Your child might be begging you to move into a booster seat, especially if an older sibling already has one. Most toddlers and preschoolers aren't ready to make the switch to a booster seat, but if your pediatrician gives you the thumbs up, installation and buckling up are vital to ensuring that the seat keeps your child as safe as possible. Giving in too soon compromises your child's safety.
Because car seats come in different sizes, it is vital to keep your toddler in one until he outgrows it before moving to a booster seat. Changes to the American Academy of Pediatrics car safety guidelines in 2011 recommend keeping toddlers in a rear-facing car seat until they reach two years of age. Clearly, you shouldn't put a younger toddler in a booster seat. However, if you have an older toddler or preschool that is heavier or taller than average, a booster seat might be appropriate. In general, your child should be 40 to 50 pounds before making the transition.
In most cases, you don't need to harness booster seats into the car. Your toddler or preschooler simply sits in it and you use the car's seat belt to secure your child into the car. Some booster seats have a back for younger children and require threading the seat belt through the upper portion to hold it at your child's shoulder snugly. In general, if the seat belt is choking your child or sitting on his face, he probably isn't ready to move to a booster seat.
Age and Height
In the past, car safety guidelines often gave general recommendations based on age. For example, children were safe moving out of a booster at age eight. However, the AAP's new rules advise parents to consider their child's height before making a decision regarding the right car seat. If you have a taller and heavier than average preschooler, he might be safe riding in a booster seat. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends keeping children in a harness until they outgrow the size guidelines for the car seat they currently have, usually between the ages of four and seven.
Don't just toss the booster seat in the car and call it good. It is easier to put a booster seat in, but certain precautions ensure your child's safety. Only use a seat that has a shoulder and lap belt. Never put a booster seat in the front or in any seat that has an airbag. Both situations increase the risk of injury in the case of an accident.