What is a Booster Seat?
A booster seat is a firm cushion of foam or plastic that raises the child higher in the car to improve the position and angle of the shoulder belt. There should be slots or hooks for the lap belt to keep it low, on the child’s hips and thighs. Booster seats come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Also, most boosters include a shoulder belt guide or comfort clip that can be used, if necessary, to pull the shoulder belt slightly downward so it crosses the center of the shoulder and chest.
When to use a booster seat?
4 – 7 Years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 – 12 Years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
Types of Booster Seats
- Booster Seat with High-back
- Backless Booster Seat
- Combination Seat
- All-in-One Seat
Booster Seat with High-back
Designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It also provides neck and head support and is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs.
How to Install a High-back Booster Seat
Using a High-back Booster Seat
Backless Booster Seat
Designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It does not provide head and neck support. It is ideal for vehicles that have head rests.
Backless Booster Seat
How to Install a Backless Booster Seat
This seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster seat.
Combination Child Car Seat
How to Install a Combination Seat as a Booster Seat
All-in-One Booster Seat
Some younger children may outgrow the weight or height limit of the forward-facing car seat with a harness but may not be ready to stay seated properly in a booster seat using the lap and shoulder belt. If this is the case, remove the harness and use the seat as a booster. Be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to convert your seat to a booster.
Choosing the Best Booster for Your Child
How to Choose a Booster Seat
Frequently Asked Questions About Booster Seats and Car Seats
The ideal booster has an adjustable headrest and high-density, energy-absorbing foam in the head and chest areas. To protect the neck and spine, the child’s head (up to the top of the ears) must be supported by the vehicle seat back, booster, or headrest. An adjustable headrest helps keep a sleeping child positioned properly under the vehicle belt and positions the shoulder belt comfortably without preventing it from retracting properly.
Backless booster seats are lightweight and inexpensive, so they are a reasonable choice for carpooling, play dates, and public distribution programs. Backless booster should not be used unless the child is able to sit upright throughout the trip and the child’s head is supported by the vehicle seat back. For family trips, a backless booster can be used in the car on the way to the airport and at the destination if it is packed in a carry-on bag. Boosters may not be used on aircraft.
Combination seats, which are often marketed as “high back boosters,” usually have a harness that can be used up to 40 pounds or more, then removed to convert the seat to a booster.
How to Tell if a Booster Fits
Try the booster with your child in your car(s). Make sure the lap belt is positioned low, touching the child’s thighs and hips, and the shoulder belt crosses the middle of the child’s shoulder, touching the chest.
Caution – Some high-back boosters and combination seats used as boosters have one or more of these problems:
(1) High sides that hold the lap belt above and away from the child, which may allow “submarining” (sliding downward and forward) in a crash.
(2) Deep “wings” that hold the belt away from the child’s shoulder, either too far forward or too far to the side.
(3) For backless booster seats, if the shoulder belt fits properly, it is not necessary to use the shoulder belt clip. If the clip is needed to keep the belt from scraping the neck or face, supervise the child closely, or select a different model.
When NOT to use a Booster
If your car does not have shoulder belts in the back seat, a booster seat cannot be used. (Many cars made before 1990 have only lap belts in the back seat; cars made before 2006 may not have shoulder belts in the center.)
If your child is too large for a typical safety seat with its own harness and is less than 4-5 years old or extremely active, he or she probably is not ready to sit still in a lap and shoulder belt with a booster. You need a larger seat or a travel vest to keep the child properly seated and secured.
List of Belt-Positioning Booster Seats
Highback Boosters with Adjustable Headrest
Backless Booster Seats