When to Change From Car Seat to Booster Seat?

Updated April 17, 2017

Many parents wonder when the appropriate age is to change from a car seat to a booster seat for their child. There are three signs that show a child is ready to move to a booster seat. Parents should never rush this milestone. Kids are safest in harnessed seats for as long as the seat fits.

Forward-Facing Car Seats

The use of a forward-facing car seat can protect a child during a crash. The child should be over the age of one year and over 9.07 Kilogram to fit in a forward-facing car seat. These car seats are the best choice for preschoolers who have outgrown their rear-facing car seat.

While many forward-facing car seats harness children to 18.1 Kilogram, there are some on the market that harness much longer than that. It is much safer for a child to be in a harnessed seat than a booster seat. Parents should purchase a seat that will harness to 65 or 80 pounds. Harnessed car seats provide side-impact protection in a crash, reduce head excursion, or how far the child's head is thrown forward in a crash, and assist children in keeping a safe travelling position.

Booster Seats

It is time to change from a car seat to a booster seat when three criteria are met. The first sign a child is ready to make the switch is outgrowing the harnessed car seat by weight or height. Once a child is over these limits, the risk of serious injury in an accident increases significantly.

The second way to tell if a child is ready to move to a booster is that the shoulders will be above the top strap slots in the harness. Forward-facing children should have the slots just at or above their shoulders whenever they are riding in a car seat. Once the strap slots are lower than the shoulders, the child needs to move to a booster if there are no seats available with higher strap heights.

Last, a child that has outgrown a harnessed seat will be taller than the top of the car seat. The tops of the child's ears will be above the top of the car seat. Again, if the parent is able to purchase a larger harnessed seat, then this seat would be safer than a booster. Once the largest harnessed seats have been outgrown the child is ready to move to a booster seat.

If a child meets any of the above criteria, it is time to move to a booster seat. Booster seats will either be backless, and the child's head will rest against the auto's standard seat or be a high-backed booster that cradles the child's head.

The Safest Option

The safest car seat is the one that fits the child and will be installed and worn correctly every time. Parents can ensure a safe travelling environment for their children when they consider a child's age and development as well as growth. Children who cannot sit still while riding in a car benefit most from harnessed, forward-facing car seats. More car seats are harnessing to higher weight and height limits.

It is important to read the manufacturer's information when installing and using a car seat or booster seat. Keeping older children in a booster seat until the adult seat fits properly is best after the child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat. Most children will not fit the adult safety belt until at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The change from child safety seat to booster seat is an important decision that affects a child's safety. Consider all of the options and make the best informed decision possible.

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About the Author

Jessica Felix graduated from Western Washington University with a major in Education. Felix has been writing for six years and teaches child development classes to professionals and parents. She is also a certified parenting educator offering coaching and classes to families with young children.