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Infant to Toddler car seats/playpens/etc in the late 1970s - 1987
thatfilmgirl wrote in little_details
(I've searched the terms in Wikipedia and googled: 1970s car seats/1970s travel playpens and haven't found what I've been looking for)

Place: US
Time Period: late 1970s/1980s



After some attempts at googling, I figured I should probably go to the place where it's most likely there are people who have actually used what I'm looking for.

I was wondering if there were easy, compact travel playpens available in the late 1970s through the mid-80s (Well, I'm sure there were travel playpens) and what were they like. Were they like the ones we have today and did they have the bassinet addition? Would they be able to hold the weight of an eight year old?

What were car seats like? Were they able to attach to strollers like they do now?

What necessary travel/sleep furniture is needed for an infant - four years old? I know car seats and such but is there anything else I should be aware of?

EDIT: Thanks so much everyone for your answers. It makes me so glad to have been born in the late 80s *grimace*

My son was born in 1986. We had a folding playpen and a collapsible bed that was playpen-like. I don't know what a bassinet addition is, but the playpens were just pens with mesh walls and a padded roll at the top.

Car seats were pretty primitive - it hadn't been so long since car seats were optional or nonexistent. My brother was born in 1970 - he never had a car seat. By 1981 when my oldest stepdaughter was born, they were everywhere. They didn't attach to strollers - they were huge and unwieldy mostly.


Car seats were optional?! So someone just held the infant while driving?! o.o

How small were the folding playpens?

Not only optional, but practically nonexistent. At least the type of carseat that hooked into seat belts (which were also not mandatory - I grew up in the 60's and I don't think any of our cars had seatbelts till the late 60's, early 70's. Someone held the baby or it was placed in a seat that just rested on the bench seat (not too many bucket-style seats in those days.

The folding playpen I had for Thomas was decent sized, probably 4x5 or so. I'm not good at estimating length though, so that could be off. It folded somewhat flat, but certainly wasn't compact.

Car seats were invented in 1933 and safety car seats in 1962. They were more common starting in the early 70s. Soon afterward they were required by a lot of states.

Bassinet additions to play pens began in the 90s and weren't so prevalent until the late 90s. The playpens would hold a small eight year old, but I don't know that many would fit in one. The bassinet additions max out at 30 pounds and I wouldn't recommend having anyone that heavy in one if they move at all.

Yes, but the "car seats" invented in 1933 weren't for safety; they were for keeping the kid from crawling around in the car. They weren't anything at all like current carseats in either form or function.

Also, while safety seats came into producion in the 1960s, they weren't in wide use until the 80s, and again, far from current form and function.

I asked my mom what she did with my older siblings when she drove--my oldest sibling was born in 1960, the youngest of the older ones in 1966--and she couldn't quite remember at first. It's just so different now.

My mom or sister would simply hold me in her arms while my dad drove! (I was born in the mid-1960s).

When I got a little older, I simply sat in the back seat. No seat belts. I didn't use seat belts until about 1974 ± a couple years, and I was the first one in my family to do so (teachers in school said we should use them). My dad was the last to use seat belts, when they started imposing big fines in the early-1980s.

The first time I saw an infant car seat was in 1989 when my nephew was born.

We really lived dangerously!

I was born in 1976, and my sister in 1981. I'm pretty sure we had car seats as infants -- my sister certainly did -- but people didn't use them for nearly as long as they're used today. Some of my earliest memories are of being three years old and riding in a yellow Renault 4 car, in the back seat, with a lap belt, and a hard plastic bib with a sort of turned-up-into-a-cup end, because I got carsick.

Plastic rear-facing bucket seats for infants were a pretty standard thing, at least in the early 1980s. I think ours is still in my parents' attic. This page, maybe 2/3 of the way down, has a photo of a car seat for an older baby from 1970.

The seats didn't fit onto strollers primarily because the strollers of the 1970s and early 1980s weren't the grand behemoths that you can get today. The stroller that my sister and I were pushed around in was literally nothing more than a cloth seat on wheels, with two rounded handles, and four shopping-cart wheels. It folded up, and went many places with us. Toy stores sometimes sell doll strollers that look like this, and I've seen a few parents still using these really simple ones, although people do love their behemoths.

There were folding playpens available, at least in the mid-1980s. Some friends of my mother's had one, and they brought it to our house a couple of times when their kids were small. It was basically a folding mesh box with padded edges. I don't know if it would hold the weight of an eight-year-old, because my mom or her friend would always yell at me if I tried to climb in and get one of the babies out. . .

Car seat usage apparently wasn't terribly widespread even into the late 70s. My parents had one for me, and they were really considered oddballs for having it. Consequently, it saved my life when my mother was rear-ended with me in the car when I was a few weeks old. The orthopedist she saw afterwards encouraged her to write letters to both the manufacturer and to our congressmen about the incident, it was that much of a big deal for them to have had me secured in a car seat at the time.

I do not believe that infant seats snapped into strollers in the late 70s. Most strollers weren't really of that shape or nature, the way they are now. They were mostly small foldy things.

I have photographs of my brother and me in our play pen, late 70s and early 80s. It was collapsible, and I'm sure you could stuff it in the car and take it somewhere. Again, not so thick and bulky and sturdy as they are now, but also not really made to be portable the way many are now, either. No bassinet additions; pretty much a bottom and four screened sides with metal crossbars.

I was born in 1980. My dad had a 1973 Nova that didn't have seat belts for the middle seats. Even with people on either side of me, as a young child it scared me how I slid around. I much prefered to be belted in.

I remember the booster seat I had when I was 2-3 was maybe four inches high and brown vinyl.

The only strollers I remember seeing around are just like the others have mentioned - the small "umbrella" type. They are still available - I have one just in case my mammoth stroller won't fit in a car.

Safety standards were not high for baby equipment back in the day, either. The current laws regarding the spacing of crib rails, 5-point safety harnesses and such all arose from incidents/law suits in the 1970s and 1980s. My mother-in-law told me a story of how my husband, as an infant in about 1978, dismantled his entire playpen and was sitting on the floor surrounded by the walls and the screws.

As for sleeping furniture while traveling, there were trusty slumber bags. I had a Strawberry Shortcake and a Rainbow Brite slumber bag. When we stayed at my grandparents house in Alabama, they had ancient fold-out green cots that we slept on.

I hope that helps!

The playpens used for me and my sisters (I was born in '80, my youngest sister in '86) looked something like this. They all pretty much looked the same, variations being how much padding there was on the bottom and at the top, and whether they sat flat on the ground or were a bit raised. That model doesn't look like it folds, but there were ones that did. They were comparable in size, when folded up, to today's disassembled and ready for travel portable crib. But a bit shorter. :)

At least in our family, the playpen *was* the portable crib. And if there was a bassinet, it was because there was a bassinet. The whole 'addition' thing is insanely clever and was definitely not around (or at least common) until well after my youngest cousin (born '92) was out of her crib years.

Oooh. Excellent because yes, the playpen was hopefully going to end up being the portable crib (unless I decided to screw it and have the child sleep in the motel drawer). So if it folded up, it worked out like today's portable crib then? *just to clarify*

It folds more like a stroller than a portable crib (ie, no disassembly required, just unlatch the locks that hold it in place and bend where applicatble), and then just stash it wherever.

Er, and as I recall my aunt had one where the bottom came out and could be folded in half (but not more than that, I think. Just in half).

You don't actually say what country you're referring to in your post (please do; it helps a lot) but I imagine you're talking about the US. However, I can give a brief UK-centred perspective to the last bit. and say that I don't think I (born 1975) had a car seat, but that my sister (born 1980) did.

I was born in 1977; I have four siblings born in the early 80s. Our playpen was just like what's been already mentioned, square mesh pen with padded edges, and by the time I was...four? Five? Something like that...I'd already figured out how to get out of it. It might hold the weight of an eight year old if they didn't move, but I doubt it would keep them there if the intent was keeping them in one spot.

The car seat I used up until I was five or so was a two-piece plastic affair; the bottom was a 'booster' that looked sort of like those plastic ones you get in restaurants, but not quite as conforming, and a second part that went in front of me and the seatbelt went around it. It had a padded part at the top that was angled; the idea being if we got into a wreck I'd smash my face into that and not snap my neck flying forward. Fortunately we never got into a wreck.

Additionally, as the mother of a four-year-old -- pretty much all you need when traveling is a car seat. My daughter sleeps in a fullsize bed, in my bed if necessary.

The cast of characters is a father, six month old, and three/four year old and the son and father sleep in a bed so I needed somewhere for the baby to sleep and I figured I should check up on it.

The point of my concern for the eight year old (starts off as the three year old) would crawl in there to be with the baby so I figured I'd throw it in. Would it hold the child then?

I'm going to guess 'no'. My daughter slept in a modern port-a-pen until she was two and a half or so; I'm sure it wouldn't hold much more than her current weight and she's only four. My youngest siblings are twins (born 1985) and shared a crib and a playpen until they were three or maybe a little younger, and at that point they were too big to be accommodated in one piece of furniture. For my clarification though -- so the two children start out at six months and three/four years? So when the eight year old is climbing in to be with the younger child said younger child is now four/five?

Also, the idea of an eight-year-old climbing into a playpen makes me think s/he would tip it over inadvertently, or at least be more likely to.

I don't know what country you're posting about, but seatbelts were compulsory in Australia in the 1970s. I was born in 1974 and had a big, unwieldy car seat (later re-used for my brothers) which was strapped in with a lap belt and bolted to the roof. It was not easily removable. When I was two or so, I graduated to a firm, moulded foam seat about 25cm high and stayed in that until I was about six.

In the US, car seats were not even taken seriously back in the 70s. So...no. Most people didn't even have them. Mama just tried to hold baby.

Playpens did not have bassinet thingies. They would fold...but it would be different--each side could drop down and then the bottom fold so that you store it as a big awkward rectangle that doesn't compress all that much (Not like modern ones anyway). I wouldn't imagine a child over 4 being able to sit in one without seriously reinforcing it somehow.

Bassinets were a separate deal. So were strollers.

My daughter was born in 1981 in England. We had a carrycot on wheels. The carrycot was very basic and sat on top if the wheels. We didn't have a car but fitted my Mum's car with carrycot straps so that the bit the baby went in was restrained in the back seat.

Hard to explain and I can't find any photos.

We also used a 'proper' pram to get about and an umbrella buggy.

After a while we had a plastic car seat with a padded cover which clipped in and out of her car. Very basic.

And yes a lot of people just held small children on their laps.

I found the carrycot on google. Excellent. It'll be very beneficial :)

UK: The playpen we had in the late 70s/early 80s was known as "the lobster pot" - round base and net sides that could be supported by arms that folded out. We also had a folding travelling cot. The cot was big enough for a three or four year old. We used to take these on holiday, but they were quite bulky, as was the folding high chair.

Car seats were single purpose; multipurpose push chairs/car seats came much later.

When in turn our daughters were four, the only thing we ever took was a folding pushchair and a "booster seat" for use on ordinary chairs. By that age they weren't using the folding cot because they couldn't get out of it in the night to use the potty if necessary.

US Midwest; 1980 - At the baby shower I received something I believe was called a "folding portable play-yard" which was a folding playpen with a hard insert for the bottom. We used it as a portable crib for my daughter when we visited friends and family. If a six year old jumps into the playpen, the insert cracks and stabs the bottom of the playpen, causing a huge hole. If said same six year old tries to sit in the stroller (umbrella stroller, folds & carries easily) he rips the stitching and the seat falls down, causing the six year old to hit his head and require stitches. Yes, my nephews were a bit rough. I can verify a skinny six year old can fit in the playpen without breaking it, but jumping will cause breakage.
All the mothers of of my aquaintence in the early 80s loved our "convenience" products - folding baby furniture, strollers that could be lifted with one hand and taken on the bus or stowed in a small car - not like the stuff our parents had to deal with.
I remember that in Ohio a law had recently passed (in 1979?) requiring car seats. They were large, unwieldy, hard to fit in a car and usually required two people to properly strap them in. Very small infants needed to be padded with receiving blankets, because the seats were one size fits all.

i am looking for a older carseat in the late 60s early 70s eara i want to use it to display a life like doll anyone know of any out there you can email me at starlite893@frontier.com thanks so much for an;y help i can recieve