When is my child ready for a booster seat?

Don’t rush to move your child to a booster seat before they’re ready.  Each time you “graduate” your child to the next seat, there’s a reduction in the level of protection for your child.  Keep your child in each stage for as long as possible.

Right vs Wrong

Your child is ready for a booster seat when they have outgrown the weight or height limit of their forward-facing harnesses, which is typically between 40 and 65 pounds.  Read your forward-facing car seat’s owner’s manual to determine height and weight limits, and keep your child in a harnessed seat for as long as possible.

Children at this stage are not yet ready for adult safety belts and should use belt-positioning booster seats until they are at least 4’9″ and between 8 and 12 years old. Safety belts are designed for 165-pound male adults, so it’s no wonder that research shows poorly fitting adult belts can injure children.

Don’t Skip a Step

  • A child who has outgrown the internal harness or height limitations of a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Within the range of 40 to 80 pounds but under 4’9”.  Within 4 to 8 years of age and is at least 35” tall.
  • A child who cannot sit with their back against the vehicle seat with their knees bending at the edge of the seat cushion without slouching.
  • A child who does not fit properly in the vehicle belt system.

Prior to Installation

  • Be sure to complete and return your registration card to the manufacturer to be notified of any possible recalls.
  • Always read the vehicle owner’s manual and child safety seat instructions prior to installing the booster seat in your vehicle.
  • Belt-positioning boosters must be used with a lap/shoulder belt.  A lap belt only does not provide upper body protection for your child.  Shoulder belt retrofits can be completed in most vehicles that have lap belts only, contact your dealer for more information.
  • A backless belt-positioning booster may be used in vehicles which have a head restraint present for your child.  High-back boosters can be used in vehicles with or without head restraints present.

How to Use Your Booster Seat

  • Remember, the safest place for all children 12 years old and under is the back seat!
  • Place the booster seat on the vehicle seat. Once your child is sitting in the seat will fasten the lap/shoulder belt around him/her. Many models offer safety belt positioners to help keep the shoulder portion of the belt positioned correctly.
  • Only install the belt-positioning booster seat with the LATCH or tether system, if allowed by both the vehicle and car seat manufacturer.
  • The shoulder belt should never be placed behind your child’s back or under their arm.

Social Issues

A social issue your child may encounter while riding in a booster seat could be the embarrassment of still using a “car seat” in front of their peers.  A few measures can be taken to help eliminate negative feelings towards booster seat usage.

  • Teach your child the importance of safety at a young age and that booster seats are cool, perhaps pretend that it is a race car driver seat.
  • If your vehicle seat has a head restraint where your child will be sitting, you may use a backless belt-positioning booster which will offer them the safety of a correctly fit safety belt without the perception of riding in a car seat, since it will not be seen from the outside.