The Kaboost is a clever new product that requires a linguistic turn of phrase so subtle it's easy to miss. Instead of a booster seat, Kaboost is a seat booster. The ever-so-slightly anthropomorphic device uses spring-loaded appendages to tightly grip chair legs and raise it either of two standard booster seat heights.
The idea seemed brilliant, so we called up the company and asked them to send us a sample. Turned out we were talking to the inventor himself, and he was kind enough to ship us one to play with. After spending a few days with the product, we think it's perfect for families who know what they're after.
We had two initial concerns we wanted to check out in person: ease of installation and stability. The former turned out to be a snap. Kaboost's springy appendages move smoothly and easily, and once you get a technique down, it is easy to do, even on a heavy chair. I've put a chair in our Kaboost a grand total of three times, including the instance in the video below, and I have it down to around 40 seconds for a fairly heavy and unwieldy chair.
Our second concern, stability, turned out to be a bit more complex. The Kaboost itself is designed for maximum stability - its feet gripped our tile floor very well, and the way it sits on the ground doesn't redistribute any weight, but simply increases the size of each leg's footprint. It maintains a tight grip on chair legs, too, working equally well on round and square ones. Z felt quite comfortable and stable while sitting in it, and over the course of several days' use its stability never became an issue while she was seated. (Any hint at instability in the video was due to the fact that our tile floor underneath our lovely product-shot zone is not entirely level. I would have set the kid in it to end the video, but I was videotaping at around 5:30 a.m. this morning.)
Despite its stability, however, we quickly discovered that the Kaboost's innovation of simply lifting a chair higher off the ground could pose other, unexpected problems for a young child. Z has used a Svan high chair since she was an infant (you can read our review of it, one of our first posts on ZRecs, here), and we love the chair because it converts gradually as she grows. Since it can support up to 250 pounds, Jenni and I have even used it occasionally when Z had a burning desire to sit in a "big" chair; the act amused her considerably but also reinforced the idea that there was nothing babyish about Z's own "special" chair.
The Svan is very easy for her to get up into, almost to a fault; we go through phases where she is getting up and down all through a family meal, and we tolerate it because that is how we have chosen to handle food and eating issues - by allowing her free access to food at mealtimes and stimulating conversation but not yet requiring her presence if she's not hungry and would rather draw or play nearby.
The Kaboost, in contrast, makes a standard chair so tall it is difficult for her to climb up into or out of it without a "spotter." Also, once she's up, she cannot scoot the chair in or out by herself (a task she handily performs in her Svan), so once we push the chair in to the appropriate eating distance, she's stuck until we release her, with the table overhang subbing for our long-discarded lap belt. While we experienced an initial thrill at her inability to easily get down to leave without our help, we soon felt guilty as she began asking for us to get her more water instead of hopping down to do it "all by myself." This is a change we do not want to impose on our family interactions; Z usually insists on refilling our water cups for us, which we allow when they aren't glassware, and likes to "help" when meals are served in multiple courses. While we suspect that her ability to climb up and down might be remedied with a few more weeks of kinesthetic self-education, the seat's stability and floor grip - crucial safety features - are, if you'll forgive the pun, inescapable.
Compared with other booster seats, the Kaboost is likely to foster a sense of independence among the young and small. To be fair, Z's true "booster," a $15 plastic job by Safety 1st used at grandma's house, is almost as difficult for her to safely mount as a Kaboosted chair, and the Kaboost's near-invisibility to a seated child surely imparts an air of maturity not communicated by a cornflower-blue molded plastic booster seat we still strap her into.
That said, while we had imagined Kaboost to be somehow less "obvious" a piece of baby gear than a booster or high chair because of its low profile, we quickly realized that it in fact stands out more than either a wooden high chair or a booster, which is often hidden under a tabletop when a chair is scooted in. Kaboost currently makes two colors besides the superbright green model we were sent, a dark brown "chocolate" and a light tan, both clearly intended to better blend into those rare American homes which do not use near-fluorescent colors as dominant or accent color in the dining room or kitchen. Another key advantage to having an apparatus below rather than above the chair seat is that it will probably get less dirty from food spills. A lot of booster seats made of snap-together parts have crevices and cracks that can be very difficult to clean.
We were skeptical of Kaboost's claim to traveling easily, but at 3.5 pounds I believe it is actually a convenient option for traveling. It can be used as easily in restaurants and at friends' and relatives' houses; the key to not feeling like an idiot lugging it around is being able to set it up quickly, get the kid into it, and go on about your business of dining before people have the chance to judge you for being a baby-tech junkie maintaining an overburdened and unnecessarily complicated lifestyle. If you like the Kaboost enough to use it at home and take it with you to the homes of friends and relatives, you're actually one up on us; our Svan stays at home, and we make the relatives store the cheap booster seats for us. You've also eliminated a largish piece of kid furniture from your lives.
I suspect there are a lot of parents who would gladly pay the Kaboost's roughly $40 price tag so that they can keep one in the car to use at restaurants rather than compete for slippery, rarely-cleaned boosters or high chairs which may be in short supply. The BabySmart Cooshie, a soft, low-profile booster, is less versatile but would probably be even easier to cart around, and would also likely work in booth seating and floor-mounted chairs for any particularly un-fine-dining. The inexpensive, fold-up model from Safety 1st shown above also looks intriguing as a travel option; anyone tried it?
You can purchase the Kaboost for about $40 on the Kaboost website or on Amazon.com.