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Booster Car Seats
Your little one is becoming a big kid – where did the time go? Transitioning into a booster car seat is a process that takes patience and extreme caution. This final step in travel support gives children much more freedom than their previous car seat. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper age and weight limits before entrusting it with your child’s safety.
Remember, don’t rush into this stage, you should take advantage of your forward-facing car seat’s maximum weight limits. Allow your child to completely outgrow its recommendations before making the switch to a booster car seat.
In order to keep your child the safest they can be while traveling in a booster car seat, it is imperative that you, the parent, know the ins and outs of booster seats. That’s why we’re here. Take some time to learn all about boosters and maybe even discover the perfect model for your journey.
Why the Booster Car Seat Step is Important
A toddler booster car seat is the step between a car seat with harness and a vehicle’s safety belt system. They are typically held in place by your child’s weight and the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt, some will include lower anchors to instill extra confidence.
A booster is important because it will position your child to a safe height to fit properly with the safety belt. Without a booster, a safety belt cannot supply the protection it is intended for, leaving your child vulnerable to dangerous injuries. A booster car seat restricts the risk of a lap belt injuring your child’s abdomen while the shoulder belt can remain in the perfect position.
The National Child Passenger Safety Board states that the backseat is the safest place for a child until they are least 13 years old.
Making the Transition to a Booster Car Seat
Deciding it is the right time to make the leap into a child car booster seat, is an exciting and sometimes worrisome decision. But why? The main difference between a forward-facing car seat and a car booster seat, is the harnessing system. Most booster seats do away with the protective five-point harness system and rely on a vehicle’s safety belt. How many times have you been buckled up and still been able to lean to grab your phone from the floorboard or tended to the tantrum being thrown in the backseat?
The fact is, a safety belt retracts until the brakes are applied sharply or a collision is occurring. The magic of a seat belt happens thanks to a ball sensor, actuator and a small gear working together. The gear locks when the sensor realizes trouble may present and tells the actuator to lock the gear, keeping our bodies snug during an impact.
It’s important to understand how a vehicle’s safety-belt system operates to understand the differences in a harness. A five-point harness stays in position and protects important developing parts of your child’s body. These harnesses are designed to distribute crash forces evenly, adding extra safety for your child. They are also effective in keeping your little one from leaning out of their seats.
If you’re worried about the transition from harness to safety belt, don’t be! You can find an affordable harness booster car seat. Don’t be afraid to utilize this style if your child is having trouble behaving in the seat. We don’t recommend introducing the vehicle’s safety-belt system until your child shows the utmost maturity while in the car.
Booster Car Seat – How to Know it’s Time
You will know its time to transition your child into a booster car seat by utilizing the guidelines from the NHTSA you’ll see below and by following age and weight recommendations to your specific seats. These next tips will help make the switch easier.
Booster Car Seat Training
Use the time your child is in their forward-facing car seat as a training tool for the next step. Without your little one understanding the importance of car-seat etiquette, the transition to a booster seat will not only be difficult but also unsafe. Realizing how much freedom they have while buckled in by a retractable safety belt can spell disaster. If a child is leaning out of their seat during an impact, the safety belt may secure them in an awkward position, leaving vulnerable parts of their body exposed. A rambunctious child can also create dangerous distractions while you’re driving.
It doesn’t take much for a child to be tempted to reach outside of their booster seat. Sometimes the glimpse of a toy or a snack they left behind from a previous trip will entice them to break the rules and reach for it. As a part of training, be sure the backseat is clear of any distractions and limit toys that may be easily dropped. If your child attempts to obtain something of interest, you must explain to them the danger of not sitting in their seat properly.
Make sure your child is well versed in booster seat maturity before even considering incorporating a vehicle’s safety belt. Gently introducing them to the dangers of vehicle travel is a great way to make an impression on them so they will take traveling serious.
Booster Seat Etiquette
Don’t be surprised if your child tests your patience when adjusting to a booster seat. Children are incredibly curious and may use the new freedom as a way to find out exactly what they’re capable of – and how much they can get away with!
Instead of becoming frustrated, be prepared to handle common issues you will most likely experience.
- Remain in Position – Your child may attempt to venture outside of their car booster seat. We covered one reason that may cause this behavior – attempting to grab a toy or snack that may be out of reach. Another common occurrence happens when a restless child attempts to lean out of the seat to find a comfortable place to relax. Be sure to teach your child about the dangers of leaning out of their booster seat, it can be extremely dangerous and should not be tolerated.
- Adjusting the Seat Belts – The shoulder belt has wound up under the arms or behind the back of nearly every child who has entered one. If you notice your child adjusting the safety-belt position – stop this behavior immediately. During an impact, this can be incredibly dangerous.
- Disengaging the Seat Belt – Listening for the familiar click of a safety belt becoming unlatched is crucial when driving. Your child should understand that the disengage button is not to be touched or tampered with. The level of danger associated with an unbuckled child in a vehicle is monumental.
Installation for Your Booster Car Seat
When installing your booster seat, make sure to follow its manufacturer’s specific instructions. In addition, here are a few common practices you should keep in mind. These following tips come from the professionals at the National Child Passenger Safety Board.
- Make sure to place the booster seat FLAT in the back seat. Installing it at an angle can create a dangerous environment for your child to be in.
- Once installed, buckle your child in so you can examine how well the safety belt fits.
- The lap belt should sit across their upper thighs and shoulder belt should rest across their chest.
- Adjust the vehicle’s seat belt until you achieve these positions. Depending on the model of the booster seat you choose, you may find helpful guides on the unit to make adjusting even easier.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out if your child booster car seat has these helpful guides or extra anchors to install. Feeling confident that your child is in the safest environment possible is a great feeling and the ultimate goal.
Different Types of Booster Car Seats
If you have been searching for the best toddler car seat, you have probably noticed many different styles which are available. We want to cover a few of the most common styles and what advantages they will have for your family.
High Back Booster Seats
These unique seats are typically heavy and shouldn’t be considered portable. However, they are the safest option available to keep your precious child safe. They are recommended to be used in vehicles with a low back seat or which lack a head restraint. Younger riders will benefit from the included five-point harness until they are ready for a vehicle’s safety belt. A high back booster car seat also provides head, neck and back protection.
Backless Booster Seats
This is a barebones option that simply elevates your child in your vehicle’s backseat. You won’t have the additional support of a five-point harness as these rely on a vehicle’s safety-belt system to keep the seat secure. These are great for children who are closer to outgrowing the need for a booster seat as they don’t feature the side-impact support of a high back booster seat. It is a great option as a portable and lightweight model if you will be moving the seat from one car to another often.
Convertible Booster Seats
You have likely become familiar with “convertible” options while researching baby products. If not, it simply means that these products can convert to adapt to different stages of your child’s life. Convertible booster seats have the ability to be used as a high back option before converting into a backless model once your child is the appropriate age and weight to sit safely. These can be more expensive but give parents the ability to only purchase one model for the duration of your child’s need for it. By offering this unique convenience, convertible booster seats have become incredibly popular.
Combination Booster Seats
These special seats begin their purpose as forward-facing, five-point harness car seats and can later be used as a high back five-point harness booster. Some models even support a backless booster car seat mode! If you’re looking for a 5-point harness booster seat for over 40 pounds, you can’t go wrong by going with this style.
Awesome Booster Car Seat Features
Baby product manufacturers may sometimes go all out when designing their booster car seats. We can’t thank them enough for adding incredible features on top of exceptional safety standards for our children! As someone who cares for (or will be soon!) a little one, you know how important convenience is in your daily life. Check out some of these awesome features you can find in a child booster car seat.
- Recline Mode – You likely have a recliner in your living room that you retreat to after a long day. You can give your child the same luxury by investing in a child’s booster seat that features a comfortable recline mode. They may not have the same range of angle positions that you’ll see in a typical car seat but it can still provide your child different options of comfort.
- Five-Point Harness – These important harnesses add an important level of protection for children who are too small for a vehicle’s safety belts. Investing in a booster car seat with a harness is a great way to ensure your kiddo rides safely in the back seat.
- Lower Anchors – You may find a booster car seat that features additional lower anchors rather than relying only on a vehicle’s safety belt to keep it secure. These anchors are much like ones included with infant seats. They grip onto clips built into your backseat to create a snugger fit.
- Storage – How many snacks, drinks or toys are you required to travel with in order to keep your child satisfied? If your child is anything like mine, the answer is – a lot. That’s why having the convenience of cup holders and even a storage pocket is a huge bonus.
- Comfortable Padding – Your child’s comfort during travel is huge for their temperament and for your sanity! Consider finding an option that has plenty of cushion within the seat and the harness if it has one.
It can be easy to spend a small fortune on a car booster seat that includes many awesome features. Be cautious of your budget and consider which additions are necessary for your child. However, it’s not impossible to find an economical option that features most of these cool bonuses!
Child Booster Seat Laws
It is important to understand the car booster seat law associated with your location. If you’re in the United States, this awesome list provided by the American Automobile Association will show you your state’s unique booster seat requirements. Following these child booster seat laws will not only keep you from potentially paying a fine, they’re also there to keep your child as safe as possible.
Here are some other helpful suggestions regarding booster-seat safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Forward-Facing to Booster: Ages 4-7
Allow your child to remain in their forward-facing car seat until they max out the height or weight limits as deemed by the manufacturer’s instructions. Only then, should they make the transition to a booster seat, while remaining in the backseat.
Booster to Safety Belt: Ages 8-12
Your child should remain in their booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a safety belt properly. This is achieved when a lap belt lies snugly across their upper thighs and not the stomach. Wait until the shoulder straps fit nicely across the shoulder and chest, and no longer crosses their neck or face. Again, this should take place in the back seat for optimum safety.
Why is the backseat considered the safest place? It’s simple – the middle of a backseat is the location farthest away from an impact point. These few extra feet away from the door and glass can be a lifesaver in case of a side collision.
Booster Car Seat Expiration
What comes to your mind when you think of expiration dates? Probably, the bread in your cabinet or the source of the questionable odor coming from the fridge, right? It may surprise you to discover that booster seats also have an expiration date. These dates are crucial to the safety integrity that a seat can offer. But how do you know if your seat is expired or the date is approaching? Here is some information to consider when purchasing a booster car seat.
A common reason booster seats expire is due to regular wear. Long-term use of these units cause materials to break down and become unusable. A booster seat is NOT something you should use if it has less-than-perfect materials housing your child, especially if an accident does occur. An impact to a degrading car seat booster will have disastrous results when it comes to your child’s protection.
Think of how many elements your vehicle is exposed to on a regular basis. The booster seat inside is also a victim of drastic temperature changes and the constant beatdown from the sun and humidity. Over time, these conditions will cause a seat’s plastic pieces to become swelled or damaged and the metal parts to rust thus resulting in improper function.
It’s also possible that support for replacement parts of booster seats that are out of production may no longer be available. Meaning, if something breaks on the seat, there is no safe way to sufficiently do the repair. Each individual part has a purpose on a booster and it should not be rigged to limp it through until your child no longer needs it. It needs to be replaced.
Another occurrence that is common to the expiration of a car seat is due to the rapid rate of technological advances. Seat manufacturers are constantly executing studies that enhance the safety of their products. Once a new standard is set, it is in your best interest to upgrade to the new technology.
There is no simple answer to this, as different manufacturers deem the expiration dates based on the design of their product. However, it is easy to find out when a particular model does expire.
You know the many different registration and warranty papers that come with almost every product you purchase? The ones that usually find the garbage can without even being glimpsed at. When it comes to booster seats, they include valuable information, so be sure to study them and keep them in a safe place for future reference. Jot down the serial number if it isn’t included on the registration in case it is not featured on the actual seat.
A lot of the time, a booster car seats expiration date will be spelled out plainly on their registration card. We’re big believers in never purchasing a used product when it comes to something that keeps your child safe. It is not only important that you know a product’s history but it also means you will receive the important documents that a manufacturer includes.
If the registration card doesn’t show an expiration date, it should be listed on the actual model. Look for a sticker or a stamp on the plastic shell to find the exact date. If it is unreadable or simply isn’t present, contact the manufacturer. This is where having a record of the serial number is crucial. Their customer service representatives can easily tell you this information with a simple phone call.
Retirement for your Booster Car Seat
We have told you where we stand on purchasing used, and we are even more adamant on avoiding passing down products that are past their expiration date. This is an incredibly dangerous practice that puts unknowing parents and innocent children at serious risk. There are some great ways to go about retiring an expired booster car seat that can benefit the environment and research!
Most parts of a booster seat are considered recyclable. It may take a little effort on your part to separate plastics and metals but with some work, a local recycling center will gladly take it off your hands and repurpose it to something useful.
Check your local area for a Child Passenger Safety Technician center to donate your expired booster seat. These experts can research different models to discover important information as to why the seat expired and use it to enhance future models. This is a great way to do your part in helping manufacturers advance the safety features they create.
If you just want to get the booster seat out of your way and dispose of it in your normal garbage pickup, there are a few things to do first. Be sure to disassemble the model before placing it in the trash to ensure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Desperate people will take desperate measures and may try to sell the seat or even use it for their own children. Spread the parts amongst different dark garbage bags to make sure a child doesn’t end up in an expired seat!
Booster Car Seats – Product Reviews
Now comes our favorite part – booster car seat reviews! We scoured booster seat reviews across popular sites to uncover what real parents are saying about some of the most popular options on the market. We’re sure you’ll find the perfect booster car seat for your unique lifestyle.
Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat
Evenflo is known for holding their baby products to a high standard when it comes to safety and quality. This awesome booster seat for car is no exception and should be considered one of the best booster seats 2017 as it was rated as a Best Bet Booster by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The first thing you may notice about this car seat booster is the beautiful pattern featured across this unit. Parents have many options including Sprocket (an impressive design which resembles a firework show) Carrissa (engaging flowers across the backrest and seat cushion) or Blue Angles (pretty cut and dry on this one…blue angles!) You’ll have no problem finding a design to fit your vehicle’s interior.
Functionality is something Evenflo nails on the Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat. It features six different height positions that keep up with your child’s growing body. This adjustability makes it easy to keep your little one in a safe posture. A beneficial extra are the two included cup holders, which allows mom and dad to keep their eyes on the road and lets your toddler have their necessities within reach.
According to Evenflo’s booster seat requirements, your child is ready to use this high back booster car seat once they reach the minimum weight of 30 pounds and are at least four years old. It doesn’t stop there – at a minimum of 40 pounds, it easily converts into a no back booster for the duration of your child’s need for extra support in the car!
Reviews reveal that parents are elated to have chosen this belt positioning booster seat for their toddlers. It can be a stressful transition from a five-point harness to a seat that relies on a vehicle’s onboard safety belt. However, parents are comfortable with the extreme safety measures used when testing and designing this seat. It doesn’t hurt that it’s super comfortable too!
We are shocked at how inexpensive this awesome seat is. Averaging at only $35, it can fit comfortably in most budgets!
Recaro Performance Sport Combination Harness to Booster
If you’re looking for “luxurious” in your hunt for a booster seat with harness – you will be excited to learn more about this one! With racing-inspired safety, this effort by Recaro supports full body side impact protection. Each model is built in the United States and uses patented technology to inspire safety and innovation.
Saying this harnessed booster car seat is comfortable is an understatement – consider it the throne that your little king or queen deserves. It achieves these awesome levels of comfort by featuring cloud-comfort memory foam, temperature balancing fabrics and CoolMesh air ventilation that keeps them cool! The incredible comfort features makes this one a great travel booster car seat.
An ergonomic seat that actually molds to your child’s shape, they’ll feel cozy and a sense of security when you choose this model. This harnessed booster seat can come into your child’s life once they are at least 20 pounds. It then serves as a high back booster at 30 pounds all the way until 120. You’re going to get a lot of use!
Let’s talk safety. This 5 point harness booster has a unique design that makes it stand apart visually and more importantly serves as an extra level of safety. You’ll notice the racing-inspired side wings that is designed to protect a child during side-impact incidents. This unique style comes from four decades of racing seat safety. It works by efficiently protecting the head and face and relying on a head rest to limit neck movement. There are even support reinforcements to protect your child’s sides, hips and thighs.
We hope you will never have to rely on these extra safety measures, but in the case of an accident, you’ll be glad they are available.
Recaro’s HERO Harness System delivers supreme protection and comfort by positioning the shoulder pads to appropriately fit your child’s neck, head and shoulders while eliminating harness twisting. If twists do occur, parents will easily notice a white stripe on the side of the harness. It’s a great way to easily identify the risk of an improperly positioned harness and make adjustments.
Booster seat reviews show that this car seat performs just as its advertised. It’s proven itself in vehicle accidents and easily attaches to car’s lower anchors and safety-belt system during its use as a high back booster.
The major complaint parents had about this unit was its weight. At a hefty 25 pounds, some moms and dads found it a burden to transfer the seat to different vehicles. Hey, this seat offers a lot of protection to young children – the weight is necessary!
The Recaro Performance Sport Combination Harness to Booster seat is an epic option. The awesome safety features, sleek design and comfortability make this a contestant for the best booster car seat. However, it may be quite expensive for parents on a budget. At around $200, it may not make sense for some families. But if price is not a concern – you’ll love it!
Graco Affix Youth Booster Car Seat with Latch System
This model is pretty standard when it comes to high back booster seats, but it’s Graco, so you know it was built with love and with safety in mind. Graco is one of the biggest names in baby products and it is due to their dedication and commitment of creating products parents can trust.
This great booster seat for 4 year old children can be safely used once your big kid weights at least 30 pounds, as a high back booster. It then converts into backless mode once 40 pounds is reached, and supports up to 100 pounds. Once your little one grows out of the need for a forward-facing car seat, the Affix can take over for the duration of their need for support.
When they’re not testing the safety of their products, Graco is giving parents the other most important factor in a child seat – comfort! A comfortable child is a happy child, and a happy child lets mom and dad drive with their eyes and minds on the road. The headrest is packed with layers to provide the utmost comfort. Also, thanks to the awesome back support, the Affix makes it easy to relax while your child grows.
Your little ones will love the integrated cup holders to bring along their favorite snacks and drinks on the road. Bigger kids will get a kick out of the included hideaway storage compartment on the side of this model. Think of it as a place you can hide small rewards to treat them when they do something awesome – which is probably quite often!
The innovative Latch System that Graco has included makes it simple to install this child booster car seat in only seconds, and with one hand! Reviews show parents loving this added feature as adjustments are made up front, not awkwardly behind the seat.
Graco hit it out of the park with the Affix and the even better news is that you can find it for only about $70! A great affordable seat that holds up to Graco’s vision of safety.
Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Combination Harness-2-Booster Car Seat
This multi-purpose harness to booster car seat can make a great addition to any family. Starting its support for children weighing at least 25 pounds, then converting to a high back booster at 40 pounds, Britax offers a seat that can grow with your child!
Clicktight is an innovative feature developed by Britax. It has solved the way parents sometimes struggle when installing a seat. Have you found yourself tugging, kneeing or getting frustrated during an installation process? That can’t be good for the structural integrity but sometimes it seems to be the only way to make it secure. With this easy-to-use feature, anyone can secure the seat by simply buckling the seat belt against a path. Ease and convenience are features every parent needs in their life.
Britax uses a safety feature called SafeCell Impact Protection on this belt positioning booster seat. It’s an integrated system of features like a steel frame, energy-absorbing base and impact-absorbing tether meant to reduce crash forces and are exclusive to their line of seats. You can trust that your child will be safe and secure when they’re buckled up.
You should know that this seat also has a nine-position harness to adjust to your child’s growing body. The adjustments are simply obtained thanks to a quick-adjust harness. It even reclines to allow your child to sit in their most comfortable position.
When researching booster seat reviews, it seems parents are overall thrilled with their purchase. There is one complaint that comes up – adjusting the harness appears to be quite difficult when your child is in the seat. Some parents found the solution in placing thin boards between the car seat and vehicle seat. We don’t recommend this as you don’t know how it will affect the overall safety performance during an accident. Instead, contact Britax for a solution if this nuance is present in your seat.
An average price tag of about $270 may be enough to sway parents in the direction of another harness to booster seat, but we feel it’s a great option if it’s in your budget!
Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat
The Maestro is a great model for parents looking for a harness to booster seat. It features all of the great safety that Evenflo is known for and uses an easy-to-use upfront harness adjustment system.
Starting its job as a 5 point harness booster and converting to a belt positioning harness when your child is ready. It meets or exceeds all federal standards and Evenflo’s internal side-impact standards. The Maestro is tested for structural integrity at energy levels nearly twice the federal crash-test standard. It’s built to last and protect!
Cup holders on each side make it possible for your children to bring along their favorite snacks or drinks. It’s also extremely comfortable in the seat and back support and has the convenience of being machine washable. Parents love how easy it is to remove the seat pad for a thorough cleaning, that will be necessary, inevitably.
You can take out the guesswork of a safe install by using the awesome auto-adjust belt path that properly positions seat belts for a safe fit. The adjustable shoulder and crotch buckle harnesses will also prove to be helpful when making adjustments for a growing child. Works well as a 5 point harness booster seat for over 40lbs!
For the most part, parents love the Maestro. It’s safe, comfortable and affordable at an average price of only $75. However, installing with the lower-anchor systems, does cause some headaches. I can attest to this, as I have used this with my daughter. The latch clearly states, “lift to release” which does absolutely nothing. It is definitely difficult to transfer from car to car; if you are planning for this to stay in your primary vehicle, it is a great option.
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster
It seems Chicco found all of the things parents were looking for and wrapped it up in an attractive and affordable package. The KidFit typically costs about $135 and comes with some incredible safety and comfort features.
Featuring head and shoulder side-impact protection in ten different positions, this seat will quickly adapt as your child gets bigger. The available adjustments make it easy to find the perfect height position your child needs. Getting kids in and out is a breeze when using the SuperCinch latch attachment.
Comfort levels are enhanced by taking advantage of a two-position backrest and ErgoBoost seat with double-foam padding. Your child is also afforded two front cup holders to add to their enjoyment while in the car.
There’s not much more to say about the KidFit 2 as Chicco focused on adding awesome adjustability features over bells and whistles. Booster seat reviews show parents really enjoying the many different positions available to find their child’s perfect comfort level. It is impressing parents thanks to its quality material and extreme durability.
Some downsides you may notice is that lighter colors are easily stained and hard to clean. Also, it’s a bit hard to carry around, having extraordinary durability comes with the cost of a heavier carryon!
Britax Parkway SGL Belt Positioning Booster
The second model from Britax on our list excels in the safety standards set forth by the company. Featuring their exclusive SafeCell impact protection, you can be sure your child will be secure in this seat.
Britax says the Parkway SGL is their safest belt-positioning harness booster seat available. Thanks to a ISOFLEX LATCH connection system, you and your passengers will be safe from the seat become a projectile while not in use. This is achieved by a special lower latch connector that secures the seat.
The Parkway SGL also features a SecureGuard Belt-Positioning Clip to keep children from sliding under the lap belt during an impact. A deep energy-absorbing shell and reinforced headrest are also efficient in protecting a child during a side impact. We can’t say it enough – Britax knows safety.
They also know comfortability and the Parkway SGL can be considered a luxury retreat for your child on long rides or a drive down the block. Thanks to plush-foam padding and an adjustable headrest, your little one will have no problem climbing in. Take advantage of the retractable cup holders to give kids a place for their necessities and save space when they’re not in the car.
It starts as a belt positioning booster car seat before converting into a backless booster car seat. The range of usage is excellent, you will definitely get your money worth. The average cost of $130 makes this a great option for parents on a budget.
Parents are excited about the Parkway SGL and feel they received a great deal when they introduced this to their families lives. A durable structure and awesome safety features make this a great option for anyone!