Pros: Safe, easy to use
Cons: A little expensive, recline has limited usability
It was time to finally purchase a booster seat for our 4 1/2 year old daughter. Looking on-line with me she was smitten by the Graco TurboBooster in the Disney Princess pattern. Good luck finding it. Graco no longer manufactures booster seats with Disney characters. I was ready to buy what ever Target had available but Bugs convinced grandma that she needed a girl car seat, so she ended up with the Graco Turbo Booster Safe Seat in the new Fairy Tales pattern.
Like all booster seats, this is a forward facing only car seat that uses the car seat belt to keep your child secure as opposed to an internal set of straps. The Turbo Booster Safe Seat is a high back booster with a removable back so it can be converted into a backless booster seat. The Safe Seat features an open loop design to ensure the cars seat belt can retract correctly All SafeSeats can be used for children ages 3 - 10, 30 - 100 lbs and 38 57 tall. With the back removed the seat is designed for children 4-10, 40 100 lbs and 40 -57 tall. The seat has two recline positions for added comfort. The seat is well padded and had deep side wings with EPS foam that add to the side impact safety as well as providing a place for sleepy heads to rest. There are two swivel cup holders and two arm rests that are height adjustable but they do not rotate up. The cover can be removed for machine washing and then air dried. All Safe Seat boosters in the 8673 model series (which includes the Firecracker and Fairfax patterns) come with a horseshoe shaped gray neck pillow.
Are You Ready for a Booster Seat?
Height, weight and age limits are only one set of factors for determining if your child is ready for a booster seat. Maturity level is something else to consider. A typical car seat with its 5-point harness prevents children from moving around too much. When they are in a booster seat children need to be able to remember on their own to sit in a proper position. At age 2 our oldest met the height and weight requirements for a booster seat, but even a year later when she met the suggested age range she still was not ready to sit still in a booster seat. Now as her 5th birthday approaches she understands the importance of sitting still. Since this seat is in our second vehicle, it is used for short trips only but for longer trips I feel better knowing she is secured with a 5-point harness in our Britax Regent and will be for a few years to come.
Installation and Set-up
For anyone who has ever struggled to properly install a car seat you will love using a booster seat. There is no installation, only set up. A booster seat does not lock into your cars seat belt system, you simply place the seat in position and go. The seat is relatively heavy for a booster seat (about 10 lbs) but lighter than your typical 5-point harness seat so it is reasonably easy to move from car to car.
Something you may not be used to from other car seats is the fact that you need to put this seat together. Assembly is fairly easy and straight forward. You need to screw the arm rests into the base and then insert the back into the base. Once that is done you are ready to adjust the seat for you child.
The seat must be set up so that when the cars shoulder belt is threaded through the belt positioner the seat belt rests on your childs shoulder, not their neck or face. To do this you simply need to use the red handle in the back to raise and lower the height of the head rest to the proper position. The top of your childs ears must be below the top of the seat as well. This seat can only be used with a shoulder lap belt combination that is anchored to the car, it cannot be used with motorized belts or lap belts only.
This is also the time to set the recline. Chances are this feature will only be useful if you have a van or rear seats with a deep recline. The back of the booster seat must be fully in contact with your cars car seat. If you can adjust the angle of the seat, such as with captains seats in a van this should not be an issue, it fits fine at full incline in our van. However this seat resides in our station wagon where the rear seats are fairly vertical. In trying to put the booster in the car only the top of the booster was in contact with the car seat when it was in the recline position. Since the split bench seat has a fixed recline the booster seat can only be used in its most upright position in our car.
I like this seat and my daughter loves it. The pink and purple print with flowers and wands is all girl just like she wanted. The seat is safe and comfortable. Comfort is important in a booster seat since it does reduce the fidget factor that can move a child out of a safe position. Since safety is the single most important factor I am satisfied with this seat.
Everything adjusts easily so we can get the seat belt into the correct position. Although our almost 3 year old is by no means ready to sit in a car seat without a 5-point harness, I had no trouble adjusting the seat down to safely accommodate her 37, 34 lb small frame and in just a matter of seconds the seat back can be raised for our 46, 45 lb eldest child. At some point in the future there will be no issue with our girls sharing this seat. The seat belt is simple to thread over the lap belt guides (marked by red plastic) and then through the open guide loops at the shoulders.
Whats Not to Love?
This car seat met the two conditions I placed when I let my mother and daughter choose a new booster seat; it has a high back and an open loop design. I knew that a high back booster would do a better job of keeping my daughter in the proper seated position, especially if she fell asleep while in it.
The open loop design is imperative for safety. Many older (and some current) high back booster seats still feature older clips to guide the car shoulder harness into the correct position. These tight clips can stop the car seat from retracting properly. If you child moves forward slack is introduced into the seat belt. Under normal conditions when your child sits back the seat belt follows them. With some combinations of cars and seats when the child moves forward the belt stays away from the child. In the event of an accident instead of the seat locking into place up against your childs shoulder your child actually has to fly forward to meet the belt, a very dangerous situation. It is critical that the cars seat belt can slide freely through any positioning system and an open loop design is the best. However, with any booster seat, if you can pull the seat belt away from your child and it does not immediately retract back up against your child, the seat is not safe and should not be used.
The recline is a nice idea and when this booster ever makes its way to the van it will be a great option. The angle seems comfortable for a longer trip, especially if your child still tends to nap. It will help prevent the slumped over situation that can put our child out of the proper position. The high head rest gives your child a place to rest their head. We have already lost the neck pillow as it is something I dont want my children to fiddle with when they are in the seat. Im surprised that my daughter has not complained about deep side impact wings blocking her view, but on our short trips around town there isnt much she hasnt seen already. My daughter does have some trouble buckling and unbuckling herself. That of course is an issue with our car much more so than the actual seat since she has no trouble getting in and out in my mothers car with this seat.
My major complaint about the seat is that you cannot rotate the arm rests up and out of the way so a child can climb in easily from the side. It isnt a big deal but it is a feature on other booster seats that would be nice to have. Since the booster is seat is not attached to the car it tends to tip toward her when she is trying to climb up and over the arm rest. The narrow back seat in the station wagon makes it difficult for her to enter from the front and she is used to climbing in from the side in all of her other seats.
The cup holders are virtually useless. They are too shallow to really keep a cup in place and too small for just about anything else. I keep them shut at all times and my daughter pretty much ignores them. For our short trips cup holders arent necessary and in the van we have plenty of built in cup holders.
Americas Next Top Model
I suppose as a way to distribute car seat sales among many merchants Graco, in their infinite wisdom, sells certain patterns through certain retailers only. The Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat in Fairy Tales is only available at K-Mart. The Fairfax pattern (maroon) is available at Wal*Mart, Baby Depot and directly from Graco. The Firecracker pattern (denim with red and orange accents) is available at Baby Depot, Albee Baby and from Graco.
To make things even more complicated the Graco Turbo Booster Safe Seat comes in several models. The basics of the seats are all the same, the cover pattern and some of the extras change. All models have the two position recline, removable cover, open loop belt guides and convert to a backless booster with all of the same height and weight limits and age recommendations. Some seats have a reversible cover so you can change the look of the car seat other wise all of the Safe Seats are essentially the same with the patterns (and price) varying depending upon where you choose to buy the seat. The small neck pillow that comes with the 8673 models does not seem worth the extra $10 to me, however my mom thought the pattern was worth paying for to make her granddaughter happy.
This is a nice seat, but not perfect. It is well padded making it comfortable and the open loop design makes it safe. The recline is a nice feature if your vehicle seat can accommodate it, but it will mostly be used in captains seats of a van. I do wish the arm rests lifted up and out of the way for easier side entry, but overall a the Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat is a good choice for a child ready to sit in a booster seat.
My Other Car Seat Reviews
Safety 1st Apex 65
Graco Comfort Sport
Evenflo Comet Booster
Cosco Opus 35