Sep 12 , 2022
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Not only are car seats big and bulky, but they are also expensive and out of reach for most parents
Once a car seat is fitted and secured, it's no problem, but it becomes a nightmare when you're swapping cars every week. There's also the issue of grandparents needing to play taxi for the school run, so car seats are changed daily, most times as much as thrice a day in our household.
You'd be thinking, why not just buy another car seat? But splurging on a decent, safe product could cost more than R1000, and that kind of money isn't always available. Just like female sanitary products, car seats for children are completely unaffordable for more parents and should be an item that should be far more accessible to all. South Africa has organisations like Wheel Well, which donates used car seats to families in need. So, should you reach that stage where your children have outgrown them, please don't throw it away, but instead donate it to someone who can't afford it and make one more child safer in a vehicle.
When our daughter was born, we were gifted a baby seat, an appreciated hand-me-down from a relative, which was sufficient until she was about six months old. She was literally a busy little body and would make herself rigid when trying to get her into said car seat; it was mission impossible. So we bought a larger one suitable for children from 8kg and would last until she was 36kg in weight. As she grows older, the backrest could be removed, and said seat would then be used as a booster seat until she is up to twelve years of age.
It also took up space, would get dirty often, and trying to put each bit of material back where it belongs after a wash also turned out to be like a Rubik's cube for a complete novice. It also takes up extra space when you need to haul additional family members, inevitably taking up two spaces and making the middle seat redundant.
Then during lockdown last year, I came across this miraculous innovation called a mifold booster seat - a compact, foldable booster car seat for kids. As a motoring journalist, I test-drive vehicles often, which meant our large car seat had to be changed daily, especially when our daughter was being dropped off for the school run with her grandparents, then being picked up again by us in the evening. So then it would have to go out of Gran's car, back into the vehicle I was driving. My little family felt like this invention was made just for us. It is a grab-and-go booster seat. While everyone else might not remove their child's booster seat or car seat every week, there might be more than one car in a family, or perhaps grandparents or guardians need to swap out school runs or sports activities during the week.
The seat is suitable for children with 15kg to 45kg weight or with a 90cm height to 150cm. This means you can use the booster seat for children from as young as four years old up to age twelve.
Firstly, it's more affordable than a really good car seat at R799 (price as on their website), and it's lightweight and compact enough to fold up and pop into a backpack. It retails for R829 on TakeALot. So if your child is spending the weekend with another parent/guardian or going away with friends, their little car seat can be packed in as part of their luggage, and you have nothing to worry about when they need to travel with someone else.
Consider an Infant child car seat would cost about R1000 ranging right up to R7000, then in a few months, you'd need a larger seat which would set you back another few thousand rands. The most affordable car seat I've found online is from R1100.
This compact booster seat is ten times smaller than a usual booster seat. The latter is used to lift a child to be in a correct position to use a seat belt; the mifold seat does the opposite and lowers the seatbelt and holds it in place to keep your child in a safe and secure position. So in the event of a crash, your child won't slip out from under the belt.
My daughter is already in Grade school, and whenever we leave the house, she grabs her seat under her arm like it's a reflex. It's so easy to use, so she straps herself in. It's a small, thin booster seat with adjustable handles on either side that pulls out for the most comfortable level - either set on 1, 2, or 3. You simply weave in the car's seatbelt over the child's lap and fasten the seatbelt on your child's shoulder to secure them safely in place, and comfortably too. Or she does it all on her own. This means there's no seatbelt slashing into her little neck or half-covering her face, and she's secured comfortably in her spot.
It's great for weekends with grandparents, and an ample space- and cost saver for parents of three children, or more. Anyone knows even fitting two uncomfortable car seats in the rear bench is not an easy task. Because the seat is so narrow, you could easily fit three of these seats in a row, and there's still be enough room even in the smallest of cars like a little Suzuki S-Presso or Hyundai Atos.
Mifold inventor Jon Sumroy says that when he lived in America with his four small children, they were being driven everywhere by other people and himself and his wife.
He wanted to ensure that the kids always had the correct car seat but often found that booster seats were not available, especially when carpooling with other families.
Sumroy says: "I thought, if I could make a booster that was really small and really tough, that could quickly be taken everywhere, then our children would always be safe, no matter whose car they are in.
"And we've done it; it is mighty small and mighty strong. It's the most advanced, compact, and portable booster seat in the world.
It's more than ten times smaller than a regular booster, and it's just as safe."
The best part was giving away our large car seat to a family who was in desperate need of one.