Saturday, October 13, 2007

Review: Snack N' Play Travel Tray

When the folks over at Family Travel Gear asked me to review the Snack N' Play Travel Tray, I was delighted because I'd been looking for a product like this for Alex ever since we turned his car seat forward-facing. The concept is simple: a tray that can hold your child's books, toys and snacks to keep him from driving you nuts - er, I mean entertained - during car and stroller rides.

The Snack N' Play Travel Tray is basically a rimmed tray made out of heavy fabric with a buckle that goes around your child to keep it in place. I found that it made the car seat straps a little difficult to tighten since I had to strap the tray on first. (This wasn't an issue with a three-point harness stroller.) It's nice to have a buckle on each side of the tray so that it doesn't matter which side of the car the car seat is on. It appears the tray can be used with just about any car seat or stroller. A friend who tried the tray at my request said that her son didn't like having the strap around him so she used it without the strap at times, but I haven't had this problem with Alex, who sometimes asks for the tray even on short car trips.

My friend and I both found that toys tended to slide backwards toward our sons and end up on the seat next to them. I also discovered that Alex (at age two) can't maneuver a cup out of the side storage pocket. However, that might not be an issue with an older child. Because the tray is made of fabric, it can be folded for storage and actually comes in a fairly compact zipper bag (similar to the kind that comforters come in).

My biggest concern with this tray was safety, so I asked for more details about the claim that the tray had been "crash tested by a federally recognized laboratory" and "No concerns [were] noted." I was informed that the laboratory receives federal funding to conduct safety tests and can't be identified for contractual reasons, but that the test was conducted with a new car seat and a dummy. Additionally, the tray's inventor told me that the tray complies with ASTM safety standards and that several car seat technicians examined the tray and had no safety concerns. My personal, unprofessional conclusion is that the tray itself probably doesn't add any significant threat, but as the police officer who installed my first car seat pointed out, any object in the car can become a projectile in an accident and pose a serious danger. Therefore, I should remove all loose hard objects from my car, particularly those in the backseat. But I just can't bring myself to refuse Alex his diggers, forklifts, and garbage trucks.

The bottom line: The Snack N' Play Travel Tray is nice to have but by no means necessary. It probably would be most useful during extended car trips, when the need for entertainment is greatest.

Family Travel Gear sells the Snack N' Play Travel Tray for $19.99 (shipping costs vary by location).

Originally posted May 2007 at Chief Family Officer.

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