install the Travel Headrest.

Cardiff Headrest up Cardiff Headrest down

We talked to the designers at an ABC Show several years ago and they designed the Travel Headrest for kids using backless booster users. But hey, we can’t have the little tikes having all the good stuff, now can we? I actually prefer that kids use a highback booster if they still need head support like this for sleeping, but this is a good travel option for larger kids who may have outgrown a highback in height, but still need a backless booster. It can also be a good option for tweens and teens who can pass the 5-Step Test and ride without a booster but miss having a place to rest their heads to sleep on a long drive.

Check your vehicle owner’s manual, though, to see if you have active head restraints. You don’t want to use the Travel Headrest in these seating positions since it will interfere with the active head restraint in a crash. Your vehicle manual will tell you which seating positions, if any, are equipped with the active head restraints. Active head restraints travel up and forward to reduce the distance between your head/neck and the vehicle seat when your body puts force on the vehicle seat back in a crash, so you can see how it isn’t a good idea to put anything on those poles.

The Travel Headrest doesn’t fold down nicely for storage, nor does it have a pouch to keep the hooks with it, so I shove them down inside one of the wings and cross my fingers they don’t fall out. I wish the headrest folded laterally so it could be stored in a drawer or on a shelf; right now I have it on a hook way up high, out of the way.

The Cardiff guys have a Kickstarter that may work on vehicle head restraints that are incompatible with the Travel Headrest. Cardiff Wings is designed to be used on an airplane seat, but since it slips over the top of head restraint, it may work in some vehicles too. It’s hard to say for sure until we have a chance to play with this product when it becomes available. Again, I would not put it on a vehicle seat with an active head restraint.

Cardiff Wings

Cardiff Wings on Kickstarter

Cardiff Advantages

  • Comfortable car sleep, are you kidding me???
  • Adjustable wings
  • Fits vehicle head restraints as long as they have poles
  • Simple enough for kids to adjust
  • Machine-washable sleeves

Cardiff Headrest

Disadvantages

  • Could interfere with active head restraints on vehicle seat
  • Wings flip up for storage on seat, but if you are using for yourself in the front passenger’s seat – it could interfere with the driver’s vision
  • Doesn’t fold flat for storage
  • Hook screws could be ¼” longer for easier installation