Ask the expert: Common Car Seat Questions-Part 2

child in car seat

Car seats can be very overwhelming because there is so much information and it is hard to know where to get the most accurate content. We have created a bi-weekly series where caregivers have submitted questions and we help answer those questions. Feel free to email us any questions you have or if there is a topic you would like featured. 

Car Seat Accessories can be tempted to buy to entertain your child, but they can cause severe injuries. We will cover what should and should not be used with a car seat, toys and car seats, and using items such as towels or mats underneath the car seat.

Can babies play with toys safely while in a car seat? Are the mirrors above the car seat safe? 

Every car seat has been crashed tested to meet federal safety guidelines. Each car seat has been through several tests to ensure it as safe as possible for your child. When you start adding toys, mats, padding, or other accessories to the seat, it can interact with how safe the seat is. Best practice is to only use items that came with the original seat. Even a minor change to your child passenger seat, could change the way the car seat is designed and could result in serious injury or death.

Mirrors are especially dangerous because they can come flying off or break during a crash and cause a significant head injury. Best practice is not use mirrors or anything else that attaches to the seat or car seat. 

Some after-market products might claim to be crash tested, but this is misleading since there is nothing in the federal safety standards for car seats that covers accessories and these products are not regulated. 

While toys may help keep a child entertained during a car ride, they can be very dangerous in a crash. During a crash, unrestrained objects can travel through the car with great force and cause injuries if they were to hit the child or driver. You should never attach a toy to the car seat or straps on the seat. If your child must have a toy in the vehicle, make sure it is soft and lightweight such as small stuffed animal. Best practice would be to avoid toys that are made of plastic or other heavy material as they could cause injuries when slammed against the body. 

Are mats under the car seat safe? Is it ok to use the “towel” method to adjust the angle?

Always check your car manual and car seat manual before adding anything underneath the car seat. When you add items such as mats, blankets, or towels underneath the car seat, the seat is no longer positioned against the seat of the vehicle. If the mat shifts over time, it could cause the car seat to no longer to be installed correctly. Best practice would be to put nothing underneath the seat and remove the car seat and to clean the seat frequently. Be sure to check your car manual and car seat manual when cleaning to see which products can be safely used. 

With rear-facing seats, it is important seats are reclined correctly. Rear-facing seats will have a recliner indicator on the seat such as line, or level indicator to help you see if the seat is reclined correctly. Best practice is to use these indicators first to adjust the seat. Always check your car seat and car manual to see if an item such as a rolled-up towel or pool noodle can be placed under the seat if you cannot get it reclined correctly. If the manufacture allows you to place something under the seat to adjust the angle, make sure you place it directly under the belt path. You also want to make sure the item does cause the car seat to be reclined incorrectly once you place it under the seat. Always use the recline indicators on the seat to ensure your child’s airway is safely protected and the seat is installed correctly.