Releasing harness buckles

How can you safely stop your child undoing the seat belt or harness buckle?

Most children start to release the harness buckle or wriggle out of the belts at some time

Most children start to release the harness buckle or wriggle out of the belts at some time

If your child has started releasing the harness buckle or wriggling out of the belts, you're not alone - most children will do this at some time.

There are good reasons why buckles can't be designed to be 'child-proof' but there are some effective strategies to help you stop them doing it.

Understandably it must be possible to release the belt quickly and easily in an emergency. At worst this might be with a car upside down in a ditch at night, with access at arm's length through a window, or by a person in shock and unfamiliar with such equipment.

  • Any form of 'Chinese puzzle' is out. The catch cannot be hidden, must be obvious and accessible and must not require a large force to release it.
  • A different type of catch - perhaps a friend's seat - may not be undone as easily but this is usually only temporary. Given the right conditions they will soon get the knack.
  • Don't be tempted to modify the buckle - parents have suggesting reversing the buckle so it faces the child's tummy, putting a cover over the buckle or even wrapping it in tape! Anything like this will compromise safety and again tends to be only effective for a short while. The child may see it as a new challenge rather it solving the problem.

Diverting attention

It can be effective to try persuading the child that there is no advantage in releasing the buckle.

Show that the car doesn't go (or soon stops) if the belt is undone.  The best time to start this is when you get a new seat or change the car - but remember to do it when there is no deadline for the journey.

If the child is old enough to really want to get somewhere, that's ideal. Try telling the child that unless the seat belt is fastened, they won't get to the party, zoo, etc.

A raised seat can also help as it will increase your child's field of view.

Some parents have found that a 'play tray' attachment - if available for the particular seat - can provide some distraction and may make the buckle less tempting as well.

(25 June 2012)