What is the best way to dress toddlers for a winter car ride?

With Washington winters seemingly getting colder every year, many people are layering up and wearing bulkier coats. But technicians for toddlers car seats have specific recommendations about how to keep your child warm without hindering the harness’ safety.

Experts do not recommend wearing bulky clothing while in car seats. It is not ideal to have anything thicker than a sweatshirt between your child and their harness, as it can prevent the harness from fitting as snug as it should.

Even with the harness snug against their coat, children would not be protected as designed due to the compression of the coat. Puffy materials cause a looser-fitting harness. Dressing toddlers in thin layers is a safer practice that can still keep them warm.

“In a car crash, fluffy padding in a coat immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.”

Instead, experts recommend having toddlers wear a lightweight jacket, snugly strapping them into their harness and then putting a blanket on top. This way the toddler is warm and the harness is still snug. The AAP recommends that infants and toddlers wear one more layer than adults.

Parents can dress their toddler in a lightweight jacket with a puffy coat over it so they stay warm outside. Then when getting in the car, remove the coat and have a blanket handy. The AAP also recommends bringing the car seat carrier inside when it’s not being used, at least during the cold. This way, getting in the car reduces less body heat.

There are a lot of ways to ensure toddlers stay warm without hindering the harness’ success. Gloves and mittens, hats, booties, blankets and masks can all provide a little extra heat without coming between the harness and the child.

If your toddler is going to wear a snowsuit, it is advised to have a change of clothing while they are in the car.