What do you do when your toddler thinks it’s funny to push his chest clip down, slide his arms out of the straps, and nearly escape while you’re doing 65mph on the highway?

Behold: a little parent magic trick to foil even the most determined young Houdini — the Button-Down Shirt Trick!

For the shirt trick to work, make sure the shirt has at least several small buttons as this will decrease the chance that the child can open the shirt themselves, and make sure you are buckling the child properly SNUG. Watch this video below… we guarantee you’ll learn something new.


1. Please do not duct tape the chest clip together, tie knots in the straps above and below the chest clip, or other desperate (but unsafe) maneuvers to try and outsmart your Houdini. The button-down shirt trick does not interfere with the performance of the seat during a crash – but duct tape, knots, etc can.

2. If you are in Europe, please do not add a chest clip to your seat unless your seat allows it (BeSafe does with their Belt Collector). If you are in the US, do not remove your chest clip. Use your seat as instructed. The trick shown will work on seats with and without chest clips.

3. Please also make sure to try behavioral modification techniques in tandem with this trick… so your child is not wearing a button-down in the car seat forever.

For younger kids, play “car” using their dolls/stuffed animals/action figures and have the child switch roles and be the mom/dad who needs to teach the child how to sit safely in their straps while the car is moving. 

For kids who crave routine (especially those on the spectrum) take a few pictures to show them the routine involved in getting in and riding in the car and view these with the child just prior to leaving the house.

What if the Houdini Trick doesn’t work?

We know there are kids for whom the shirt trick simply won’t work. A 6 year old with autism or ADHD who is determined to get out of their car seat will laugh in the face of tiny buttons and have them undone in a flash. We know how terrifying every second of the trip with children like this can be – wondering if your child has gotten unbuckled and whether you can find a safe place to pull over quickly enough before this child starts trying to open the doors, climbs into the front seat, starts unbuckling others in the car, or god forbid someone hits you. 

Children with special healthcare needs who escape from their car seats continue to put themselves in great danger despite their moms and dads trying their hardest to keep them safe – and it is for these children that we recommend the chest clip guard and buckle guard by Merritt.

Merritt manufactures car seats for children with special needs and truly understands some of the unique transportation challenges that some children have. This company also understands crash dynamics and has an attention to safety not typically found in other aftermarket products.

Their chest clip guard and buckle guard make it virtually impossible for a child to escape from a 5 point harness. We know that the chest clip guard and buckle guard are not approved by other car seat manufacturers, but we also know that if your child is escaping from the car seat, the car seat won’t do the child any good in a crash. In addition, a parent who is constantly worried about a child escaping is a very distracted driver, which endangers everyone in the car as well as others on the road.

Please see their website to make sure the guards will work on your child’s seat – as you need a specific crotch buckle and harness strap type in order to use these devices. If your child is requiring one of these guards, your child may also need to stay in a 5-point-harness longer than average; the Britax Grow With You ClickTight has the highest harness capacity of any conventional car seat in the United States and features a harness type and crotch buckle that will work with the guards. Britax and the other car seat manufacturers do not approve of the use of these devices on their seats… but as stated above, if your child is escaping the car seat the child is at far greater risk from not being in a car seat than from being in one with these guards. Depending on how your child prefers to escape you can choose to get only one of the guards – i.e. if your child can not undo the crotch buckle, then you do not need the buckle guard.

If you’re using the Merritt guards, it means that your child is craftier than usual at escaping. Beware of the child unbuckling the seat belt used to secure the car seat to the vehicle (most kids in this age range will have maxed out the lower anchor weight limits and will need to have their car seat secured with the vehicle’s seat belt)… as you may want to consider a buckle guard to prevent this. You can also try turning the buckle around so the red release button faces in (this will work on some buckles, not others) – to make it harder to push the red release button.