Back in the good old days, children rode around in cars without any sort of restraints. Believe it or not, car seats were originally invented for comfort and convenience, not safety. According to SafeRide4Kids.com, “People designed early car seats simply to lift the child to allow him to look out the window and to keep the child more or less in one spot in the car.”
Early car seats were rudimentary, uncomfortable, and not at all safe. The site continues, “Originally ‘child seats’ started out as nothing more than burlap sacks with a drawstring that hung over the headrest on the passenger’s seat.”
HealthyChildren.org states, “Most injuries ... from car crashes can be prevented by the use of car safety seats. Your child, besides being much safer in a car safety seat, will behave better, so you can pay attention to your driving.”
Parents in days gone by didn’t think twice about strapping their treasured tots into some pretty dangerous-looking contraptions before heading out onto the open road. The 25 vintage booster seats below are rough-hewn, unrefined reminders that children these days are safer than ever before.
25 Lie Back And Enjoy The Ride
Okay, now this looks amazing. The baby in the shot above is loving life. Sure, the position he’s riding in is as dangerous as it is relaxing, but the fact that he’s so happy makes it difficult to knock this booster seat.
As previously mentioned, when automobiles were first invented, children and babies rode without any sort of safety restraints. Many who grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s remember going for car rides without a seat belt in sight. It wasn’t until decades later that people began to realize the life-saving advantages of booster seats.
24 This Seat Has Seen Better Days
Some car safety seats are used and used until they can’t be used anymore. It’s important to check the expiration date on a booster seat and to keep an eye on whether or not a child has outgrown a seat to ensure a child is as safe as possible while riding in a vehicle.
According to Parenting.com, “Most car seats last between five to nine years after they were manufactured...Safety standards change over time as safer technology is developed.”
23 Safe And Sound
This leather gem is one that will never go out of style. At this point in the development of booster seats, it’s no longer the safest option, but no one can deny it’s a classy model worth celebrating.
A parenting forum user’s recent post shows just how far society has come over the last decade when it comes to car seat safety. She wrote, “[My daughter] won’t even let her dolls ride without their car seats. They must be [rear facing] as well.”
22 No Restraints
This booster seat may not have been made for a car, but it’s lack of any sort of restraints shows just how far the world has come when it comes to the safety of the products used for our precious babies.
A vigilant mom shared on a BabyCenter.com forum, “My daughter's a little on the tail end of the curve verbally, so she doesn't have any great car seat quotes yet...But she has now gotten in the habit whenever her brothers or their friends get in the car of pointing at them and yelling 'Buckle! Buckle!'"
21 Totally Tubular Booster Seat
Safe4Kids.com states, “These days, parents do exhaustive research on car seat options...but even now [there is not] 100 percent usage...Recent years’ statistics show more than 57 percent of deaths for children 0-15 were because the child was unrestrained.”
A safety-conscious mom with a sense of humor wrote on a BabyCenter.com forum, “My [son] is still in a high back booster at 8 and a lot of his friends aren’t in car seats anymore. I have jokingly told him it’s because I love him more than their moms do.”
20 Enjoying The Ride
Finally, state and federal laws were put into place that required parents to put their children in “safe” booster seats while driving. Vintage seats like the one above were still far from perfect, but at least they offered some level of comfort and protection to tykes on the go.
SafeRide4Kids.com explains, “In 1971 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [adopted] the first federal standards. At the time requirements did not include crash tests but did require use of a safety belt to hold the car seat into the vehicle and a harness to hold the child in the car.”
19 Built-In Comfort
While these ingenious contraptions above make sense in theory, it isn’t really best practice to strap small children into their actual seats. There is a reason why booster seats are placed in cars. Youngsters are smaller than adults and older children and can easily slip out of restraints if they aren’t fastened in securely.
Props for creativity on this short-lived booster seat idea, but luckily for the children of today, this option was not as great as it seemed, and didn't last long.
18 Rear-Facing Roadster
As previously mentioned, the world finally wised up to the fact that the car safety seats available were anything but safe. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, many innovative designs were introduced that actually put safety as the top priority.
It was also discovered that rear-facing seats added to the safety of any children on board until they got to a certain age. The chair above looks like it was modeled after Grandpa’s favorite easy chair. It’s the kind of thing any little one would love to lounge in. Progress!
17 Powder Blue Padding
Over the last decade, most parents have realized the great importance of keeping children safe when they ride in the car. The pretty blue seat above looks a lot more like the car safety seats moms, dads and even kids of today know and love.
One busy mom admitted on a BabyCenter.com forum, “One one occasion I forgot to buckle my daughter... I had a newborn. I threw her in her car seat, loaded groceries, buckled baby and went to leave. As I backed out of the parking spot she yelled, ‘Stop the care momma. I am NOT safe.’” It was pretty funny.
16 Barely-There Baby Booster
This burlap bag is attempting to pass as a booster seat and doing a bad job. Any parent who would dare place their child in such a contraption should consider the fact that it’s moments away from shredding into useless bits of cloth.
To make matters worse, the red baby design on the back of the seat kinda looks like a tiny devil. Not only would this seat give any child who sits in it nightmares, but it might also be the most dangerous vintage model out there.
15 Booster Seat Or Dentist Chair?
This chair looks like it was definitely designed with safety and comfort in mind, but missed the mark just a bit. It’s definitely not a chair that can be quickly transferred from Mom’s car to Dad’s car to Grandma’s car or switched easily from rear-facing to forward-facing.
Another mom shared on a BabyCenter.com forum, “My three year old [who’s rear facing] saw a [forward facing] car seat in a car parked next to ours and said, ‘What wrong with her car seat mommy? It's backwards!’ Haha.”
14 Fun In The Front Seat
This seat is stylish but dangerous as can be. SafeRide4Kids.com explains, “In the ‘40s, manufacturers released canvas seats on a metal frame that attached to the car’s front seat so the child could get a better view out the windshield.”
According to HealthyChildren.org, “The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child’s age, size, and developmental needs.” Whatever a child’s stage of life, the seat above isn’t going to do anything to keep him safe.
13 This Booster Seat Isn't Grrrreat
This seat gets points for effort. Whoever designed it took the time to add an innovative tiger shape to the middle of the seat and fun red accents, but the positives stop there. It looks rickety, rough, and like it may have the ability to unintentionally poke or scrape a little one’s squishy, vulnerable appendages.
While it’s more creative than most early booster seat designs, its looks in no way add to its functionality. Today, the only place this “child safety seat” belongs is in the nearest dumpster.
12 That Looks Uncomfortable
While people were finally waking up to the reality that car safety seats could go a long way to protect children while driving around town, regulations were still far from perfect. Many children were still being placed in seats like the one above, which doesn't at all measure up to the safety guidelines that exist today.
HealthyChildren.org advises, “All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest [mass] or height allowed by the car seats’ manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.”
11 Happy Camper
This little dude may be in grave danger if his parents choose to drive him around in his current state, but he’s just happy to be a part of the action, whatever it is. Unfortunately, seats like the one above were the norm before regulations surrounding booster seats in the car became stricter.
According to HealthyChildren.org, “Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer.”
10 Plaid Perfection
This suspended seat may not be much better than the early metal models pictured above, but at least it is fashioned from softer materials and includes a little toy for Baby to play with and munch on while traveling hither and yon.
Like all good things, booster seat improvements took time. According to Safe4Kids.com, “It took 17 years from innovation and 8 years from preliminary regulations to the first state law. 1979 saw the first child restraint law in Tennessee.”
9 Dapper Dude
The young heartbreaker in the booster seat pictured above is as cute as they come, and his outfit could not be any more adorable. It’s clear by the look on his face that he isn’t quite sure about his current situation, and might be aware he’s facing a dangerous ride.
Little boys love to face danger and seem to be bound and determined to give their moms lots of reasons to worry. In this case, the poor kid is facing a precarious situation head-on without any say in the matter.
8 Shiny Suspension
While this vintage booster seat is far from perfect, it's better than some of the other models that existed in the early days of child safety seats. It offers padded leather for comfort and easy clean-up and at least it's installed in the back seat instead of the front seat!
If a child was ever nestled in this seat during a car accident, he would be far from safe, but at least he'd enjoy relative comfort in instances when the car rides he enjoyed went smoothly.
7 Not So Sure About This
The proud mama in the pic above looks pleased as punch that her daughter is settled in a booster seat. Sometimes, children are fountains of wisdom, and the toddler in this pic appears to be aware that she’s anything but safe.
She may also be wildly uncomfortable as the booster seat she is sitting in is hard as a rock and will most likely cause her to toss crazily this way and that if the vehicle she’s settled in begins moving.
6 Just Like Dad
Today, parents are advised against ever placing their children in the front seat, even when said youngsters are strapped safely into car seats. The vintage pic above depicts a father and son enjoying a drive together. The child may not be in the back seat, but at least his booster is rear facing!
In 1962, two innovative men decided it was time to design booster seats with safety features. Briton Jean Amos was the first to design a rear-facing seat and Len Rivkin designed a seat that had metal framing.
5 Just Chillin
This little guy may be seated in one of the most unsafe and basic booster seats ever invented, but he doesn’t look mad about it. His outfit is on point and he is blissfully unaware of how precarious his situation is if his parents decide to drive him somewhere while he’s chillin in the front seat.
Luckily, as time went on, more and more people realized that child car seats could actually be functional and safe. According to SafeRide4Kids.com, “By 1968 auto manufacturers were getting into the game with the first car seats designed for crash protection.”
4 Luxurious Leather
This fashionable contraption certainly looks fancy and goes well with the interior of the vehicle it’s placed in, but safety is much more important than appearance.
A conversation about car seats on a BabyCenter.com forum shows just how far we’ve come when it comes to keeping kids safe in the car. One mom shared, “this morning [my son] said to me as we’re playing cars on the floor, ‘Hey, look out, you’re using your car seat wrong!’ I said to him, ‘Well what should he do?’ and he replied, ‘Call the police!’”
3 Dining In Style
This little dude is living the good life. He’s enjoying a well-balanced meal from the comfort of his ultra-dangerous booster seat, but he isn’t concerned. He’s got good food and his mom’s undivided attention.
Sure, he may be basking in the glow of a false sense of security, but no one needs to tell him that. Luckily, seats such as the one pictured above are a thing of the past. Parents and car safety seat manufacturers have learned a lot since the early days of booster seats.
2 Camper Van For Two
When folks reminisce about their childhoods, they often put family camping trips on the lists of things they loved most. The two kiddos above are making memories in the family camper van, but they don’t look too thrilled about it.
They undoubtedly had a good time on their adventure out into the great, wide world, but it’s also pretty apparent by the looks on their faces that they’re aware the questionable contraptions their parents have placed them in aren’t the safest.
1 Hi, Mom!
By 1985, all states had child restraint laws, but in 1987, approximately 20 percent of children still did not use car seats. At least car seats during this time became much safer for children and much more comfortable for traveling tots.
According to HealthyChildren.org, “The safest place to ride for all children younger than 13 is the back seat. If possible, it may be best to ride in the middle of the back seat. However, it is sometimes difficult to install a car safety seat tightly in the middle if the vehicle seat is narrow or uneven.”