Welcome to "Shine Tries It," where Shine editors try things so you don't have to. Every Friday our editors will road-test unusual products and unbelievable promises to find out what lives up to the hype and what doesn't. Warning: Don't try any of this at home, until we do.
Anyone who has ever traveled with young kids in tow has dealt with The Booster Seat Dilemma. Safety laws dictate that most children who are shorter than 4 foot 9 must use one, so you need one at your destination -- or even in the cab to the airport -- but your second-grader doesn't need a belt-positioning booster on the plane. Or you have more than two kids to squeeze into a tight rental car back seat, and traditional boosters are too wide, stiff, or bulky to buckle side-by-side. Or you're staying with friends whose tiny tots don't have the same car-seat requirements as your elementary school-age kids do.
Enter the Bubble Bum. Sure, the name is a little bit silly. But the product itself? Is genius.
It's an ultra-portable, inflatable, belt-positioning booster that folds up to go anywhere your kids do. The bright-purple seat is blessedly decoration-free, which means that your light-weight 10-year-old won't balk at sitting in a baby-themed seat. It inflates easily -- the valve sucks in air much in the same way a good camping air mattress does, so it's ready to use in just a couple of minutes -- and when deflated it rolls up into its own little drawstring bag (and is about the size of a loaf of bread) or folds flat to pack in a suitcase. It's also great for carpooling, when you have to haul an extra child or two around but don't want to deal with extra, bulky boosters.
We tested one out for a few weeks, and can report with total confidence that this air-filled booster is really, really durable. As in, 5-year-old-boy-bouncing-on-it-like-a-mini-trampoline durable. Kids-kicking-it-around-on-the-driveway durable. Mom-accidentally-leaving-a-heavy-backpack-on-it-all-weekend durable. And it's comfortable, too -- our kids actually squabble over who gets to sit on it for long and short car rides.
It does not anchor into your car's actual seat, so it's important to note and follow the age and weight requirements so that your child doesn't slide around (it's intended for kids age 4 to 11 years who weight 40 to 100 pounds). Since it's not rigid and has no arm rests, it's easy to fit three Bubble Bums in a row on a single back seat. Red plastic loops hold the seat belt in place correctly, though we have to admit it took our kids a few minutes to figure out how to arrange them so they could buckle themselves in.
The Bubble Bum costs $39.99, which makes it a little pricier than your average booster. But for those who rent cars, take cabs, or travel often -- hello, Memorial Day and Summer Travel Season! -- that may be money well spent. You can find the Bubble Bum at Amazon.com, Target.com (online only), Magic Beans, Babies r Us (online only), and BubbleBum.us.
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