According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. A statistic like that should jolt you into thinking harder than I did about the car seat you end up buying. And with the recent changes to child car seat laws, you’re going to have to think harder.
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its recommendations on child car seats by urging that children be made to sit in a rear-facing position until age two. It was just a recommendation, but the AAP is one powerful group, so lawmakers around the country crafted new rules. Now, depending on the state, the law says you have to keep your kid in a rear-facing child seat until age two, as well as a forward-facing car seat (or, to use the formal and somewhat more fun terminology, “child restraint device”) of some fashion at least until they’re four or five. In some states, your kid has to stay strapped into a special seat until the bugger is seven or eight years old.
Most rear-facing seats and rear-to-front convertibles have weight and height limitations that won’t even hold your child to age two. So, these changes also pressured manufacturers to design new rear-facing seats accordingly.
This new chair, the Foonf from the manufacturer Clek, lets your child can stay rear-facing until they weigh 50 pounds and measure 43 inches in height — well beyond the norm for 2-year-olds. At age two, you can switch to a front-facing position until your little one reaches either 65 pounds or 49 inches, when he or she is not so little anymore. By that age, your child may be old enough or big enough to graduate to a booster seat or a regular seat with adult-sized belt restraints. The idea is that the Foonf is designed to be possibly the only car seat you’ll need from six months onward. That might help you appreciate the cost, which starts at $400 but has fabric options that can drive the price up as far as $500.
Once installed, getting my son in and out of the harness was plenty convenient. The harness straps are thick and sturdy, so they don’t get twisted and tangled like other models I’ve used. The upholstery is thick and cleans well, and there’s plenty of padding underneath.
A couple of innovations. There are magnets beneath the upholstery to hold the buckles while you’re popping the kid into the seat, but they aren’t very strong. Flinging the buckles to the side of the seat is easier and faster. There’s also a rebound bar that attaches to the footrest of the Foonf. You use it in rear-facing mode — It sticks out from the bottom and pushes against your car’s seat, where it keeps the Foonf from rotating too much in a collision and reduces the risk of neck injury.
So it’s a very sturdy seat, and it’s made to accommodate your child in a rear-facing position longer than most seats. It’s not something everyone can afford, but the increased flexibility of the design and the safety measures added to the seat by make it worth the money if it’s in your budget.