Back in January, I found myself searching for a better way to keep our daughter warm & comfy in her car seat without putting her safety at risk. I decided to make this the topic of a FB QOTD post and you guys shared some great tips! I felt particularly compelled by the concept of a car seat poncho (noted by two readers), which is designed to keep a li'l one warm from head to toe without interfering with the seat buckle. Rather than loosening the straps to adjust for a bulky winter jacket (which isn't safe), the poncho goes overtop the restraint system, allowing the straps to fit securely over your little one's indoor clothes.
I had to try one of these out for myself!
One of my readers mentioned she'd made her own poncho, however I'm not exactly skilled with a needle & thread myself (understatement of the year?) so I consulted my friend Google...
...and promptly stumbled upon Jeni Lynn Designs, a sweet Etsy shop based in Castle Rock, Colorado and owned by Jeni A, a full-time working mama (of a baby boy born early last year) and, unlike yours truly, an obviously talented seamstress! Jeni has always enjoyed sewing and crafting, and decided to turn her hobby into a business in 2011 as a step toward becoming a stay at home mommy - a goal she is very passionate about!
Jeni's flagship product is her Ridin' Safe Poncho, which was what brought me to her store in the first place. She also offers numerous other baby items geared toward making parents' lives easier and more convenient - for example full-coverage "shirt saver" bibs, sippy-savers and wet bags. And let's not forget her super-adorable leg warmers, taggie blankets and Boo Boo Buddies! All of her products come in an awesome selection of styles/patterns.
Jeni is happy to accept custom orders, so if you want a different size, shape, quantity, etc. of an item, just send her a message and let her know your preferences!
So let's take a closer look at the Ridin' Safe Poncho.
From the product description:
This poncho is 2 layers of super soft fleece, and includes a 4 inch zipper at the neck to make getting it on and off super easy! There is an attached hood for extra warmth, too!
The poncho measures approximately 33 inches square. It will be longer on smaller babies; more blanket-like. On taller kids it will provide more upper-body- only coverage, like a traditional poncho. The corners are situated to point to the front/back and down each arm to provide the best possible coverage.
How to use: When you sit your baby in their car seat, simply drape the back of the poncho up over the car seat back (do NOT leave the poncho behind baby's back!) Lift up the front, buckle the straps underneath and lay it back down. When it's time to get out of the carseat, simply unbuckle your little one and go!
Jeni also offers stylin' hood accessories such as spikes or a mohawk, and the option to add a third layer of fleece for ultimate warmth!
For review purposes, Jeni sent me a Ridin' Safe Poncho with double layer fleece in the butterfly pattern. She made it a bit larger so that our daughter can continue to wear it next Winter when she's 2.
Here's a close-up of the cozy hood and partial zipper.
And here you can see the two layers of fleece which create a nice, thick barrier against the cold!
The fleece is, indeed, super-soft and the construction of the poncho is extremely solid.
Here's our little munchkin all set to "ride safe", giving us her best ET on Hallowe'en impression!
And here we have her secured snugly into her seat, swimming in a sea of butterflies! Notice that the back of the poncho is pulled up over the top of the seat rather than bunched in behind her. (As a side note - no, she didn't rip off her bandage between the last photo and this one; the two photos were taken on separate occasions. I'm all about full disclosure! ;)
See how the straps get secured over her regular clothes, underneath the poncho fabric.
We have now been using the poncho for over a month (up until the current week, that is, during which the record temperatures have convinced me that March is the new June! :) This has given us ample testing time and we've put together the following thoughts and observations:
- The poncho does a wonderful job keeping our daughter warm. She's always toasty (but not overheated) when it comes off, even after a short ride during which the car didn't get to warm up fully.
- It doesn't quite cover her tootsies, so on colder days we throw an extra blanket overtop.
- Admittedly, the poncho isn't quite as easy to use as I'd hoped for/expected. Putting it on is certainly dirt-simple; the challenge is in getting the straps in place under all that material. It helps to have a "buddy system" (where one person holds up the front of the poncho and the other person secures the restraints), however if you're on your own your best bet is to be able to work the straps by feel, underneath the material. Alternatives include holding the front of the poncho over your child's face so you can see what you're doing (which they surely won't appreciate) and temporarily removing the poncho during the strap-in process (which'll leave them shivering unless you already have the car fully warmed up!) So all in all, there's a learning curve involved here, but, as with most things in life, practice makes perfect! (And it certainly helps to have a user-friendly car seat and/or helper accessories such as Lula Clips.)
- Our daughter will sometimes get annoyed at the poncho and try ripping it off. That said, this tends to happen when either the face "window" isn't aligned quite right, or she's bored. Distraction is helpful here to shift her focus to something else.
- On milder days, the poncho works nicely as a blanket (and this is obviously much quicker/easier!)
- The poncho also works well in a stroller, on milder days (e.g. about 6 to 15 degrees Celsius). Same concept - back of the poncho over the top and straps underneath. But since you don't need to be quite as precise with stroller straps, securing things by feel is quite easy in this case.
- Finally, the poncho is super-easy to care for; just throw it in with your child's regular laundry. (I machine wash on warm/cold and machine dry on low.) It comes out slightly less plush than it went in, but this is unavoidable with fleece.
All in all, despite the learning curve we did experience, our Ridin' Safe Poncho has become our "go to" cold weather car seat solution for our daughter (and potential future children :) Its ability to keep her safe, warm and comfortable is certainly worth the extra minute or two of fiddling "by feel" to get the straps in place, and the quality of the poncho is (surely) second to none. We also appreciate its versatility as a stroller solution, or, simply, as a warm 'n' fuzzy blanket.
Want a Ridin' Safe Poncho of your own? Or have your eye on the ultra-practical "Shirt Saver" Bibs? Shop for these and many other great hand-made baby products at Jeni Lynn Designs! (Note: Etsy policies apply to all purchases.)
One lucky Manager to Mom winner will receive a $30 credit to Jeni Lynn Designs, good toward the purchase of any item(s) of their choice! Jeni has also generously offered to include free shipping on the winner's order.
To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Jeni Lynn Designs. I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive a sample item free of charge. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.