Transitions are a big part of raising little ones. Whether it’s transitioning from preschool to kindergarten or making the big kid shift from a car seat to a booster seat, all of these milestones are a big deal. The years fly by and all of a sudden your baby needs a booster seat! We’ve rounded up the best booster seats on the market, from the highly-rated to personal recommendations.
When can a child use a booster seat?
Booster seats are intended for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat. The AAP guidelines state, “children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.”
Wondering, when can my child ride without a booster seat? Seat belts are designed for adults, so once your child has grown to a point where a seat belt can fit them correctly, they might be ready to ditch the booster. Typically, children should stay in a booster seat until they reach about 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years of age, notes AAP. Then, they can graduate to just using a seat belt.
The AAP’s rules for seatbelts state that a seatbelt fits correctly when it lies across the shoulder and chest—not the neck and throat. The AAP also states that the lap belt should fit low and snug across the upper thighs—not the belly. When they’re ready for the transition to seatbelts, your child should be tall enough to sit comfortably on the seat with their back against the seat back, knees bent over the edge (without slouching) and can maintain this position for the entire ride.
How to choose the best booster seat
Booster seats are meant for children who need a little boost so that the car’s seatbelt can sit properly on the strongest parts of their body. It’s important to note that booster seats can only be used with both lap and shoulder belts. The lap belt is intended to lie low and snug across your child’s upper thighs, while the shoulder belt should cross the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder and is off the neck, AAP notes.
Unlike your kiddo’s previous car seat, most booster seats are not designed to be secured to the vehicle seat. They’re held in place once the seat belt is fastened over your child. However, some versions can be anchored to the vehicle seat using the car’s LATCH system. Which you choose is up to you.
Depending on your child’s needs, you might be looking for the best backless booster seats or the best high back booster seats, either way, here are some things to consider.
What to look for when choosing a booster seat
- Convenience: Is it easy to install? If you’re a family that’s always on the go, then you might want a booster seat that’s lightweight and simple enough to take with you everywhere.
- Suitability: A proper belt fit and position are the most important factors to consider. Booster seats are not all made the same, and some have belt positioners that can help guide belt placement. The AAP states that your child’s height, weight and needs should all be taken into consideration when selecting a booster.
- Safety: Does it meet safety guidelines? Here are the NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) guidelines on booster seats.