A booster car seat is the final stage before children move to a traditional seat in a car. Parents need to know when is the best time to transition them into a booster seat, and when to graduate into an adult seat. Guidelines include not only age, but weight and height are also considerations in the safety of your children.
Booster seats come in three models: backless seat, high back only, and a removable back (high back to backless). The goal of a booster seat is to provide height so the seatbelt can stretch safely across their body. It should be midway between the shoulder and neck, across the sternum, and lap belts should go across the upper thighs for maximum protection.
Large bones in these areas are able to better withstand the force from a collision – that is why they need to be properly placed on your child. If the seatbelts are not in the proper position, there is potential for serious injury.
Vehicle seat safety is continually changing from one child to the next. Parents should always ensure that their booster car seat has not expired, and are compliant when transferring it from one child to another.
Examine the Weight and Age Measurements
Booster seats tend to have a maximum weight of 30 lbs. for high back booster chairs, and 40 lbs. for backless booster seats. The minimum age requirement tends to be three years old.
Yet despite these minimum thresholds, it is not advisable to move your child to a booster seat until they have obtained the proper height and weight requirements of their current seat. For most forward facing five-point harnesses, this is 65 lbs.
The information on height and weight requirements can be found in the instruction manual for their car seat. Examining your child to ensure they are physically and developmentally ready to sit in a booster car seat and have a proper fit must be taken into consideration.
Boosters Should Position the Seat Belt Properly
Safety seat belts are used in conjunction with a booster seat to ensure optimal safety. They need to be able to position the belt properly on your child to provide the best restraint.
Highback boosters are recommended for everyday use as they position the shoulder belt better. They provide side-impact protection and are a more comfortable resting place should your child fall asleep while you are driving.
Parents are advised not to rush into removing the back too quickly on the booster. A backless booster seat should be used as a portable booster seat for travel and carpooling. If the vehicle does not have head rests or a low seatback, then highback boosters will provide your kid with head support.
Know Your State’s Laws on Booster Seats
Requirements vary from state to state regarding booster seats. Learn what the law says for your area before purchasing a seat. However, state laws don’t always convey best practices and can be based on weight as opposed to age/height. These two factors are the most important for proper belt fit and need to be taken into consideration regarding the safety of your child.
The rules offer general guidelines and often work for most children. However, when it comes to your child’s safety, everything needs to be taken into consideration.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children use boosters until they are 4’9” and/or 8-12 years old.
Avoid Using Compact Boosters
While Bubblebum, Mifold, and Incognito may appear to be attractive and convenient, they are cumbersome to use. Each time your child needs to use the seat, the lap belt needs to be re-threaded through the loops.
Incognito should only be used for older children and Mifold may encourage slouching as there is no cushioning for the knees to naturally bend.
These seats should be used as a spare or just for travel. They often do a better job than sitting without a booster seat.
Traditional, lighter backless boosters are easier to use and are better for your child.
Do Not Use a Booster Seat on a Plane
They are not designed for airplane use as planes have only lap belts. Should your child need one, parents can check their booster seat as luggage, or rent one from a car rental company when you arrive.
Recommendations for Car Seats:
Most Convenient and Parent Friendly (Highback)
Britax Highpoint two-stage Booster (40- 120 lbs. and up to 63”)
This car seat comes in two different colors: black or blue. The belt positioning quickly converts to a backless booster allowing your child to remain safer as they grow. There is a soft, foam padding in the seat, and arm rests built-in.
If there are spills or the seat is just dirty, the cover is removable. The cup holders are dishwasher safe for complete cleaning.
There are two layers of protection from side impacts. It includes a quickly absorbing energy shell and foam headrest.
- Highback mode for 40-120 lbs. and backless for 48-120 lbs.
- 10 position headrest that adjusts quickly
- Belt guides are color coded
- Padding is nap friendly and comfortable
- Lower connectors keep the seat secure by locking into place with a click
- Made of lightweight plastic- no aluminum frame for added durability
Best Grow With Me Booster (Highback)
DiONO Radian 3-in-1 Convertible Booster (55-120 lbs.)
This booster is a convertible, slim fit seat. It is designed to allow your child to remain rear facing up until they are 50 lbs or about four years old.
This high back booster seat allows parents to receive ten years of travel in one car seat. It allows your child four different ways to travel right from birth to riding in a booster. It adapts easily as your child grows and has a customizable fit.
It is completely durable and safe with a reinforced steel core. This booster is made from automotive high-density plastic and steel. It gives your child the ultimate protection.
The nice part about this booster is that it allows you to fit three children across for smaller vehicles. Most car seats are unable to accommodate three children in the back seat without any of the children being uncomfortable.
- Available in five different colors
- Slim fit for multiple car seats
- Difficult to install
Safest Booster Seat
The Cybex Booster has a reclining headrest which allows children to safely nap. The headrest reclines back to prevent your child’s head from rolling forward. It can also be adjusted to 12 different positions allowing for a customized fit as your child grows.
The booster itself is very light and can be easily moved between different vehicles as it places less strain on your back. The LATCH connectors position the seat in any vehicle with a one-click install.
This seat comes with a Linear Side-Impact Protection System (L.S.P). It will absorb the impact while protecting the child’s upper body and head.
- Two cup holders that are dishwasher safe
- Adjustable as child grown
- Lightweight and portable
- No negative reviews yet
Safest Car Seat System
This is a three in one car seat which goes from a rear facing harness (5-40 lbs.), to forward facing (22-65 lbs.) to a high back booster seat (40-100 lbs.)
This Graco car seat is another slim fit design so that parents can fit three children across the back seat. It contains two cup holders that rotate away which makes the seat 10% slimmer thereby saving space.
The harness system allows the harness and headrest to be adjusted in one motion. There is a four position recline that keeps your children comfortable. The InRight LATCH gives a simple, brief attachment with a click to let parents know that the seat is safely secured.
- Comes in four different colors
- Protects children from front, rear, rollover, and side crashes
- 10 position headrest
- Steel reinforced frame
- Cover comes off for cleaning, but not straps
Britax One4Life Car Seat (5-120 lbs.)
Parents will receive ten years of usage out of this car seat. It will follow your child from baby through to preschool.
The TightClick installation allows parents to know that it is properly installed within three steps. It goes from rear facing to forward facing to highback booster.
The strong steel frame has a crumple zone that absorbs the energy from crashes and has a v-shaped tether. It offers complete body protection with two layers of side impact protection around the head, body, and neck.
- Built-in arm rests
- Cooling material
- Well ventilated to prevent overheating
- Cover is washable and is flame retardant
- Cup holders are dishwasher safe
- 15 position headrest
- Straps aren’t easily removable in case of a mess
Most Geared Towards Children
The KidsEmbrace has a five-point harness security. There are three harness positions for the shoulder straps ensuring they always fit as your child grows. Straps should be just above or at the child’s shoulders while using a forward-facing seat.
It exceeds the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for being side impact tested. The three-position headrest is fully adjustable and contains EPS foams keeping your child very safe.
- Available in Black Panther, Spider Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man
- Two cup holders
- Padded seat cover
- Easy to install
- A few parents had issues with fitting the straps properly
Best Backless Booster
This booster has a quick release system and carrying handle making it easy to transport it between cars. The seat is contoured, comfortable, ergonomic, and double foam padded for extra comfort.
- Machine washable
- Cup holders are dishwasher safe
- Underside is non-marking
- Available in six colors
- Some reports of LATCH hook breaking
Tied in this category is the Diono Solang booster. This booster is extra-large and wide. The seat is ergonomically designed and prevents children from slipping and has extra length for proper leg support.
The cup holders are completely retractable, and the seat is machine washable.
- Secure installation
- Available in three colors
- Cushion sags over time
Most Ergonomic Booster
This booster helps to transport your kids safely from 40-100 lbs. The single hand front adjusting LATCH system safely secures the booster to the car seat. The seat will not move, and is easy to buckle for older children
A multilayered and adjustable headrest makes your child comfortable while riding and supports their head. There is full coverage support for your child’s back for each stage of growth.
It keeps your child completely safe with an energy absorbing EPS foam in case of an accident.
- Converts to backless booster
- Open loop belt guide
- Cup holder and hidden storage compartment
- Difficulties with seat back
- Some parents didn’t like the self-buckling feature as their older child unbuckled themselves
Safely transports children from 4-10 years old or 40-100 lbs. There is a one-hand front latch to secure the booster and has a self-bucking feature for older kids.
Easily converts a high back booster to a backless booster enabling years of use. The headrest is multilayered for added security and has EPS foam to absorb impact.
- Full coverage back support
- Cup holder
- Secret storage compartment to store children’s toys
- 6 position adjustable headrest
- Shoulder strap twists
- Easily stained
Tips for Children Riding in Boosters
Children who have exceeded the weight or height requirements for a forward-facing car seat should be placed in a booster. They should remain in the booster until the adult seat belt can be properly fitted to their body.
Generally, this is between the ages of 8-12 years old or when they are 4’9”.
Your child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat when the following has occurred:
- The top height or weight has been met from the seat with a harness as listed in the car seat’s manual
- Shoulders rest above the top harness slot
- Tops of the ears are at the top of the seat
While using a booster seat, read the vehicle’s manual and car safety instructions for the seat before installing it. Seats often come with a plastic clip or guides to position the shoulder and lap belts.
Booster seats require both the shoulder and lap belt to keep children safe. You cannot use just a lap belt. It won’t prevent your child from injury.
If your vehicle only has lap belts, they will work fine for rear-facing only forward facing convertible models. The seat needs to have a harness in order for the child to be safe. A backless booster alone cannot be used for cars with only a lap belt.
Parents can also see if shoulder straps can be placed in their car, use a travel vest, or consider purchasing another car.
There are many things to consider when purchasing the correct booster seat for your child. The booster seat should be safe. Many highback booster seats come with side, rear, and front impact safety features in the event of a collision. Some have frames that will crumple like the hood of a car when impacted for shock absorption.
Highback chairs are recommended over boosters for cars. They offer the greatest protection in an accident, are completely padded, and are ergonomically designed. They support the child better and are safer.
Backless boosters are recommended if you are travelling from one car to the other for convenience. They are completely portable, comfortable, and have good storage. However, in an accident, they aren’t as safe as there is no padding around your child to absorb impact.
They also cannot be used if there are only lap belts as well. They need both lap and shoulder belts in order to work.
There are many features that make traveling in the car comfortable and practical for parents. Easy to clean cup holders and washable fabrics make clean up effortless. Storage areas keep things neat and tidy.
Some seats are created with a slim fit. This allows parents to place three children across the middle of a car, or along the backseat. Previously, car seats were too bulky to accommodate this. Now, the seats are slenderer and the cup holders fold in to create additional room. The backseat is no longer cramped.
When selecting a car seat, make sure that it fits your child’s height and weight. These are the most important factors in keeping your child safe. While the age requirements are a general guideline, the other two factors are the real indicators as to whether your child is ready for a booster seat.
Many seats also come in convertible models. They are designed for newborns up to the age of ten. While they save money in the long run, parents may want to make sure that they continually meet safety standards each year as they are always changing.
All car and booster seats come with an expiration date that parents need to watch out for. If caught, there may be some repercussions as the seat could be deemed as dangerous.
Parents should pick a seat for their budget, and with their needs in mind when picking out a booster seat. Take each variable into consideration, and picking a seat will be effortless.