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.

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.”

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?

Video: How to Choose a Safe Car Seat


What do you think?

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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  1. Emily says:

    My oldest is turning 8 this fall and is riding in a 5 point harness. My son is 5 and in a 5 point. My youngest will turn 3 this winter and is rear-facing. I basically try to keep them in the seat that is the safest as long as I can, and it’s a step-down in safety as you go from rear-facing to forward-harness to booster… so I try to keep them in as long as possible. More than that, we have stopped at car-seat checks and had them say that the seats were perfectly installed… we’re very careful about that. My oldest rear-faced until 5 since her seat allowed her to (and she complained when we turned her forward facing.) My son was bigger and had to forward face at 3. My kids are learning that we treat car safety as a high priority in our lives.

  2. courtney says:

    I live in Alaska and my oldest daughter just graduated out of her car seat at 10 years old. I know that in my state that your child must be in either a car seat or a booster seat until either 10 years old or 4 foot 10 and 80 pounds.

  3. Michelle says:

    People make comments to me because my almost 2 year old is still rear-facing. His seat allows for rear-facing up to 40 lbs (I can’t remember the height limit). He is only 24lbs. I’ve read studies that show it is safer for him to be rear-facing as long as possible so he will rear-face until he outgrows the rear-facing limits of his carseat. Then he will switch around and forward-face until he outgrows those limits.

    By the way, in Ontario, the law requires infants to rear-face until at least 20lbs. They must use a forward-facing seat until at least 40 lbs. Once they reach 40lbs, they must at least be in booster seats until they are 8 years old, 80 lbs or 4’9″.

  4. Lori says:

    My baby will be 6 in June & she’s still in a 5-point. She too is just over 40 lbs, can buckle & unbuckle herself properly & doesn’t have a problem still being in her seat. We spend a lot of time of 2 lane back country roads & I drive a small sedan. I just feel it’s the best for her right now. My oldest is almost 12, weighs 130lbs & is rarely allowed in the front seat. If that makes me a bad mom, I don’t wanna be right!

  5. verochka31 says:

    everyone has their own reasons and concerns. we are not judges to judge. we don’t have to agree but respect their choices. children’s safety should be number one in our lives.

  6. Megan Klay says:

    Love the explanation, Sara. And could Annabella be any cuter?!

  7. Angie says:

    T & P, Sara! I sympathize with and can’t imagine the pain of your loss. <>

  8. Sherri says:

    I do not see any problem with it. My son is going to turn 3 in December and he just went forward facing.

  9. babymomma says:

    I don’t see the problem with having a six year old in a five point seat because I have seen kids get out of the booster seats and this cause distraction for the driver and is not safe on the child back in the day we did not have car seats but today im great full as a parent knowing my child is safe in a car seat or booster I think they should switch to five point harness seats for older children 🙂 as a mother you can never be to safe with a child car accidents are the number one cause of death in the us.

  10. Ashleigh says:

    My almost 5 year old is still in a 5-point harness and I believe I can still increase her harness up two more notches. She will be staying in it until she outgrows it and it no longer is comfortable or safe for her to sit in. It does however transfer into a high back booster seat and I will be keeping her in that for quite some time too. Also, my 1 1/2 year old is still rear facing. When it comes to my children, I would rather be safe, even if it’s more work for me.

  11. My boys will be in 5 point harnesses for as long as I can because they are tiny and SOOOO much safer in them. We were in a car accident going 50 mph last January and neither had a single scratch on them thanks to their carseats. Also my 3 year old was rear facing until about 2 1/2.

  12. ida says:

    Both my older kids were in car seats until they were 12! Their friends made fun of them and even adults were ridiculing the whole thing but I couldn’t have cared less about what they all thought, my babies were a little safer and that’s all that mattered to me.

  13. beth says:

    I have 3 kids — the oldest is 7 then 5 and lastly is my 2 year old — and guess what – my 7 year old I still in a 5 point harness in my van – we just switched to a belt positioner booster in my husbands because my 2 1/2 old just went forward facing and there wasn’t enough room for 3 across the back— my kids are all relatively petite. my oldest is the heaviest in comparison to the others at 43 inches tall and 46 lbs my middle one is 40 inches tall and 36 lbs and my youngest is petite as well but I cannot remember her exact measurements … I have had a few commenters on this — however I am used to it — cloth pad/cup wearing, cloth diaper using, extended breastfeeding- extended rear facing and 5 point harness using mamma !

  14. Grace says:

    our van brook so all we have is a car and our car does not fit the big bulky seats, i would still use them except i only have one and need 2.

  15. babyleach says:

    My child was wearing 5T clothing by age 3 and was just a big hunk of a muscular kid because he had severe ADHD and he played so much and had a Hugh frame. By 3 1/2 he was in a booster seat but stayed in that until he was seven and outgrew it. He hated it because none of his friends had to sit in “baby seats” even though it is the law.

  16. m71727 says:

    My son is almost 3 and I feel like he is getting too big for his carseat I plan to keep him in it but I feel like he is uncomfortable and sometimes he unhooked the top part and I have to park on the ride of the road to redo it. My sister in law got a ticket because she didn’t notice her son did that and the cop pulled her over and have her a speech about carseat safety

  17. Petri says:

    Thank you for the comment,
    I live in China and can’t get hold of a car seat for 4y and older with a five point harness.
    Could anyone give me brands and models with this feature ?

    thank you in advance…

  18. Leslie says:

    My child is 3 and 39inches. In a 5 seat hardness. She has 10inches to go and she will not need to be in a toddler seat anymore. My tall girl and she get it from daddy. Wow she will taller than mommy one day.

  19. Nat says:

    I always have to laugh at the people who lecture me about having a home birth and then drive away without their kids in a car seat! I always buy a car seat with a higher weight limit and leave my kids in as long as possible. I have a five point front facing car seat that goes to 80lbs and due to the fact my kids are all small my son may be riding in it until he is 12…he loves it and calls it his race car seat so why change a good thing.

  20. Kali says:

    I’m with you. I would perfect my little ones to be in a car seat until they can get their permit. Because I love the little ones so. it’s not over bearing in my opinion. but maybe over protective. So letting go a little is all about growing up. sigh. if I must. I would go with manufactures weight and height recommendations for the vehicle being driven and add 1″ plus 10 lbs.

  21. Karen says:

    I also have a first grader the same size as your first grader, and he will continue to ride in a 5 point harness until he is either too tall or too heavy to do so. I actually tried the high back booster with the shoulder harness and did not like the way it fit him at all. It made me a nervous wreck when he took one round trip to his grandmother’s house in that seat, and he won’t be in it again anytime soon. He fussed about it, but his safety comes first. I also recently bought a better car seat for my 2 yo grandson and put him back to rear facing. I know his mother won’t have him rear facing when she takes him for rides in her friends’ vehicles, but when he is with me, he will be in a good seat, rear facing. He is about 30 pounds. The seat will accommodate up to 40 or 45 lbs rear facing and then when I turn him around, he will remain in the 5 point harness up to 65 lbs also. My 6 year old was rear facing until he was about 4 years old and his legs really just got too long which made the closure at the crotch too tight. For those parents who think rear-facing is more dangerous or too uncomfortable, I would simply urge you to go to YouTube and type in something like “rear facing vs. forward facing crash tests” and see for yourself. There are also some very sad blogs on the internet about toddlers who were gravely injured in forward facing seats. One story I read told about a toddler who was internally decapitated. Toddlers heads are very heavy in comparison to their small frames and in a forward facing seat, their little heads fly very violently forward in their seats, which can indeed break their little necks. I would encourage everyone who is questioning the recommendations to please do some research and watch some actual video footage of crash tests.

  22. sandrine says:

    Actually the kid in the picture that goes with this article is NOT safe in that car seat because she outgrew it.. To fit in a 5 point harness facing forward the level of the harness needs to be higher that the kid shoulder..

    • The kid in the picture is one of mine. She’s now 7, and comfortably riding in a Nautilus that fits her height and weight. The harnesses were correct on this seat as well – she may have been pushing up in the seat or it may be the angle of the photo – but I assure you that her shoulders were below the slot. Thanks for your concern – car seat safety is a hugely important issue!

  23. Kitty says:

    The fact of the matter is, keeping your kids in a car seat is safe for as long as you like – as long as they don’t exceed the height and weight limits of the car seat. Once that happens, it is no longer a safe option, and they need to be “graduated” (if you will) to the next seat design. I know the state of Michigan requires all children under the age of 8 or under 4’9″ to be in a booster seat – and the cops don’t mess around with that law, either. I will keep my child in the 5-point harness as long as their booster seat allows it, or whenever they’re in the car with Daddy behind the wheel cause well, he likes to stop awfully suddenly…:p

  24. Do you know how long it would take to get 6 kids in and out of 5pt harness seats…yikes. That would never work for us.
    Mine are all in boosters. They’re also much heavier and larger than your 6yr old. My 3yr old almost 4 is 48lbs and quite tall. My other 4 children are ages 6-8 and have all surpassed the height requirements and far surpassed the weight requirements (they’re 53-65lbs). The baby however will stay rear facing and in 5pt harness until she is around 2.

    • Emily says:

      Not long at all actually, unless they’re all little. My daughter is 7, she gets herself in, she far exceeds the requirements for a booster, but still fits in her Britax 5point-booster converting seat (it goes to 90lbs 5 point harness and about 5’1″.) My son is 5, he gets himself in and can mostly buckle himself, his sister usually helps him with the one buckle he can’t get (usually he can get one side but not the other.) So, if I had 4 children between 5-8, I would expect them to put their seatbelts on, 5 point harness or not. It’s also not just about height and weight. It’s about maturity level. That’s why boosters are not recommended for children under 4. Not because they can’t be big enough to fit one, but because a 4 year old rarely stays in their seat all the time in the proper position. Shoot, my 5 year old still falls asleep at times in his car seat, which would be unsafe in a booster. It’s an excuse. Your children are likely very safe in their boosters, but these sort of excuses are just that. An excuse.

  25. cecilia says:

    My oldest was in a five point harness until she was six she’s now in a highback booster my youngest is two and will stay in his five point harness until six as well we also rear faced both until two


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