Need a boost? How to tell if your child is ready (or not) to move out of a booster seat
Image from Clek, featuring the Oobr 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 and many parents don't seem to mind being able to say "hey, the law says you have to".
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 you’re actually best placed to answer because you know your child.
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. The answers are the piece of the puzzle you fill in. If you can answer “yes” to the following 5 questions when your child is sat in the car without a booster or other child restraint, then your child is ready to move on from a booster:
- Their back is against the vehicle seat.
- Their knees are bent at the edge of the seat.
- The lap belt comes across the top of their thighs.
- The shoulder belt comes across and lies nicely between their shoulder and neck. It should not be high across the neck.
- They can sit properly with no need to slouch or lean.
"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. If you pass the test then the seat belt fits 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
The Maxi-Cosi Rodifix or the Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP are both great options which last most children through to 11 or 12 years of age. The Rodifix is great for bigger bottoms too because the seat is fairly flat.
The Clek Oobr is a fantastic choice too, lasting a child until they are 45 kg. It can be used as a full back booster, or the back detaches for use as just a bottom booster for older children.
If you still have questions or would appreciate consulting with a Child Restraint Technician, call us today on 04 298 6404 or visit us at 18 Ihakara Street, Paraparaumu, Wellington.