a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Mar, 2008

a new car seat in the family

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews

We have a pretty sad record as it pertains to car seats.

We bought the prescribed rear-facing one one when Emma was born. It was a gigantic heavy thing with big handle. Carrying it anywhere outside the car was absolutely backbreaking. And as luck would have it, for a time, rocking Emma inside it was the only thing that could get her to sleep. My vertebrae shudder just to think about it.

After that we stumbled into a variety of car seats, some of which were hand-me-downs. They were in decent shape so we always accepted them gladly. But they were okay, just okay. Like our change table and the umbrella stroller and some other baby-related accessories, they were okay, not great, but okay. We made do with these items, but they didn’t exactly light my fire, you know what I mean? 

This was before I shaped my personal shopping theory: to buy only Those Things that are Most Beautiful and Awesome.

My babies haven’t been babies for a long time, but I’ve had ample opportunity to browse funky hip new baby stores and check out the new products on the market because of the writerly work I do. I actually feel wistful, because the stuff that’s out there nowadays is MUCH more “me,” than the products of yore. Baby products are now more in line with my sense of aesthetic than a lot of the stuff that was on the market nine (and even seven) years ago.

So back to our carseats. They were ordinary, run of the mill car seats that served their function well. It never really dawned on me that there was something with a little more oomph out there.

And then it arrived in the mail.

The people at Clek sent me Sarah a booster seat. Mind you, I am under no obligation to write anything about this car seat. In fact, if I had hated it – or hand any other issue with it – I would have said so, right here in front of all and sundry.

I had to laugh when I unwrapped it. I wasn’t exactly expecting the zebra print.

 our new car seat

(You do realize I had to sweep a whole bunch of crap out of the back seat so I could set up this photo, right?)

The Clek has a special hooking up system (how’s THAT for technical writing?) called LATCH, which securely anchors the booster seat down into your car. We can’t take advantage of this feature because we drive an older model of car, but I have been assured that it can be used with or without the LATCH function.

Doesn’t matter. This booster seat is so slick and sweet I can’t help but like it. Sarah has had lots of time to try it out, and she finds it perfectly comfortable.

Proof once again that ordinary and useful things can be beautiful too.

19 Responses to "a new car seat in the family"

1 | porter

March 9th, 2008 at 10:35 pm


what are the specs on the booster seat, do you know? mouse is turning five (as you know) and i’d like to switch out her car seat (eddie bauer 3 in 1) that she’s had for the past five years for a more compact booster seat but need to do alot of investigating first to determine what is appropriate and safe for her age/weight/height..whatever. by the way, thanks for sharing.

2 | Ginger

March 10th, 2008 at 6:38 am


Speaking of baby things (as I am 12 1/2 weeks pregnant with twins). I have always wondered if you used cloth diapers with your girls. And I like that booster seat. It makes it fun!

3 | andrea

March 10th, 2008 at 9:26 am


Specs, dimensions etc. are available on their website. It’s meant for children whose height and weight are between 40-57 in./101-145 cm. and 40-100 lbs./18-45 kg.

4 | andrea

March 10th, 2008 at 9:28 am


Ginger: we used cloth diapers for six months when Emma was born. We would have used them longer but I was going back to work (Canadian mat leave was only 6 months at that time) and the homecare she was going into would only take kids in disposables.

I should point out that we used a diaper service. Best.Thing.EVER. !

5 | Jen_nifer

March 10th, 2008 at 12:06 pm


I think every new carseat has to come with the LATCH system now. And also has to work without it. Our 2000 car doesn’t have it, but our 2004 does. I don’t find it any easier than just using the seatbelt the old fashioned way.

6 | andrea

March 10th, 2008 at 12:21 pm


Jen, I’m not sure about that. But I think the benefit of the LATCH system is that it holds the seat securely in place. Our old seat was loose… i.e. only restrained while a kid was sitting in it and wearing a seatbelt. We had the old seat in the car with us regardless of whether Sarah in it. Conceivably, if I ever came to a sudden stop it could just fly out and bash me in the back of the head…

But does anyone drive around with the car seat belted in? We didn’t, because it’s not something we ever really considered. Apparently if you have a seat with a LATCH system, and you’re driving, and the kid isn’t sitting in it, you should belt it down anyway.

7 | porter

March 10th, 2008 at 5:54 pm


I belt the loose seat in, but I’m paranoid…..sooooo much swirling in my brain allllll the time.

8 | BeachMama

March 10th, 2008 at 7:24 pm


Hubby and I were just talking about getting one of those. Of course they came out just after we bought the usual Graco kind. We can always put that in our old car for emergencies anyway. We really want it to stay put in the car. It just seems like it would be so much more comfortable not to be sliding around.

9 | tali

March 10th, 2008 at 7:37 pm


I am putting on my child restraint safety technician hat now…

The absolute minimum (legal) requirements for a child to be in a booster are 40lbs and 4 years old, but they are safest in a 5-point harness (as long as it fits) and many people keep their children in a harness until they are 6 or beyond (or stop sleeping in the car!). They have 5-pt harnesses that harness up to 65lbs now in Canada.

Every step up in child restraints (towards seat belts) is a step down in safety.

Backless boosters require head restraints (head rests) for use…they also offer no side-impact protection, compared with high-backed boosters, so I would recommend a high-back booster as long as the child fits in it. (http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/micro_stories.pl?ACCT=159681&TICK=CHOP&STORY=/www/story/09-13-2005/0004106173&EDATE=Sep+13,+2005)

The benefit of the Clek is the LATCH, for sure, because an unoccupied, unbelted-in booster is totally a projectile in case of an accident…(the clek is the only booster in canada that uses LATCH, right now).

There’s a ton of info at car-seat.org, for those who want to know more about car seats! Sorry for the long post, child passenger safety is one of my passions…

10 | Ginger

March 10th, 2008 at 7:42 pm


6 months maternity leave?!?! I wish. If I was going to keep teaching next year I would only get 6 weeks. I could get 8 weeks if I have a cesarian.

11 | Sharon

March 11th, 2008 at 7:23 am


OH where did you get that car seat? I would LOVE one for Nathan. I’m sooo sick of the BIG baby seat boosters and it’s hard for me to buckle him in now that we are using the should harness. The straps to the seat are too short now.

12 | Melissa

March 11th, 2008 at 7:46 am


Hey Andrea,

We inherited your big bucket seat and it was great because it could accomodate bigger babies than most of the travel system ones. Sam was the same birthweight as Emma so he grew out of the 20lb max on the smaller bucket that matched our stroller pretty quickly, but your bucket, as I recall, went to 25 lbs, so you could get another month or two…

Some dealerships will retrofit your car for the latch. Our 2000 VW did not have it installed and the VW dealership installed it for free once we had sam. We have the Eddie Bauer 3in1 system too and Sam is is the booster phase now and we still keep it latched in all the time, including the teather strap too. Leanne will be in hers this summer I think, but is currently still in 5point harness.

I like the convenience of not latching them all the time for car pooling, but in the end we keep them latched at all times because it just feels a bit safer – I have no idea if it is, but it just feels that way :)

13 | andrea

March 11th, 2008 at 8:28 am


Tali: Thanks so much for stepping in! Car-seat.org seems to be a great resource for anyone with questions about car seats, and the article you mentioned has a lot of good info in it too. Ya’ll should read it for more hard data about backless vs. high backed boosters.

Also critical: positioning of the actual belt. I’m going to double check this next time we’re all in the car.

14 | andrea

March 11th, 2008 at 8:30 am


Sharon: apparently they’re available at Canadian Tire!

15 | Sharon

March 11th, 2008 at 8:55 am


OH COOL! Thanks I’ll check that out today!
I always learn so much from you!!!

16 | andrea

March 11th, 2008 at 10:28 am


A correction re: availability!
The olli, which is the model I was sent, is not available at Canadian Tire (only the base-model, oto). You can, however, purchase olli online or at a number of boutique retailers throughout Canada (the clek website features a store locator).

17 | andrea

March 11th, 2008 at 1:02 pm


A note from the VP of Clek:

“The only safety testing that is quantifiable in crash testing is frontal impact, which represents 44% of all crashes (rear 31%, side 11.2%, roll over 2.5%). In a frontal impact, there is marginal difference in injury prevention between a high back booster and backless booster (last stat I read from CHOP was 58% injury reduction vs. 59%). The most common injuries are related to seat-belt syndrome (injuries to the internal abdominal organs and lumbar spine), which both types of booster seats provide similar protection from. However, if your car does not have an adjustable head restraint or high seat back in the back seat, you must use a high back booster to protect your child’s head and neck.

That being said, side impacts are the second most common fatal crash type and there are obvious additional head protection benefits when using a high back booster (even though there are currently no quantifiable side impact crash testing for car seat manufacturers to test to). The best side impact protection are the safety features built into the vehicle, which all booster seats better positions a child to benefit from. But, I would agree that in a side impact collision, a high back booster is safer for preventing head injuries. This is all under the assumption that an older child will sit in a high back booster, which statistics show is not the case.

With regards to the shoulder-belt positioning clip, we have tested both with and without this clip in frontal crash testing and in fact the results are worse when using the clip, which is why we decided to not include this with our product. Our analysis was that when a comfort clip is used, the occupant is using more belt which creates additional belt slack (i.e. bodies travels further in impact), albeit the results were only marginally worse.

Here is the quote from the FAQ section on the SafeKids website:

What is a seat belt adjuster? Can I use a seat belt adjuster instead of a booster seat?
A seat belt adjuster clips onto the seat belt to keep the seat belt off a child’s face and neck. But seat belt adjusters have not been tested for safety. They can put children at more risk for injuries.”

18 | tali

March 11th, 2008 at 7:23 pm


Interesting! By the way, I wasn’t intending by my post to suggest the Clek is unsafe AT ALL, but that for the first few years of booster-seat usage, a high-backed booster might be a better choice. Of course, safer than a booster is a 5-point harness, if one fits your child, and the safest is for a child to stay rear-facing in a seat for as long as possible, especially between one and two years old. There’s no point in rushing any of these steps! That being said, if a cool-looking booster keeps a kid happier to be using a booster, I’m all for it!

Also, I forgot, there is a high-backed booster with LATCH available in canada now, the sunshine kids monterey, it can be used up to 120 lbs and 63″, and is available from http://www.pjmdistribution.com

19 | LO

March 13th, 2008 at 7:17 am


Been lurking for a bit. I’m a fellow Ottawa writer and mom -not necessarily in that order:)
We LOVE our Clek seat!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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