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Monthly Archive:: April 2012

Orbit Toddler Car Seat G2 Review — You Spin Me Right ‘Round…Toddler

What surprised me most about the Orbit Toddler Converible Car Seat G2 is how cool the spinning feature is. Well, duh, you’re thinking.

But really. See, I’ve installed Orbit infant seats before, and I’ve always been impressed by their quality and ease of use. I just never really understood the appeal of the rotating feature, at least for people with 4-door cars and no physical limitations. Maybe I had gotten too used to side-loading kids for 7+ years, but I didn’t see how loading a kid facing me would really be that much easier.

Then I got a chance to use an Orbit Toddler for a while, and now I’m totally hooked…

First, the stats.

  • Weight range: 15-35 lbs rear-facing, 25-65 lbs forward-facing
  • Shell height: 25 inches
  • Four harness positions: Bottom three can be use rear-facing, top three forward-facing
  • Bottom slot: 10″
  • Top slot: 18.25″
  • Three crotch strap positions: 4″, 6″, 7″
  • Internal seat depth: 11.25″
  • Internal seat width (bum): 11″
  • Interval seat width (head): 6.5-8.5″
  • External seat width at widest (bum): 19″
  • LATCH limit: 40 lbs

Heather reviewed the first-generation Toddler seat a couple years ago, and it is one of our recommended convertible car seats. Although many aspects remain the same, quite a bit has changed, some for better, some for worse.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This seat arrived at my doorstep the day before my six-month-old son had a little diaper incident in his Coccoro. He just met Orbit’s 15-lb minimum, so I decided he could take it for a spin, so to speak.

While he did fit (barely–the bottom slots were right at his shoulders), the seat installed so upright I decided it might not be the best choice for him right now. He still sleeps in the car on almost every trip, plus I had another kid who would be a much better candidate.

My daughter Anna was just about to turn 3. She is 37”, 30 pounds, and wears a 4T shirt. She typically uses a MyRide (which I always install as upright as possible, but which always settles back into the maximum allowed recline no matter what I do). In the MyRide, she has about two inches of shell left over her head, meaning one inch until it’s outgrown.

On first glance, the Orbit appeared to be about the same size as the MyRide. I put the harness in the third-from-the bottom slots, but after Anna climbed in (a bit of a feat considering that the Orbit does sit up very high on the base), I realized that l actually needed to move the straps down a set. That’s when it became apparent that the Orbit Toddler is more comparable to the Radian than the MyRide.

I had Anna fold her legs so I could spin her around. I thought for sure the seat would interfere with the back-of-the-seat protector we have to ward off footprints, but it was just fine, plus Anna found the spinning lots of fun.

As fun as it was, I still wasn’t convinced of the appeal of the rotation. I discovered its usefulness on our first trip out. When we arrived, I put the baby in a sling on my front, then went to get Anna. I rotated her to face me, and I effortlessly lifted her out. Until I had that for comparison, I hadn’t realized what I had been missing out on all these years. It sort of is a pain it is to try to lift a 3-year-old out of a seat sideways, especially while another kid is strapped to my front.

The other thing I loved was how upright it sits. The MyRide always wound up millimeters from the bar on the back of my Odyssey’s passenger seat. The Orbit allowed a couple inches.

Carseats and [Saving The] Earth Day

If you’ve come to CarseatBlog, you likely have children or are about to have one.  The time is long overdue that parents and caregivers firmly grasp that governments and corporations don’t care much about your children when it comes to the planet they will inherit.  If there is going to be a change to give our children and grandchildren a chance at clean air, clean water, uncontaminated food and sufficient energy to go about their lives, then we have to make the changes necessary right now.  Yes, you’ll hear it everywhere today and we don’t pretend to be the experts.  Speaking for myself, outside of driving fewer miles in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and sending a few bins of recycling to the street each week, our family has done pathetically little to help improve the situation.

So, what advice do we have?

Well, most of our visitors come here to buy carseats.  Most carseats end up in landfills.  We need to change this.  We must start to promote products that are 100% recyclable, even if that means the manufacturers must participate in programs to accept them in areas that do not offer recycling.  Going forward, we will try to ask these companies about their policies regarding recycling of the products we review.  Some, like Clek, already have such programs.  We also commend some manufacturers, like Dorel Juvenile Group, that have significantly improved their factories in regard to their ecological footprint, some being zero-landfill certified.  We also appreciate efforts made by companies to include environmental impact information on their packaging.  Even so, recycling of the end product is a must for the future of our planet.  Until more companies find ways to keep their products out of landfills, we will have to depend on our own local resources.  Beyond that, a shift to the use of renewable materials in making carseats will have to happen at some point in the future, so hopefully we will see more of this in new products.

That leads me to one more thing parents can do right now when they are shopping.  Before you buy, check the box to see where that carseat is manufactured.  Is it made in a country that has strict environmental standards to reduce pollution?  Or, is it made in a country that looks the other way as its factories poison the air, land and water, just so the carseat can be made as cheaply as possible.  Yes, it may cost you a few dollars more, but consider it as one of the best investments you can make for the future of your child.  You might just get a better quality product in the process!

Finally, we also review automobiles.  At least in the United States, we have gotten out of control with our driving.  We drive everywhere in our cars, as much as possible.  We drive cars far bigger and heavier than we actually need.  We use gasoline like there is no tomorrow.  Literally.  The mentality that buying the biggest vehicle we can afford and driving it as much as possible really has to change from the consumer, because the government and corporations won’t act strongly enough until it is too late.  So, if you’re buying a vehicle, new or used, pick the most fuel efficient one that meets your needs, even if it isn’t everything you want.  Families in many countries of western Europe have somehow managed without monster “mini”-vans, trucks and SUVs for decades, yet it seems like they have become essential in the United States.  We now have fuel efficient models in many vehicle categories.  By downsizing, picking a model with good gas mileage for its class and following fuel efficient driving habits, many families can literally cut their gasoline consumption in half.  That’s a big deal.  We’ll try to help by making EPA fuel economy ratings more prominent in our reviews, giving credit where it is due.

Have a “green” tip for other families?  Know where to recycle carseats in your area?  Please share with our other readers and leave us a comment!

 

 

New Product Review: BuckleBiters!

BuckleBiters is a new product intended to assist children in belt-positioning boosters (and caregivers too) with the buckling process.  If you have booster riders and flexible buckle stalks in your backseat then you probably understand how this product could be helpful.

The soft plush animal heads have wide mouths that “bite” the webbing under the seatbelt buckle and cinch it securely in place with the integrated elastic drawstring closure.  This provides just enough stability to keep the buckle stalk upright and make it more accessible.  This can be particularly helpful if you have recessed areas around your buckle stalks (pics below of 2006 Pilot and 2008 Highlander) that frequently swallow the buckle, making the process even more difficult for you or your child.

    

Currently there are 2 versions of this product. The Gator is considerably larger than the Hippo but I’ve been told that the size difference is being addressed. Since the Hippo gets the job done very well and takes up less space, this is the one I have a preference for.

    

I’ve attempted to consider any potential downsides of using this product and honestly, I can’t come up with much.  Obviously, it won’t work with recessed buckles (pic right) since you need to have an accessible stalk of webbing under the buckle to attach the product to.  Also, I would caution consumers not to use it on older vehicles with Gen3 seatbelt buckles since those may be prone to having issues all on their own. Gen3 buckles (like the ones in this same picture) have a release button that protrudes from the casing.  Even though the product shouldn’t come close to touching that release button if it’s placed and secured properly on the webbing under the buckle, there are still no guarantees of what will and won’t happen in a crash.  Therefore, I just think it’s better to avoid any hypothetical what-ifs and don’t use this product on Gen3 seatbelts.

Also, it’s possible that some kids may be drawn to the product while it is attached to the buckle stalk and this could lead to tampering issues.  In my honest opinion, if a child is continually drawn to tampering with the product, then this child is probably not mature enough to ride safely in just a booster seat.

Finally, I’m stating the obvious here but it never hurts to reiterate the message that this product is not a substitute for proper adult supervision. Younger booster riders should *always* be supervised to make sure they buckle properly. However, for older kids (like my almost-8-year-old) who are well-trained and perfectly capable of buckling themselves – this product can be truly helpful.  The first time my son used the BuckleBiter his comment was “can we keep this thing?”  :)

BuckleBiter in action:

 
For more information, or to purchase the product, please visit the BuckleBiters website:   http://www.bucklebiters.com/

Thank you BuckleBiters for providing the products used in this review (and for letting us keep them)! Lol!

 

Buckle Stalk Woes

Ever had those really short buckle stalks that make it impossible for kids in boosters to buckle themselves?  Our Toyota Prius has them.  They usually work well for installing carseats, but can be a real pain for older kids.  Others on longer straps sometimes get caught under a booster or get lost in the vehicle seat crack.  Toyota has an answer in the 2012 Camry and likely other models, old and new.  Coming soon, we’ll also be reviewing a new product that may help with this issue!