How To Pick the Perfect Booster Seat
The preschool years come with a lot of exciting transitions, and one of these is saying so long to your child’s forward-facing convertible car seat! It’s booster time.
HOW DO BOOSTERS KEEP KIDS SAFE?
As your little one grows and starts to exceed the height or weight limits of his or her convertible car seat, it is now safe to use the seat belt in your car as the primary safety restraint. This generally happens around the time a child begins preschool, but depending on his genes it may be a little earlier or a little later than some of his peers. Be sure to closely follow the height and weight recommendations on your car seat.
Booster seats are designed to boost your child to a proper height that allows the seat belt to lie along the strongest parts of the body--the sternum, hips, and collar bone. This will provide the most protection in an accident. They also have armrests that keep the lap belt correctly positioned low on the lap rather than riding up on the belly.
Even in a minor accident, a child who is restrained only by the seat belt without a booster can sustain serious injuries from the seat belt itself damaging more fragile parts of his/her body. So until he/she is tall enough to be properly restrained by the seat belt (around 4’9”), a booster seat is a must!
Wait until your child has outgrown the height limit on their 5-point car seat before transitioning to a booster, this is usually around the time they reach 40 lbs or four years old, but remember that can vary! Be aware of your car seat’s limits and your own gene pool -- tall preschoolers may be technically tall enough for a booster, but not mature enough to sit up straight, not lean out the window, pick up toys, etc. If you have a tall toddler, you may want to choose a car seat with the high adjustable shoulder straps.
HIGH BACK BOOSTER
The high back booster seat is not only good for keeping kids’ bodies secure, it’s also comfortable for your little one. The high back and headrest provide good support as the car turns and stops, which is particularly important for little heads and necks. And the extra support also makes it comfortable for them to sleep or rest their heads.
Booster seats that recline are ideal for long car rides and road trips. They let your child rest in a safer position and keep them from slouching or hunching over. High back boosters are a must if the seats in your car don’t have built-in headrests.
Always remember to place the lap belt UNDER BOTH armrests of your high back booster seat to protect your child’s tummy in the event of a collision. Also make sure the headrest, which is usually adjustable, is at the proper height to support the head -- too high or too low and it won’t do its job as well.
While we recommend using a high back booster for as long as possible, there are reasons to switch to a backless one. If your child has grown tall enough that his/her shoulders sit above the highest point on the booster back, or if they are bumping into the headrest, it is time to remove the back altogether. Just make sure that he/she is mature enough to sit properly without the extra restraint of the back.
Another practical time to use a backless booster is while traveling. A backless booster is much more efficient for climbing in and out of taxis or ride shares, and much less cumbersome for air travel. It can also be a practical solution when sending your child in someone else’s car.
Just remember that it is essential when using a backless booster that the seat of the car should go up at least to the child’s ears in order to support their head and prevent whiplash.
WHEN CAN WE KISS THE BOOSTER GOODBYE?
Your child is ready to ride in the car with just the seatbelt as a restraint when he/she can do ALL of the following:
Sit with back against the vehicle’s seat
Knees bend at the edge of the vehicle seat
Lap belt rests on top of thighs, not tummy
Shoulder belt hits between neck and shoulder
Sit properly without playing with their seatbelt, slouching, etc.
These are all possible when reaching a height of about 4’ 9” and ages 10 - 12.