6 Year Old in a 5 Point Harness: Why I Still Use ‘Baby Seats’

6 year old in a harness

A friend and I were talking about car seats the other day. She noticed that all three of my children are in five point harnesses, including my 6-year-old first grader. I half-jokingly will tell people that I’ll keep them in their seats until they get their learner’s permits.

In contrast, a neighbor of mine – who is also a police officer – regularly drives down our street with his 5 year old unrestrained (and usually standing up) in the back seat. My heart sinks each time I see it, and I wonder how someone who must have seen a car accident or two can operate a car without protecting his child.

I found it pretty interesting to see a map outlining the laws regarding car seat usage in the various states. Sadly, my own state (Florida) is the most lax with their rulings, requiring that children 3 years or under are in restraints. (Hear that, neighbor?) Tennessee and Wyoming are at the opposite end of the spectrum, requiring child restraints for all children 8 years and younger.

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I understand that I walk the conservative side of the line on this one. Driving for field trips has been interesting, as the other kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class were horrified by our seats. Their instantaneous reaction to entering our car was usually, “I’m not riding in a baby seat! Where are the real seats?” I’m not entirely opposed to the “big kid” seats. She has a booster in her daddy’s truck, but I’m not comfortable with it for everyday use. She just passed the 40 lb mark needed for using the booster, so I prefer the five point harness for my little big girl.  

I know my choices are colored by my experience. My brother died in a car accident. It took over a year after that day to get past the terror I felt each time I got behind the wheel with my kids in the backseat. I am very aware that my own feelings about car seats are influenced by that experience. But I can also look to the facts. According to the CDC, “Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.”

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What about you? How long do you plan to use a five point harness? Will you go beyond the requirements for your state?

Check out the links below for more information on car seat safety.

Cruisin’ in the Car: Car Safety

Using Latch: Is Your Seat Safe?

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Video: How to Choose a Safe Car Seat

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6 Year Old in a 5 Point Harness: Why I Still Use ‘Baby Seats’

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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97 comments

  1. Profile photo of Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Do u hear what you are saying? Listen to fellow kindergarten classmates?! Last I checked, an educated mother is a better judge than a 6 year old!
    I say stay in the harness as long as it allows!

  2. Profile photo of Latanya Latanya says:

    Take as much precaution as you need. Here in California, we have the 6 and 60 law. My son will still be in the harness in the first grade next year. So, you’re definitely not alone. You’re doing the right and safe thing.

  3. Profile photo of Heather Heather says:

    I say you use 5 point harnesses until your child’s seat belt fits properly in a booster. When my now 16 year old was in 2nd grade he was quite short & thin he was in a booster that was proper for his weight & height. It was adjusted properly & I was following my states height & weight requirement. One afternoon we were t boned by a teenager running a red light. it was too bad but my son was so thin that he slid right through the seat belt! It was horrifying to find out the hard way that even though I thought I was doing everything right ( I had even went to the annual fire dept car seat check) my child was not protected. Different body types play into what your child should be using, and it doesn’t make sense to take any chances with your child regardless of what others may think especially 1st graders!

  4. My daughter is 4 and weighs 44 lbs. She has been in a booster seat using just the seat belt since she was 3. I have friends and family that are city and state police and I have been told by both that their seats are just as safe as a 5 point harness. The seats are all based on height and weight.

  5. Profile photo of Marcie Marcie says:

    Oh Please! A 6 year old in a 5 point harness??? Listen to your child’s fellow kindergarten classmates! YOUR child is NO longer a baby! Time to let them grow up a little! Put that kid in a booster I understand that you had some traumatizing issues in your life! That would be hard to go through and I’m truly sorry for that. However, for me, as soon as my kids hit that 40 lb. mark they are in a booster. They are SO excited for it! I have a 6 year old and 5 year old who BOTH are in boosters and my two year old is counting down the years already. Obviously, safety is a priority and she will have awhile yet to wait but the point is kids grow up and our job is to allow them too….safely of coarse… while trying not to hinder their progress. In the big picture will this probably matter? Booster vs. 5 Point Harness? No, but SOMEONE needed to throw the other side out there!!!

    • That’s kind of why she wasn’t listening to the other 1st graders. Because they are in a 5 point harness doesn’t mean they are still a baby and it looks like her child knows that. Her child is only barely over the weight limit of most states. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  6. Profile photo of Tracey Tracey says:

    I have been reading up on the carseat ordeal for a while…I have seen videos and tests that say the longer you can have a child rear facing is the best as well as the 5 point harness…the child learns to make themselves comfortable without leg room…the back of the car seat protects their heads in most accidents while rear facing…I plan to keep my little man in a 5 point for as long as I can but I’m guessing he’s gonna be a big boy so we may need to research our options on carseats that will fit him while he grows.

  7. Profile photo of Tiffany Tiffany says:

    What brand / type of seat do you have your daughter in . My 5 yr old is still in 5 point harness at 33lbs but is about to out grow in height . She has a booster in dads truck but seldom rides in it and hasn’t yet complained about a "baby seat" so if possible I will keep her in a 5 point .

  8. Profile photo of Kerie Raby Kerie Raby says:

    I live in Tennessee one of the strictest states as far as child restraints go, but let me tell you my thoughts, my 5 year old daughter is still in a five point harness and will be for a while, if a five point harness is good enough for NASCAR drivers well then it’s good enough for my daughter, she is tall and thin and would no way be held in place by a booster and a seatbelt

  9. Profile photo of sjhemo sjhemo says:

    I have 3 boys 1yr, 4yr, and 7yr and they are all in a 5 point harness. I don’t understand why a parent would not take every precaution to protect there child my children are my world. I see too often children that should be in car seats that are not and children in the front seats who are by far to small to be there. I have been asked by other mothers at school why I still use the 5 point harness on my 7yr old they say he is old enough and weighs enough he doesn’t need to be in it..they will continue to use the 5 point harness until their height and weight reach the max.

  10. Profile photo of Stephanie Stephanie says:

    I think I have to agree with you on this one. While my daughter is only 14 months she is going to be a fairly small child. I think that the five point harness is the Ony truly safe and correctly fitting safety belt of any kind. I myself am a small person and still don’t fit the seat belt properly so why would my child in a barley secured booster seat. We will most defiantly be keeping her in the five point harness longer than our law requires.

  11. Profile photo of Roseanne Roseanne says:

    My daughter will be 6 in January & we have the graco nautilus 3in1 & that 5 point harness goes up to 60 lbs. she just broke the 40 lb mark & is a petite girl, so I plan on keeping her the harness until she reaches the weight limit or gets too tall for the straps & even then she will go to the high back booster until she can be out of a carseat (NY also currently states kids 8 & under be some type of carseat/booster, but I heard they are going to raise to 12yrs of age)

  12. Profile photo of Star Star says:

    My 5 year old is in a high back booster. We wanted to keep her in a 5-point harness, but she is too tall! She is super skinny though and i hate that she is just using a seat belt with the booster.

  13. Profile photo of Danielle Danielle says:

    I have a 7 year old, 2nd grader, who still has a five point harness seat that she sits in. I have the Britax Frontier and I plan on using it with the 5 point harness until she reaches the max weight for that feature, then I will convert it to the booster until she teaches that max limit or is driving (she’s short for her age so she will probably be in a booster until she is 16). Haha!

  14. Profile photo of Michelle Michelle says:

    I have the Britax Frontier Car seats which have 5 point harnesses for my children ages 5 and 7. They haven’t complained about having them and I feel more safe with them in those. They go up to 85 pounds for the 5 point harness and 100 pounds for the booster. I think I may keep them in to the weight limit.

  15. Profile photo of DanHoard DanHoard says:

    i agree with the mother as a truck driver for over 30 years i have seen many accidents and tioo many children killed, fasten your kids in safely dont worry what anyone says at least your kids have better chance of living in a accident

  16. Profile photo of KaraSmith KaraSmith says:

    Britax 85 is a 5 point harness up to 85 pounds. They come in several fun colors and I know I have seen them at Babies R Us and of course online everywhere. I like diapers.com, they usually have the best prices. I also just purchased a Diono that is good up to 80 pounds 5 point, but can also be used as an infant and toddler rear facing so in the long run it saves you a lot of money!! I still is a big fan of Britax but the Diono is growing on me.

  17. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I totally agree. My almost 5 year old that weighs 47lbs is still in a 5point harness carseat. He uses a booster in his grandparents cars but I dont see how boosters are any different than the regular seat in the car. it scares me and makes me nervous when hes in a booster and I can move or shake the seat and he can lean way over, compared to the 5 point harness that does not move at all when yoi try to move it if you have it strapped in tight enough and use the anchors. So you are definitly not alone and im so happy to know that im not either. 🙂

  18. I have 3 car seats in my car, one is rear facing. My children are 6, 3, and 1 and I plan on having them in a 5point harness for as long as a car seat will hold them and their weights (per manuals). I’m looking for one now that will hold 50+lbs for my oldest. I also have my personal reasons for this. Last year, a dear friend lost her 6 year-old daughter in a car accident, and her 3 year old son was injured so badly, he is now quadraplegic. My conscience doesn’t let me put them into anything that is not the safest available for height and weight. My state, Florida, should have stricter requirements. I will do the most I can, even if they’re 10. It’s not a babyseat, it’s a lifesaver.

  19. Profile photo of Tabitha Tabitha says:

    If you get a European seat, the weight limit is higher and their standards are a lot sticker. While a lot of seats here only go up to 40lbs others go up a lot higher. They have to pass more tests as well. :] But you are right. If you dont use the right seat and don’t install it right then they can do more damage then good.

  20. Profile photo of Tabitha Tabitha says:

    If you get a European seat, the weight limit is higher and their standards are a lot sticker. When my lo is older I may order one. Depending on where the US is with their seats in 5 years. :]

  21. Profile photo of Darlene Darlene says:

    As any parent should do, they must read and obey laws and owners manuals for car seats!!! I have read and heard that if a car seat says stop using 5 point harness at 40lbs you must stop using the 5 point harness due to safety concerns. The harness is only designed to stop a child the weight limit and under in an accident. If a parent uses a 5 point harness that is designed for a child under 40 lbs and the child is 50 lbs that child in an accident may break the harness and may become injured No matter the what the parent must follow all owners manuals and laws when it comes to car seats for the child’s sake, even if you think 5 point harness is safer than a regular seat belt due to opinions JUST READ the laws and manuals!!!!

  22. Profile photo of Kevryn Kevryn says:

    In California there is a law now that your child must be in a booster seat until the age of 8 or until they reach 4ft tall or 50 lbs. As long as my son fits in his carseat and cant get out of it I will be keeping him in there. he is only 2 and my other is 8 months so I have at least a couple more years

  23. Profile photo of marylove marylove says:

    Both my 3 year and 4 year olds are in booster seats. They both figured out how to undo the harnesses and would get out of them while driving. I figured at this point, it was better to put them in "big boy seats" than have them getting out of the "baby seats". I have no problems with them in the boosters and they leave the seat belts alone. To me that is better than them getting out of the other seats and roaming around the back seat!

  24. Profile photo of HMomOf4 HMomOf4 says:

    My daughter is almost 7 and out of a car seat. this started shortly after 6 years old, but she is also over the 40 lb mark (very tall like her dad). I still have a booster seat for her, and the 3 year old of course is still in a harnessed car seat (of which she can put on but not take off by herself)

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