Booster Seat Safety

Is My Child Ready for a Booster Seat?

Booster seat safety
The preschool years is usually when kids swtich out of their car seat. Check out these booster seat safety tips. Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy

Once your child hits the preschool years, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds, you may be wondering when the right time is to switch your little one from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat.

In general, your child should stay in a forward-facing car seat that includes both a harness and a tether until he or she reaches the height and weight limits as listed by the car seat’s manufacturer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that all children who've outgrown their forward-facing car seat switch to a booster seat until they're at least 8 years old and 4 feet 9 inches tall. Most states and the District of Columbia have laws that require children to be in some type of booster or car seat (Arizona, Florida, and South Dakota are the only states without a booster seat law). Not sure what your state requires by law? Find out more using this interactive map put together by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can also read up on state by state car seat laws (which is also very handy to have if you are traveling by car out of state).

Also note, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 13 should always sit in the back seat.

What Should You Look for in a Booster Seat?

What shoud you look for in choosing a booster seat?
Choosing a booster seat for your preschooler is an important decision. What to consider. Image Source

Once you have determined that your child is ready to move to a booster seat, you need to consider what type you are going to get. There are four different types of booster seats available:

  • A high-backed booster eat that offers support to your child's back, bottom, torso, and neck. Seats like this elevate your child so the seat belt, which is used to secure your child into the car, fits properly. This type of seat works best with vehicles with back seats that don't have head rests or seats with high backs. These seats usually come with a positioning guide to make sure the seat belt is in the right place across your child's chest. Some of these seats also often come with belt positioning clips in various places so your child can grow with the seat.
  • A backless booster seat elevates your child so the seat belt, which again, is used to secure your child into the car, fits properly. A booster seat like this provides no support to the head, torso, neck, or back. It fits best in cars that already have head rests. Some experts recommend these types of seats over all others because they allow the child to sit further back in the seat.
  • A combination booster seat usually starts off as a high-backed booster. Then, as your child gets older and bigger, or if you switch cars, you can remove the back, making it a backless booster seat.
  • An all-in-one car seat starts off as a rear-facing seat (which is what you should use from birth until your child reaches one year of age or older), transitions to a forward-facing car seat, and then can once again be switched, this time to a booster seat.

How do you choose which is right for your child? First off, always read the manufacturer's recommendations. They will offer your height and weight guidelines, restrictions, and ideal car types for where the booster seat should be placed. Make sure the seat is comfortable for your child -- is there enough padding? Is the seat wide enough? Are there other things that are important to you such as cup holders? Take everything into account. Lastly, consider common sense. Which booster seat do you feel the most comfortable with?

Still not sure where to start? Try this list of AAP-approved car and booster seats. And once you decide on a seat, be sure to register it with the manufacturer so you will be notified in case of a recall or other safety issue.

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