Is your child ready for a Booster Seat?
Booster Seats are a temptingly lightweight, quick installing, and safe car seats, but not every child should be rushed into one. Here's how to know when the time is right for your kiddo!
Most children these days will spend close to 10 years in car seats before they graduate out of them. This can seem like overkill to the majority of parents who are older than pretty much all the car seat laws on the books and remember joyfully roaming unseatbelted in the back of station wagons. While the 80’s and 90’s were some great times we would never dream of letting our smallest passengers free range in the back seat now. Children now cycle through an average of four car seat stages before they outgrow them completely. And this leads to a million questions about safety, fit, installation, and more. But one of the biggest questions we get from parents of older kids is: How do I know if my child is ready for a Booster Seat? There are unfortunately A LOT of correct (but confusing) answers to this question.
These are the basic benchmarks of Booster Seats
- Your child should be AT LEAST 4 years old
- Your child should be AT LEAST 40 pounds
- Mature enough to sit up properly in their Booster Seat the entire ride
- They don’t lean over or slouch down in the seat
- They are able to avoid messing with the seat belt and buckle
**A child should meet ALL of these
**Note about age: Not every car seat brand lists an age minimum on their Boosters. NHTSA sets the American minimum requirement at age four while other trusted sources, like the Car Seat Lady, recommend holding off until five years old or longer.
Unlike your infant car seat and convertible car seat, a Booster Seat uses only the vehicle’s seat belt to protect a child in an accident. The seat belt is only effective if it's used correctly, necessitating the need for maturity benchmarks on top of the physical minimum requirements. But rarely are the maturity benchmarks listed on car seats and parents may not even be aware they exist. On top of the basic size and maturity benchmarks, each individual Booster Seat will also have their own required minimums. So double check that your kiddo meets the basic benchmarks AND all the minimum requirements on your chosen Booster Seat model before making any changes.
Since we’ve covered all the requirements and benchmarks, let’s talk about why you may NOT want to move into a Booster Seat just yet. Both the 5-point harness and seat belt are safe but they are designed for different ages and sized bodies. A 5-point harness has more straps and covers more surface area over the body. This helps evenly distribute the force of an accident’s impact, lowering the chance of injury. It’s pulled to a snug fit, and can’t be loosened by a child. The 5-point harness general helps keep a child in the right posture for it to work effectively too. Comparatively a Booster Seat using the vehicle’s seat belt has only two straps across the body, putting much more force on fewer areas of the body, potentially leading to more injuries. And the seat belt can’t be held in the correct position over the body nor “locked” at a certain length like a 5-point harness. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s particular situation or needs, reach out to their pediatrician or a local CPST to see their best options.
There are three kinds of Boosters Seats to choose from, and this is where it gets easy!
Combination Booster | If your child is reaching peak "sausage" mode in their Convertible, but they aren't ready to use a just a seat belted Booster, a Combination Booster can save the day. Combination Booster Seats have both a 5-point harness and a seat belt mode; though the back portion is not removable. The Diono Radian 3R Latch All-in-One Convertible Car Seat and Booster, Britax Grow With You Clicktight Booster Seat, and Nuna EXEC All-in-One Car Seat are some of Magic Beans’ most well reviewed.
If your child meets all the requirements and is ready for the glorious Booster Seat stage, excellent! You have amazing options in models like the Diono Monterey 5 iST FixSafe Latch that grows in height and width, making sure children of all sizes can safely (and comfortably) ride in it. The Clek Oobr Booster is the heaviest of the bunch but offers “tank” like materials. Boosters like the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 Booster Seat and Diono Everett NXT Booster Seat 2021 | 2022 are quick to install, easy for kids to buckle themselves into, and are a bit more low profile for moving between cars. Best of all, each of these models turn into backless boosters, or as we call them: your last car seat!