It is a common misconception that booster seats are "just the company's ploy to make more money," or "are totally up to the parent". They are so much more than that! Just like infant and convertible car seats, a booster seat is designed to keep your child as safe as possible until they are the right size to sit safely on the seat of the car and use the car's seat belt. We see questions about booster seats pretty frequently, so today I am here to give you the basic run down on them!
GENERAL GUIDELINESIn Utah, the child car seat law is that "All children under 8 years old riding in a vehicle must be properly secured in an approved child safety seat, unless they are at least 57 inches tall." I know that eight years seems to be so long, but that law was put in place after research and consultation. They just want your kids to be safe in the car! Laws in your state might vary a little bit, but most all states have this exact same age and height requirement. You can check for your state's law here! Just this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their recommendations of when to switch to the following: • The child reaches the top weight or height allowed for in their convertible car seat. (These limits are listed on the seat and also included in the instruction booklet.) • Their shoulders are above the top harness slots. • Their ears have reached the top of the seat. Along with those guidelines, it is strongly recommended that no child younger than 4 years old, or less than 57 inches tall should be using a booster seat. Just like the AAP states, you should be following the weight and height guidelines for both your convertible seat and the booster seat the you have or will purchase.
THE BEST PRACTICEAlong with the AAP, we suggest that you keep your child in their convertible car seat until they reach the height or weight limit. As soon as they reach one of them (it does not have to be both of them, only whichever one is reached first), then the convertible seat is unfit to properly secure them. At that time, you then make the switch. Aside from safety, you have the convertible seat, so why not get the most use out of it that you can?!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR BOOSTEROnce you are sure that your child meats the legal guidelines, and you are ready to move them up, you start the looking! Annnnd now you feel like you are back at square one of the car seat research saga. No, no, don't worry that is why I am here! This is perhaps the most important point here, you want to start with a booster seat that has a back and a five-point harness/belt combination. Those two features give your child the best possible protection. A booster with a back, like the Britax Frontier continues to provide support for your child's back, neck, and head much like their convertible car seat does. Backless boosters, though they are smaller and may seem more convenient, just do not offer that protection at all. The harness to booster feature is obviously another safety win! Being able to keep your child in a five-point harness as long as possible is such a wonderful thing to take advantage of. But why? Well, the five-point harness is a restraint. This basically means that when buckled properly, your child cannot move any more than the harness allows. Picture yourself driving down the freeway and glancing in the mirror to find your four year old has gotten out of the seat belt that was keeping them in their booster. PANIC!! See, the harness is your friend! To know when you will need to switch to using the belt of the car with the booster, refer to your owner's manual to find the height and wight limits for the harness. On the Frontier seat, the harness straps tuck safely into the seat, and you are ready to use your car's belt buckle.
Are you feeling a bit more educated on booster seats now? I sure hope so! Just remember that you are looking to keep your child as safe as possible when you are out on the road. Double check your weight and height limits on your convertible seats, use those as long as you safely can, and then switch to your backed harness to booster! Driving with confidence that my kiddo is in the right seat for her size gives me so much comfort, as I am sure it does, or will, for you!