Everything you need to know about car seats for kids in Singapore

Lionel Kong

Safely carrying a baby in a car

The safest and most secure way of seating a baby in a car is with a backwards-facing baby seat, also known as a baby capsule. The drawback with a dedicated baby capsule is the very short useful lifespan, usually only for about 12 months. These typically secure the baby in an anatomically shaped ‘bucket’ with a safety harness and is then secured to the base fitted to a car’s back seat. Many of these baby capsules are modular and can be removed from the car and clipped onto a stroller/pram wheeled base for use outside the car. They may seem very versatile but have a very short useful life in the grand scheme of things, and you’ll soon have to buy a whole new bigger setup.

More useful, and more expensive to buy initially, are modular configurable seats. Most will require bolting a fixed base to the car’s back seat, then the seat shell will have multiple levels of support and padding that can be gradually removed as the child grows.

For a fully secure mounting, baby capsules are clipped into mounts like these.

Rear facing is the safest way, and for some child seat makers, the only way to transport a baby. This is because in the unfortunate event of a frontal impact the seat’s shell will support the baby’s entire skeleton. A front facing seat will rely on the safety harnesses to restrain the baby. Babies are soft and malleable and can slip past the restraints in a very violent crash.

Getting a toddler to stay belted up in a car

Around the age of 18 months is where babies are typically considered toddlers. Baby capsule seats are no longer of use at this stage as they would have outgrown them.

At this point, you’ll also have another potential headache to deal with. The child’s growing awareness of the world around him, together with the sometimes unreasonable need to exert some element of control over his immediate surroundings, mean that belting up into a rear-facing child seat can be the perfect storm for a temper tantrum.

They often want to see what is passing by outside the window and a rear-facing child seat doesn’t allow for that. Safety experts suggest keeping toddlers rear-facing for as long as possible, but somewhere past 12 months they are generally strong enough to be switched to front-facing seats. If your child protests against staring at the ceiling with kicks and wails, you can safely switch to a front-facing seat or module once he or she is old enough.

A 360 degree rotata,ble seat like the Sparco Kids SK600 series may seem like a very expensive initial outlay, but consider that they are nearly infinitely configurable and usable from the time the baby is born until 12 years old. By then the seat would have paid for itself in usage.

Getting the safety belts and harness on can also sometimes turn into a struggle with a wailing toddler that previously as a baby would stay belted up without complaint. The only real answer here is long-term conditioning. Letting them see that everyone in the car must wear a safety belt before it moves off is a good practice, but sometimes a strong willed toddler will keep attempting to wail and smack his way to freedom. Your parenting skills will be sorely tested here. 

At this juncture you either have to upgrade to a larger child seat, or if you have a modular configurable version, adjust it for the growing child. A five-point harness in the unit will typically be standard fit at this point. Ensure that it is adjusted to be secure, but not overly tight and restrictive.

Older Children 

When a child exceeds 1.35 metres in height, he can be seated without the need of a booster and can use the regular seat belts in a car. But that years into the future if you’re still wrestling with a three-year-old.

There are booster seats that are for older children who have outgrown their car seats, but are not ready to sit unassisted in the car. KK Women and Children’s Hospital advises that children above five years old, but below 1.4 metres in height should travel in a booster seat.

The purpose of a booster seat is to raise the child to the right height for the car’s safety belt to securely restrain him, with the shoulder belt squarely across the chest, in the event of an accident. However, note that the United Nations, which sets safety standards for car seats, has recommended against backless booster seats for children weighing less than 22 kg and below 125cm tall. 

image: Mifold

The booster must be secured to the seat, typically with the waist portion of the seatbelt. There are portable, certified options such as the Mifold, that can be quickly opened up and used in taxis and cars that don’t have an appropriate child booster seat fitted.

Portable child seat options

If you don’t own a car but need to have a practical child seat for use between cars or taxis, there are portable child seats that are available, such as the very popular Urban Kanga that can be found at Mothercare stores in Singapore. Certified to European standard ECE R44/04 and approved for use by the Singapore Traffic Police, it’s the most compact full-length car seat available in Singapore.

Practice whipping these foldable child seats in and out of cars so that you can quickly fit them into taxis and private hire cars when needed. They are suitably chunky, but can be carried one-handed and fitted into a car in under two minutes with practice. Almost all designs use the car’s own seatbelt to securely strap the child seat into place.

For children over three years old there are also options like the Ridesafer travel vest, which isn’t cheap but helps to secure the car safety belt in the right position across their bodies.  

image: RideSafer

As for babies under 18 months old, there are a range of baby capsules that can be fitted into a car and also secured in place with the car’s own seatbelt. They are more cumbersome than the portable seats for older children, but you should consider them essential if you travel by cars that are not your own often enough.

Whatever you do, don’t fall for the ‘portable child seats’ you can find for under S$50 from major Asian online shopping portals. None of them are safety certified and will not hold together in the event of a crash. When it comes to child safety in the car, you get what you pay for.

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Next: What about taxis and private hire cars?

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About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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