Why you should keep your toddler in a car seat (2023)

Your child is usually ready to upgrade to a booster seat when they have exceeded the height and weight requirements for their 5-point car seat. However, you may still be wondering if your big little kid is ready to develop onebooster seat, or if there is oneage requirementSwitching It's fairly easy to check the weight and size restrictions of different boosters to see if your little one will fit according to the manufacturer's instructions. But there is no checklist for knowing if your child is mature enough for a booster seat.

Before you decide if your child is ready to switch from onecar seatfor reinforcement it helps to understand the difference between the two.car seatsUse a five-point harness to restrain the child. A booster seat adjusts the position of the vehicle's seat belt so that it fits securely around the child's torso and legs as a restraint system.

How old is the booster seat?

Booster seat age refers to the age of a child when they are ready to transition from a car seat to a booster seat. The appropriate age is generally at least 4 years old, but for many children it can be a few years older. In fact, it is safest for most children to remain in a car seat with a 5-point harness until the age of 5 or 6.

Why you should keep your toddler in a car seat (1)

Preparation for booster seats

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children use a car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for this five-point harness, which is often older than many parents realize.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children are generally not ready to switch to a booster until they are at least four years old.

Three-year-olds are unwilling to ride in a booster seat, even if they meet the manufacturer's height and weight guidelines. If you can keep your child in a buckled car seat longer after the age of 4, do so. Research shows that children are often safer in car seats than in booster seats.

To sit in a booster seat, children must:

  • Be adult enough to be properly seated in the booster seat for the entire journey (no slouching, leaning, using or unbuckling a seat belt).
  • You have exceeded the height or weight limits in your buckled car seat
  • Ideally be at least 4 years or older.

ManyCabrioand harness-to-booster car seats have harnesses rated for children up to 65 pounds.In fact, children in the US today can often remain in a buckled car seat for up to six years or older. Thanks to advances in car seat safety technology, four-year-olds who may have switched to booster seats 10 years ago can still ride safely in a carrear-facing car seat.

Even quite large children can remain rear-facing for the first few years and then switch to a forward-facing harness by kindergarten age. For most children, even those in the 95th percentile for weight or height, switching to a booster vaccine before age 4 should not be necessary.

Should I wait to switch?

If you can wait to switch, do so as children are safer in 5-point car seats than booster seats. The truth is that every step forward in car seats, from rear-facing to forward-facing, from seat belts to booster seats, is actually a step down in terms of safety. The 5-point harness distributes the impact forces to more points on the child's body, reducing the potential force that a body part must withstand in an impact.

While some high-back booster seats have a minimum weight requirement of 30 pounds, children must weigh at least 40 pounds before they can ride in a booster seat.

From a practical point of view, it is easier for a child to sit properly in a car seat than in a booster seat, which is important because it keeps children safe and reduces driver distraction. In a booster seat, the child can unbuckle more easily. They can also stoop and stoop, which is dangerous. This is not possible in a car seat if the 5-point belt is correctly adjusted.

The seat belt cannot protect a child who is not in the correct position. Most children cannot be expected to routinely sit correctly until they are at least five years old.

Many parents find that their child is actually much older than four before they can sit still in a booster seat. If your vehicle only has lap belts in the rear seats, keep your child in a buckled car seat for as long as possible. Seats with belts can be installed with a lap belt.

Booster seats must be used with a lap/shoulder belt. Using extended belts or using a belted car seat with a higher weight limit is much preferable for safety reasons than putting a child in a child seat in a lap-only seat belt.

If you have a pre-2008 vehicle with a center lap belt, it's important to know that car seats will fit securely, but booster seats and large children will not. Big kids and big kids need the protection of a shoulder harness. So if you need a child to go through the center, make sure you use a car seat with a 5-point harness there.

If you have a pre-2008 vehicle with a center lap belt, car seats can certainly fit there, but booster seats won't.

The 8 best booster seats of 2023

Determining the fit of the car seat

If you think your child will outgrow the child car seat, first check the correct cues to assess fit. Most children outgrow their buckled car seats in height well before they outgrow their weight, especially in 65-pound car seats. When your child is facing forward, the harness slots should be on or over the child's shoulders. When your shoulders are above the top slots, it's time to switch seats.

A forward-facing car seat is also too big if the child's ears reach the top of the car seat pan, unless the manufacturer says otherwise in the instructions.When checking car seat weight limits, pay attention to the weight limit of the forward-facing harness and not the weight limit of the booster seat (if it's a harness-to-booster seat).

Most children outgrow their buckled car seats in height well before they outgrow their weight, especially in 65-pound car seats.

Today, many seat belt and booster car seats are available with a higher webbing limit, which can later be converted into booster seats. These can be a good option as they allow you to avoid buying another car seat and then a booster seat. Look for a car seat with a higher weight limit and a higher top shoulder strap. This allows the seat to be used longer in car seat mode (and probably, but not always, in booster mode as well).

The range of car seats available today means that no family should have a hard time finding even an inexpensive model that will allow their child to stay securely buckled for at least five years and probably much longer.

Do you have any other questions or concerns about whether your child is safe in the car? See a licensed child safety technician (find onesafe childrenor theNational Road Safety Authority) to check the installation and use of your child's car seat.

5 sources

Verywell Family uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourspublishing processto learn more about how we review our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Road Safety Authority.car seats and booster seats.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics.Car Seats: Information for Families.

  3. Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.booster seats.

  4. C.S. Children's Hospital Mott of the University of Michigan.Safety in the car seat.

  5. Cincinnati Children's buckle for life.Is your child ready for a booster seat??

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Heather Wootton Corley is a mother, freelance writer and certified child safety technical trainer.

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