When to Switch from a Convertible Car Seat to a Booster

If there's one thing that's always hard for me to keep up with, it's all of the rules about car seats and kids. Having kids spread out over eight years has meant that I feel like I'm constantly keeping up with changing car seat rules. Rear-facing, then extended rear facing, then new types of seats to keep track of, then convertible car seats and booster seats — it's a lot to remember!

{ MORE: Don’t Touch! Why Parents Are Hanging Warning Signs on Car Seats }

But if you're wondering about when you should switch from a convertible car seat for your little one to a booster type seat, you've come to the right place.

 
 
cleaning car seats
Image via Sara McTigue

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should not be switched to a booster seat until they are school-aged. That, however, isn't super helpful considering that “school-aged” is kind of subjective. What if your two-year-old goes to preschool? Does that mean he can go straight to a booster? 

Um, I'm thinking that's a no. There's a big difference between a two-year-old in “school” and a six-year-old in kindergarten. The more important guideline to remember about when it's time to switch from a convertible car seat to a booster is the height and weight of your child. Every car seat is different, so you can check the current car seat that your child has for the weight and height limits. If your child is in a forward-facing convertible car seat or an extended rear-facing car seat, he or she should not be moved to a booster seat until he/she has grown out of the limits on the car seat. Newer car seats are being designed to hold even more weight and accommodate larger children, because research shows that keeping them rear-facing and in convertible car seats longer is safer. 

{ MORE: Amazing and Affordable Top-Rated Convertible Car Seats Under $100 }

For example, many convertible car seats now can accommodate toddlers and even school-aged children up to 50 pounds. And providing you and your child are OK with it, there is no reason why they can't stay rear-facing if they are within the limits for that car seat. You can teach your child to fold his or her legs or cross them while they are rear-facing. 

If your child is in in a forward-facing car seat, the AAP recommends keeping them in a car seat with a five-point harness (as opposed to the booster with the seat belt option), until he/she is at least four years of age. If your child is under 4 but has outgrown the car seat you have, it's better to purchase a newer one that can accommodate a heavier weight instead of putting your child in a booster prematurely. 

The AAP also notes that children should stay in a booster until they are old enough to wear a seat belt correctly, which is usually when they reach 4 feet, 9 inches in height. Even then, all children who are under the age of thirteen should ride in the back seat to be safe too. 

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At what age did you move your child to a booster seat?

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When to Switch from a Convertible Car Seat to a Booster

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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