It's never too early to start talking about safety with your child. One of the most important parts of being safe in a vehicle is using a booster seat or carrying device approved for their age and size. When do you know it's time to switch from using just an adult belt? How do you install one correctly? What are some other types of car seats? We'll answer all these questions and more in this blog post!
When to switch to a booster seat?
Children heavier or taller than the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are big enough to fit the vehicle original seat belt properly, typically at 4 feet 9 inches in height and 8 to 12 years of age. In some cases, it can occur before or after, depending on your child's development. Some good indicators to switch to a booster seat are whenever your children show signs that they have outgrown the currently used seat and they don't feel comfortable anymore.
In a hurry?
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Types of Car Seats at a Glance
There are a few different types of car seats that can be used, depending on your child's age group. We made a list below with all available styles for every age group:
Car seats for infants and toddlers:
Until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer, infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing infant car seat. Most convertible seats have age and weight restrictions that allow kids to remain rear-facing for two years or more.
Type of seat to use:
Car seats for toddlers and preschoolers:
When your child has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height restriction for their convertible seat, they should use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. Many seats can hold children weighing up to 65 pounds.
Type of seat to use:
- Forward-facing convertible
- Forward-facing harness
Car seats for school-aged children:
Children heavier or taller than the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are big enough to fit the vehicle seat belt properly, typically at 4 feet 9 inches in height and 8 to 12 years of age. All children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat.
Type of seat to use:
Car seats for older children:
When your kids are old enough and big enough for the vehicle shoulder seat belt to fit them appropriately, they should always utilize lap and shoulder seat belts for optimum protection. All children younger than 13 years of age should travel in the rear seat.
Type of seat to use:
- Original car seat belts
Booster seat requirements
Booster seat age: Children must transition out of booster car seats between ages 8 to 12.
Weight limits: Booster seats are not recommended for children over 120 pounds; however, they can be used until your child is big enough to fit in a seat belt without one (generally around 80 pounds).
Height: There isn't an upper height limit for booster seats, but they should be able to sit against the vehicle seat back with their legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down or flat on the floor of your car.
The maximum height requirement and weight requirements for your automobile safety seat may be found in the instructions that came with it. When any of the following is true, a child has outgrown a forward-facing seat:
- He reaches the top weight or height allowed for his seat with a harness. (These limits are listed on the seat and in the instruction manual.)
- His shoulders are above the top harness slots.
- The tops of his ears have reached the top of the seat.
Types of booster seats
High-back booster seat: High-back boosters have a separate headrest, which may or may not be removable. This type of booster is appropriate for children who still need a shoulder belt guide to keep the seat belt in the proper position.
Backless booster seat: A backless booster has no headrest and guides the car's lap-and-shoulder belts into the correct position over your child's upper thighs and pelvic area. Usually made from a soft material that's comfortable for kids to rest against while sitting in them.
They do not come with a harness, but they are used the same way an adult rides in a car, with lap and shoulder seat belts. They're made to raise a kid so that the strongest parts of the youngster's body can be accommodated by lap and shoulder seat belts.
Most booster seats are attached to the vehicle seat using only a seat belt and lower anchors, without any upper ties. Once the seat belt is fastened over a child, they rest on the car seat and are held in place. However, some booster seats may be attached to the automobile seat and kept in position using the lower anchors and rope and lap and shoulder belts.
Installation tips for booster seats
Always read the vehicle owner's handbook and the car safety seat manual before using a booster seat. Booster seats frequently include a plastic clip or guide to help you properly secure the vehicle lap and shoulder belts. For further information, see the booster seat instruction manual.
Attention: Lap and shoulder straps are required for use with a booster seat.
- The lap belt should fit tightly across your child's upper thighs and be positioned low on their hips.
- The shoulder strap should cross in the middle of your child's chest and shoulder, away from the neck.
Top rated booster seat recommendation: Graco booster seat
The Graco Booster Seat is a good choice if you're looking for a high-quality booster seat that will last your child throughout their early school years. It can be used as an everyday car seat.
How to install the Graco booster seat:
The belt path for this booster seat is easy to find and use, which promotes correct installation. It has a built-in level indicator that shows whether the seat is installed at the proper angle. Comes with no-rethread harness adjustment, so you can adjust it without removing your child from the car seat. The seat cushion contains extra padding, making it more comfortable for kids who are tall or have sensitive skin. Has the ability to fold up for easy storage when you're not using it
The Graco booster seat does not come with a harness or LATCH attachments, so you'll need to use the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts for installation.
Graco Booster Seat Video Installation Guide:
People also ask:
Should my 5 year old be in a car seat or booster?
It depends on the child's height and weight. If you feel they had outgrown the car seat and would fit on a booster seat without the back, then you can make this switch. If they are still getting too much air time and struggle to sit up straight on a booster seat, it is probably best to keep/them in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible.
How long should kids use a 5-point harness?
Most car seats that have a 5-point harness also can remove and use the car's seat belts with the same car seat. It is recommended to remove the 5-point harness as soon as the child has outgrown it and it's becoming uncomfortable to wear. At this point, you should remove it and use the car's seatbelts instead to secure the child. This is also the moment to switch from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing.
Note: it is important not to use both types of harnesses at the same time! Double harnessing could be very dangerous for your child's safety, so you need to remove one or the other.
What kind of car seat should a 40 lb child be in?
Generally, a child that weighs 40 lbs can be forward-facing in any seat as long as it's the right fit for them. Depending on the child's height and age, a harnessed seat is probably the best option.
Do booster seats expire?
Car seats and boosters have a varying lifespan. There is no standard expiration date; car seats can last anywhere from four to twelve years after being manufactured. Some seats have a stamp indicating their expiration, but it's vital to note that they should only be used until your child can pass the seat belt fit test.
Once your child reaches the forward-facing stage, they will need to sit in a booster seat until passing a car seat fit test. Use this helpful guide to ensure that you're using the right type of harnessed or boosters for your child's height and weight.