CARS.COM — Booster seats are perhaps the easiest car seat to use — until taxi rides, carpools or rental cars complicate things. Many families in these situations opt not to bring along this important but bulky car seat. One solution could be a new compact booster seat. The mifold can be stowed in a child's backpack or in a car's glove box, allowing parents to keep it on hand for any situation.
The mifold isn't yet available in stores, but the company announced that the booster can be purchased online today through crowdfunding website Indiegogo with a promised delivery date of March 2016. The company plans to sell the mifold at big-box retailers in mid-2016.
The mifold is 10 times smaller than a regular booster seat. At 10 inches long, 5-plus inches wide and just 1.5 inches thick when folded, there's no excuse for a child to ride without a booster seat. However, mifold inventor Jon Sumroy said it isn't an alternative to the traditional booster.
It's a "booster seat for when a [regular] booster seat isn't available," Sumroy said.
A 2014 study of booster seat usage conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide found that one in five parents said they allow children to ride in their carpool without seat belts or the correct child-safety seat. While 61 percent of parents said they noticed other parents "bending the rules" with regard to booster seat and seat belt usage.
Clearly there's a need for a compact booster.
A traditional booster lifts the child so the seat belt properly fits them, but the mifold holds the seat belt down to their level, routing the lap belt over their hips and the shoulder belt across their chest.
The mifold booster can be used by kids, ages 4-12, who weigh 40 to 120 pounds. As with traditional booster seats, once a child reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall, they've outgrown the mifold and can sit in the backseat using just the seat belt.
To use the mifold, parents simply unfold it and extend the side arms to fit their child's width. The side arms, which hold the lap belt in place, can be adjusted for three different widths, Sumroy said. The widest setting is the same width as a regular booster seat, and a locking device holds the arms in place when they're correctly positioned. The lap belt is then positioned into the arms' anchor points, he said.
The mifold's shoulder-adjusting strap's clip is then positioned onto the seat belt's shoulder strap. If the shoulder belt isn't inserted correctly into clip, it won't close. "I wanted kids to be able to use this one-handed without looking," he said.
Much like a traditional booster seat, children ages 4 to 5 will likely need help getting buckled into the mifold. However, Sumroy said kids ages 6 or 7 and older can master buckling in after being first shown how to do it.
Sumroy also says three mifold seats can fit across a smaller car's backseat. That's something we'd like to try once we get our hands on some for testing.
For some parents, school carpools are only a few weeks away from starting up again. While the mifold won't be available in time for the start of the school year, it's certainly worth considering in the near-future.