Need a boost? How to tell if your child is ready (or not) to move out of a booster seat
A few years ago the law changed to require that children use a child restraint until at least 7 years old. There was a lot of noise at the time about how inconvenient that might be, but the truth is your child's safety is never about convenience.
Today's post breaks down what the law is, and also explains what best practice is. In our opinion, it's better to implement best practice when it comes to your child's safety. Hopefully this post provides some points that help explain to your children why you think they should still use their booster, even if they could technically ride without one without breaking the law.
What is the law on using a child restraint or booster seat?
Legally, children need to be in appropriate child restraints until they are seven. Most parents will move to a booster seat when their child outgrows a harnessed child restraint. There is no law on when you must move your child into a booster. However, you must keep within the manufacturer's guidelines as to age and weight to ensure your child's safety.
Your child doesn't need a booster at 8 years old = myth.
Should you move your child out of a booster seat simply because they’re eight years old? Our firm opinion is no.
The whole purpose of a booster is to help your child fit into the car. Car seats are actually designed for adults. This is why the law states, and Child Restraint Technicians advise, use of a car seat at least until seven years old. You'll also commonly hear advice to keep your child in a restraint until they are over 148 cm.
As you know, your child is unique. Whether they will fit into an adult sized car seat at eight years old, is a matter that requires some assessment.
How can you tell whether your child is ready to move out of a booster seat?
The following test is what we use to help figure out whether your child is ready to move out of a booster. If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, then your child is ready to move on from a booster.
To get started, ask them to sit in the car without a car seat. That one was a bonus one. If they aren't listening, and aren't currently sitting in the car as asked, they're too young or too insolent. Keep them in the booster.
Assuming they are now in the car without a child restraint or booster seat, ask them to pop the seat belt on and then assess the following. We want to firmly answer "yes" to every question, to ensure they can safely ride in the vehicle without a booster seat:
- Is their back is against the vehicle seat?
- Are their knees are bent at the edge of the seat?
- Does the lap belt come across the top of their thighs (not stomach)?
- Is the shoulder belt coming across and lying nicely between their shoulder and neck? Importantly, it should not be high across the neck.
- Can they sit properly with no need to slouch or lean?
If the answer is yes to every question then you no longer need a booster seat in that vehicle.
"But whhhhhyyyy, mum?"
The reason you need to be able to pass this test to ride in a car safely without a child restraint or booster, is due to the positioning of the seat belt. Cars are designed for adults, and a booster or other restraint is required if your child does not fit the car's vehicle belts correctly.
(Here's the scary part): If a child doesn't fit the seat belt correctly, in an accident the belt could cut into their windpipe and choke them, or could pull in across the stomach and damage important internal organs, causing all sorts of yucky problems. Don't make your mum show you YouTube videos. Seriously.
Is the 148 cm guideline a better test?
It is certainly easier to check! And it is a good guideline to expect your child to require a booster until they are 148 cm tall.
This is only a guideline though, as some children have longer legs or bodies than others, and some cars position the seat belt higher than others.
While useful, the 148 cm guideline is also sometimes not that practical, and if we were super duper strict with that we might have some adults still in car seats - which isn't the goal.
The best way to truly tell if your child is ready, is to run through the 5 point check in the car with them. If they aren’t there yet then, sorry, but it’s safer to stay in a booster.
Boosters we recommend for taller and older children
At Baby Box we have a range of boosters suitable for older children and can help you find the best one for you and your vehicle.
If you have questions or would appreciate consulting with a Child Restraint Technician, contact us today!