Are you wondering if it’s time to replace your child’s car seat and move up to a booster seat? This parents’ guide to booster seats will help you decide.
Should I move my child to a booster seat?
This is a big question, and parents have a lot of concerns—rightfully so.
Booster seats are a milestone in a child’s life, but you have to ensure your child is ready for a booster.
One of the best ways to tell if this is the case is if your child has outgrown the size limits recommended by the manufacturer for their current car seat.
Typically, if your child is not only between the ages of four and eight but also at least 35 inches tall, this may mean it’s time for a booster seat.
A child should usually be between 40 and 65 pounds to go in a booster seat.
If your child can’t sit with their back against the vehicle’s seat with their knees bending at the seat cushion without slouching, they may need a booster seat.
The longer you can keep your child in a harnessed car seat, the better.
Once a child is ready for a booster seat, they should stay in it until they’re at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and anywhere between eight and 12 years old.
Most kids aren’t ready to be out of their booster until they’re 10 or 11 because the seat belts of many vehicles won’t fit them properly until then.
Other indicators your child may have reached the limit on their car seat include if their ears are at the top of the seat, or their shoulders are above the top slots of the harness.
There are state laws that dictate when a child can ride in a booster also but don’t use this as the be all end all guide because laws don’t reflect best practices in many cases.
Types of Booster Seats
A booster seat is a cushion raising a child higher in the car so that it improves how they’re positioned and the angle of the seatbelt.
A good-quality booster should have an adjustable headrest and energy-absorbing foam at the chest and head.
There are two general types of standard booster seats.
The first is a high-back booster seat, and the second is a backless seat.
Booster seats differ from car seats, primarily in the fact they don’t have harness straps.
Instead, they are used with lap and shoulder seat belts.
They raise kids, so the seatbelts fit correctly where they’re supposed to.
Most booster seats aren’t secured with an anchor or the seatbelt, but instead, just sit on the seat.
There are the occasional booster seat options that do secure to a vehicle, however.
These are called built-in booster seats, and they stay in place with the use of either anchors or a tether at the top.
For a high-back booster seat, a child should usually weigh at least 30 pounds but always go with the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines.
Most guidelines indicate a child should be at least 40 pounds to ride in a backless booster.
A high-back booster tends to be the better option for everyday use because these will position the shoulder belt more appropriately, and they provide some level of side-impact protection.
It can also be more comfortable with kids because they have somewhere to put their heads.
A backless booster should primarily be used for carpooling, or as a spare, you keep on hand.
There are combination booster seats as well, which are similar to a traditional infant car seat.
A combination seat uses a five-point harness but then can convert to be used without the harness.
The most significant downsides of a high-back booster seat are the weight and the price if you’re comparing.
High-back boosters can be really bulky and not easily transportable, and they’re usually more expensive than other booster seat options.
The cons of a backless booster include the lack of comfort if a child is sleeping in the car, and if you have a smaller child, it can be tough to get the right fit with the seatbelt position.
What About Compact Boosters?
There are compact boosters that are very lightweight and portable, such as the Bubblegum brand.
While these may be okay for occasional use or travel, they’re not necessarily the best everyday option.
Compact boosters require that you re-thread the lap belt every time you use them, and they’re just not all that comfortable or easy to use.
With that being said, a compact booster is better than no booster.
What Are the Best Booster Seats?
While your choice for a booster seat depends on the needs of your family and your personal budget, the following are some options that get high marks right now.
If you want a 2-in-1 booster seat, the Chicco KidFit is a good option.
It has a high-back seat that can then turn into a backless seat.
It has side-impact protection, ten different height options, latch connectors, and a retractable cup holder.
The Evenflo Big Kid High-Back Booster has thousands of reviews from happy parents on Amazon.
This seat is inexpensive and has six height positions and head support.
It can transition into a backless booster and has two cupholders, plus its lightweight, making it easy to transport.
The Graco Highback Turbo booster is under $45, and it is another option that you can use as either backless or high-back.
It features padded armrests, energy-absorbing foam construction, and an adjustable headrest.
Before you plan to get your child a booster seat, first make sure it really is time.
If your child can still fit in a harness car seat, this may be the safer option.
Otherwise, if it truly is time for the booster transition, you should ensure that you do your research and find an option that fits in your family’s budget but also has all of the safety and comfort features you need and want.