The Valco Astro Highchair

image of the valco cirque astro highchair

I have been a big fan of Valco products for years. I adore their strollers (and own 3), so I was thrilled to finally get to try out the Valco Astro HIghchair. The Astro is quite an amazing little highchair. If you need a small, easy to store highchair or you just don’t want a big highchair taking up too much floor space in your kitchen or dining room, the Astro is perfect. I recently tested the Cirque Astro and I was very, very impressed by what I found inside that surprisingly small box.

folded astro highchairThis attractive, modern looking highchair has a very modern fold that is very flat and very compact. The Astro is so easy to pop up and down and so easy to carry, you really can easily just pull it out when you need it and place it where ever you want. It even comes out of the box ready to go, no assembly needed which is such a huge plus. Some small highchairs can be hard to carry or bang your legs while you lug them around, not the Astro. The fold is not just compact, it’s very flat, secure and lightweight. You can easily carry it with one hand with your baby in the other. The nice flat, curved metal base gives a very secure footing when up, but is also what allows it to have such a nice flat fold and gives you a great spot to grab for transporting around the house. You can fold it with one hand and it smoothly drops down into it’s flat folded position. Unfolding is so easy too, just grab the back and pull up to open and you have a very stable, sturdy little highchair with a nice comfy seat that will fit your child for as long as you need the highchair with a 44 pound weight limit. The Cirque model ($179.00) that I tested offers the same black and white print as the Cirque line of strollers with a very nice black frame and a recline. It’s great modern design is so attractive, that you won’t mind leaving it out even though it is so easy to stow away. Offered in 4 other colors ($149.00, without the recline), Ivory, Graphite, Chocolate and Aqua leatherette with a silver frame, all models offer a 5 point harness and a 3 position tray.  With the optional travel bag, you can even take it with you on the road, so no need to have an extra highchair at the grandparents house.

astro aqua highchairIf you live in a small space, where storage space is at a premium and everything is visible, you need a highchair that looks great when up, but folds away into a nice small package which makes the Astro is perfect. Or if you just want an attractive modern highchair that is easy to use, the Astro is a great option as well. I truly wish we’d had the Astro while we were living in an apartment, but now that we’re in a house and have plenty of room, I still love this highchair. I can place it anywhere or tuck it away in a flash and it still offers a comfy seat for my children. Please visit the Valco webiste for more details and to see the rest of the amazing Valco products.

* A sample was provided for review

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The 2011 Maclaren Techno XLR

There are lots of umbrella strollers in the world, but it’s Maclaren that sets the standard. I am a firm believer that it’s always a good thing to have at least one Maclaren if you have a child- lightweight, portable, easy to carry anywhere and yet sturdy as can be. The Techno XLR is the largest of the single Maclaren umbrellas, but it’s still all of those things and more. I tested the very first XLR when my first child was just under 2. I loved it then and 4 years & 3 more children later I love the newest version even more. This is a stroller that can meet all of your needs for a single stroller for years to come.

The Techno XLR is ready to go straight out of the box. All you really need to do is remove all of the little tags, which very politely point out some of it’s finer features. And it does have some great features to point out. First of all, this stroller can hold a rather generous 65 pounds comfortably. My son, now almost 6 and around 45 pounds can still sit in the XLR with lots of room to spare. He’s fairly tall for his age, 97th percentile, and his head hits the top of most stroller canopies and he fills most seats. Not on the XLR.  He has a huge amount of head room and lots of wiggle room in the seat. Very impressive for such a lightweight, compact stroller. The XLR weighs in at just under 17 pounds, so it’s pretty light. I can easily carry it anywhere with a hefty toddler in the other hand. This stroller is suitable for newborns and up and more of its fabulous features include the fabulous, new no-pinch hinge,  6.5” wheels, linked rear foot brake, automatic lock, easy one-handed fold, easy one-handed 4 position recline, included car seat adapter, reversible seat liner, infant headhugger, rain cover, adjustable legrest and handle length, reflective accents, stylish and secure 5 point harness and a huge canopy with a peekaboo window, pop out sun visor, zip-out extension and 2 handy pockets. The XLR is offered in 2 colors for 2011, Black with Champagne accents and the very lovely Persian Red that I tested, and retails for $360.

In Use
I tested the Techno XLR with all 4 of my children, ages 5, 3, 2 and 1. All 4, despite their different sizes and weights, fit well in this stroller. As I mentioned above the large 5 year old, who almost never rides in a stroller anymore, could easliy ride in the XLR for quite awhile longer if we ever needed him to. Which means that this stroller is great for travel or city life when an older, large child is more likely to need to ride. The legrest and straps adjust easily and the recline is quite easy to operate one-handed even with a heavier child on board. The recline is very flat for your little ones to nap and with the included car seat adapter, you’re all set to pop your newborn in straight from the car if needed. The adjustable legrest is nice to keep little legs from dangling or to give a nice flat space to your tinier babies, but allows you to easily drop it down for the bigger kids.

The stroller performed exceptionally well on all sorts of terrain. I rolled it over flat and broken sidewalks, cobblestones, soggy grass and mud without any difficulties at all. The springy suspension and larger tires did amazingly well on even the roughest areas. We really were able to pop over everything fairly easily, not once jutting to a halt on a raised bit of sidewalk or sticking in the soggy grass which often happens with smaller strollers. The ride was very smooth and because it is so lightweight was was really easy to pop up over a curb when we needed to without even slowing down. And because it is so very compact, maneuverability is excellent- tight turns, crowded streets or narrow store aisles are never a problem. The handles are very comfortable and being able to adjust the height is great. The canopy is huge when unzipped and gives my daughter complete coverage plus the nice big peekaboo window is a great plus. I like that I don’t need to undo a flap to see her, yet, because it’s UV protected, I don’t have to worry about sun exposure. My daughter really seemed to prefer that the clear (also UV protected) pop-out sun visor doesn’t obstruct her view either. The one handed recline is very nice too. I can easily pop the seat up or down without having to stop. Oh, and the included accessories are a nice touch too. Not having to buy a car seat adaptor or rain cover is always welcome, but the seat liner and travel tag are really nice extras and attest to Maclaren’s exceptional attention to detail.

The fold is one of the Techno XLR’s most impressive features- easy, one handed and very compact. I can fold this stroller with one hand, carry it up our front steps and stand it up on the top step while holding my quite chunky 16 month old. There’s a side carry handle that makes it very easy to tote, so in and out of the car or on the subway, this is a perfect stroller for those who are on the go in the suburbs, travel often or who live in the city. I love that this stroller can hold a 65 pound child or a newborn, but can easily be folded down into a compact package that can be carried with one hand anywhere you need to go.

The Maclaren Techno XLR is an exceptional umbrella stroller that is more than worth the investment. Versatile enough to be your only stroller or light enough to be a great second stroller too, you cannot miss with the XLR. You will never have to worry about your child outgrowing this stroller and the option to use the car seat adapter is so convenient that you will really be able to use this from birth until well beyond your stroller needs are over. The Maclaren Tecno XLR is a very stylish and sturdy workhorse stroller that will not let you down for as many years, or children, as you need it to to roll along. Please visit the Maclaren site for more information or to see more of the other wonderful Maclaren products.

*Maclaren provided a sample for review.

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The Mamas & Papas Cruise

Mamas & Papas, a leading baby brand from Great Britain, are a recent addition to our stroller market, but they’ve been very popular for their terrific strollers for a very long time in Europe. Their Sola and Urbo are amazing strollers that feature modern design mixed with all the features needed for both happy babies and parents. Having tested the Sola and truly loving it, I was very excited to have the chance to test out their version of the lightweight umbrella stroller. Mamas & Papas offers a full line of lightweights ranging from the basic Trip, the lightest & most compact, up to the top of the range, fully featured Voyage. I’m currently trying out the Cruise a very nicely appointed lightweight stroller that is suitable from newborn up through a very substantial 50 pounds. The Cruise offers the same modern design aesthetics of the Sola that I already love in a nice compact package.

The Cruise comes in at a convenient 16 pounds and really can take you from birth straight through to the day you retire your stroller. You can easily tote this stroller anywhere and still have a terrific set of features for your baby, toddler or preschooler. The first thing you will notice is the stylish appearance. I love the dark grey frame, very cool. I also love that it has everything that you’d want in an umbrella stroller- the fantastic new no-pinch hinge, linked rear brake, peakaboo panel in the canopy, easy, compact, locking fold, big basket & back pockets for handy storage, side carry handle and shoulder strap for easy transport in the car or on public transportation. The Cruise offers full wheel suspension and nice big wheels that roll comfortably along with terrific maneuverability, perfect for busy city sidewalks or shopping. The toy loop in the canopy and the adjustable leg rest are very nice touches that make this a great stroller for any age. The harness offers nice, wide, easily adjustable straps with a secure puzzle-locking buckle. The seat is well sized and easily adapts from little to big rider with a very easy one-handed recline, making it prefect for little ones or naptime.

If you’re looking for a new option in umbrella strollers, be sure to check out the full Mamas & Papas line. This is a brand that offers something for everyone- bringing together high quality, attractive, modern design and thoughtful features. The optional line of accessories is just as well thought out with a handy diaper bag, cute seat liner and stroller toys, not to mention the very handy Cup holder & Toddler Handle– a must have for those with more than one child. Not only does it hold your drink, it offers a secure spot for your older child hold, allowing you to use both hands to steer. Such a great idea.

The Cruise includes a rain cover, is offered in 3 colors- Black, Purple & Green and retails for $269.99. To see more of the wonderful line of Mamas & Papas products visit their site.

Age: birth – 50 lbs
Weight: 15.6 pounds
Size: H: 17″ W: 20″ D: 30″ approx, unfolded, H: 10″ W: 11.5″ D: 41″ approx, folded

*Mamas & Papas provided a sample for review

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Phil & Ted’s Smart Buggy with the new Verso: a compact reversible seat stroller

I wanted to test out the Smart buggy as soon as I saw it. This is one of the coolest little strollers I’ve seen, now made even cooler by the new Verso adapter. What does the Verso do? Well, it takes a very smart little buggy and makes it even smarter by allowing the seat to reverse and recline. Yes, it’s smart and cool and quite a bit of fun.

The Smart is a great lighter weight stroller that’s designed to go pretty much anywhere. This is a complete compact stroller system. It comes out of the box and is ready to go in literally 5 minutes or less. It’s so easy to assemble you can do it with just a few glances at the little pictograph instructions and you are all set in minutes. I’m “instructionally challenged”, but I put this buggy together with no trouble at all. I was immediately impressed at how clever this stroller really is. The fold is a slide mechanism which means it fold fairly flat with very little effort. You do have to open 2 clips and push a tiny button, but then you just pull up on the handle molded into  the back of the seat and it slides shut. You can easily use this same handle to carry it and because it’s just 18 pounds, it’s super easy to carry. Unlike your average umbrella stroller it has rather large foam wheels and it rolls smoothly along without the jutting bumpies you can often encounter with small strollers.

Now for the basics, out of the box it’s suitable for ages 4 months and up to about age 4 or 44 pounds. It has the same easy to adjust and adapt click & go harness that I love on the phil&teds. The seat is fairly well sized and the canopy is generous. Not only does it offer great coverage for a baby, it allows adequate headroom for your older child. I asked my 5 year old who is just under the weight limit, but rather tall to test out the seat size and he fit nicely with plenty of headroom. Another interesting feature is of course, the seat itself. The Smart has a molded aerocore™ seat that is hypo-allergenic, ventilating & insulating, UV resistant, waterproof and non toxic. It’s pretty cool. You can clean anything off it it, you can even hose it down or take it to the beach without any worries. It might look a bit different to say the least, but don’t let it put you off. I asked my very picky 5 year old how he liked the seat and he loved it. He said it’s quite comfy and actually preferred it to his test ride with a seat pad in place (you can use an optional doubles kit liner if you want to add a bit of extra comfort, especially for a younger child. My 14 month old seemed very happy though either way. She  just loved this stroller in any position or combination we tried out.

If you want to use the Smart before your baby can sit well enough to ride in the main seat, generally at 4 months, you can use a car seat adapter (for Graco infant seats) to make this a travel system or use the Peanut bassinet. I tested the Smart Buggy Bundle, which includes the Peanut, but you can purchase the Smart and Peanut separately as well. The Peanut is a very nice bassinet. I’ve used  many with my 4 children and I would have loved to have the Peanut for one of them. Not only does it look as cool as the Smart, but it offers “click on snooze & crooze capability”, so baby can sleep right through the ride and be easily carried inside without having to be removed from the Peanut. It also offers a comfy mattress, zip on cover, carry handles and pop down feet.

Now for the newest feature, the Verso seat adapter. This really is an interesting idea. With the use of the Verso you can take a very nice forward facing 2 position recline seat stroller and turn it into a reversible seat stroller with an extra bit of recline for the littler ones. This is a great transitional seat for little ones moving from the bassinet and into the main seat and for parents that are not quite ready to let their baby face forward. The very full follow the sun canopy also follows the seat, so it works perfectly no matter which way the seat is facing. Very cool.

The Smart, especially with the introduction of the Verso, is such a great, adaptable, compact stroller that you really can use from birth to full time walking. It’s smart, fun, very cool. Oh, and it looks just as cool as all of it’s amazingly snazzy features make it sound. From newborn to preschool, the Smart buggy with the Peanut and the Verso are a great way to roll. Visit phil&teds for more details & for their full line of fabulous products for making life with baby that much easier.

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