Tall, Versatile Booster for your growing Big Kid

Nov 15, 2009 (Updated Nov 16, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Versatile, tall, wide, great for growing kids, and latch-compatible

Cons:won't fit small kids or small cars.

The Bottom Line: I recommend this booster for kids 48" and bigger to last them until they are ready for a seatbelt.

At 7yrs old, my son had already outgrown every other high back booster on the market... he was using a backless booster, which he did OKAY in, but as high back boosters provide more side protection and he still drifts off on long trips, when this booster hit the market, I knew I had to have it.

Why this booster??

1.  The measurements - I was concerned that there just wasn't a highback booster out there tall enough for my son... but then I found out that this one goes as tall as 21" from the seat crack (where the seat and the back meet) to the guide at it's tallest height... my son was only at an 18" torso... so he should have lots of room.
He'd gotten to wide in the shoulders for some boosters, but this one had width-adjustable wings and a wide base.

2.  Latch compatibility - this seat has the ability to latch into the vehicle seat and hold it in for you - doesn't offer much in terms of safety, but it makes it so the seat is not at risk of being a projectile if you get in a crash when the child is not in the seat, so you don't have to buckle it when the child isn't in it

3.  Converts to Backless - not every car will work with a highback, so when my son is in other cars, I wanted him to be able to use this booster... since it converts to a backless, it is just a matter of taking it out, removing the back, and he's ready to go.  It's also more convenient for when he goes in a carpool or with his grandparents... I don't have to bother taking the whole thing out, readjusting the width, putting it in for him... he can carry it and do it all himself.

4.  Cupholders - a silly reason, but we've had so many boosters that I was thrilled to see these cupholders.. they are deep and will hold a cup even through turns and someone bumping the cupholder when walking past the seat (his brother has done this)

Assembly and Installation

When I received the seat, it came in 2 parts.  The headrest and backrest were already connected, the cover was already on both pieces.  All I had to do was set the seat portion on the floor, put the back down the same way, line up the connections... and then push the back up until it clicked (and it really CLICKS)  It is very solid and the back does not fall off like other boosters, though it is still easy enough to remove quickly.

After that, I took it out to my van with my son to get it installed.

My van requires the seat to be reclined a bit to access latch, so after reclining it, I set the seat in the captain's chair.  Because of the recline feature, it fit beautifully.  Latch is simple... you push a tab on the front and pull one of the connectors to get slack... then connect the connectors to the bars one at a time.
It is after you connect the latch connectors that it gets trickier.  

You are not going to have the solid install like a harnessed seat... this seat is going to move some when you shake it... the latch is just to hold it in place so it won't fly about.  So I removed MOST of the slack, leaving room for adjusting the width... and had my son climb in.

Adjustments for height and width

Width is adjusted with a circular piece in the back that has room for your hand to grip the center part and you simply turn it one way to make the wings move farther apart, or bring them closer together.

After my son sat in the seat, though, it was hard to adjust them... I had to have him climb out, adjust them what I thought was right, then have him get back in and see.  After 3 times, we had it just where we wanted, which was snug, but wide enough for comfort.

Height adjusts by a simple lever on the headrest that you squeeze and you pull.  There are 10-11 spaces, so it is very easy to get a customized fit for a child.  I was pleased also to see my son had a noticeable amount of grow room, with him having a good 3 clicks before he would outgrow the seat.  the shoulder guides do have to be at least 1cm. above the shoulder, which is stated in the manual.

After I adjusted it for him, he got out and I tightened the last bit of slack I could... making it very snug, still moved about 2" side to side, but again, this is not a harnessed carseat.

Ease of Use

The booster is pretty much like any booster... if you have the back on, you thread the shoulderbelt through the guide.  I really like this guide because the opening is in the middle of the bottom portion... this makes it hard for the belt to pop out, like I've had other boosters do.  Then you thread the lap belt under the first armrest, and both portions under the second armrest, and tighten.  My son is able to do this part himself and that's so great.

The seat is very deep and well padded, as are the headwings and the body support, so my son's legs are still perfectly supported now a year and a half later, and he has never complained about comfort.

Side Impact Protection

I'd mentioned this was one reason I got the seat, so I thought I'd go into what this seat offers that others do not for side protection.  Every booster on the market today (except for a rare exception) has EPS/EPP foam in the headrest.  The Monterey also has this.  But what it also has is deeper, thicker headwings to completely protect the head, it has eps/epp foam coating the body supports and armrests, too, so your child's head and the whole sides of the body will only hit shock-absorbing foam, instead of hard plastic.  

While not as common, side impacts are the most deadly of crashes, so when I think of seats for my kids, I do think of how much side protection a seat offers.

Taking off the Cover to Wash

The cover comes off in pieces... and the pieces are primarily attached with black button tacks made of plastic.  These can be a little hard to remove, so I advise using a butter knife... they will then pop out easily.  There is the headrest cover, which also slides under the pad for the back, the back pad is separate, then the two body support covers are separate, and the piece for the seat (backless booster).  So it ends up being five pieces... but this can be helpful if you don't need to wash the whole seat.  It washes easily and can be easily put back on, but you do have to deal with those plastic tacks again.... though they are easier to push in than pull out.

Because the cover is a breatheable mesh and a nice soft microfiber, it really doesn't get dirty often and I've only washed it two time in the year or so I've had it.  Most anything I can just wipe up.

Is this the right booster for you?

Sunshine Kids says this seat is for children 3yrs, 30lbs, and at least 38" - I would never dream of putting a child that young and small in ANY booster... As for this one, when I got it, my daughter was 4.5yrs old and already over 40lbs... she had never ridden in a booster, but I'd tried her out just to see how boosters fit smaller kids in her brothers' seats.  This was the first so far that was TOO BIG... so if you have a small child, this is not the seat for you.  However, if you have a kid who is ready for a booster, or who complains that a seat is for little kids... this is NOT for little kids... this is CLEARLY a big kid seat.

It accomodates children up to 120lbs and about 63"  Well, again, I think Sunshine kids is a bit off.  The weight, yes, would fit.  My oldest is extremely tall for his age and at 61" and 107lbs, he fits comfortably in the backless portion, however, he is too tall.  So remember, total height is subjective... some kids have longer torsos.  

However, while he passed the 5 step test at 4'9", he still had about 1.5" left in this booster when he had already moved to just using the seatbelt... so it will last longer than most.
If your child can fill the booster out (it is also wide and narrow children may find the shoulderbelt does not fit properly) and you can accomodate what will become a wide seat as your child grows, then this is definitely the booster for you.

But for skinny narrow kids, I would pass.

This is a great booster, it really is... it's one of my favorites, as my son will be able to ride safely in this with the back on until he no longer needs a booster, something that before this seat was not possible.  I recommend this seat to so many people.

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