Car seats: switching up

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Places To Go, Baby Essentials

Every state in the US has laws mandating that young children ride in a car seat when traveling in an automobile. For every state except Kentucky, a car seat is required until the child is four years old or weighs more than forty pounds (some states require both; Kentucky requires a car seat until a child is forty inches tall.) In some states -- California, where we live, is one of them -- the rules are even stricter. Here, kids have to be six years old or weigh more than 60 pounds to ride without a car seat or booster seat.

We needed a new car seat for Sara for when she gets picked up from preschool by the woman who will be taking care of her, so last weekend we went looking for one. What we discovered surprised us. We knew that the car seat we're using for Sara currently in the Land Rover is rated up to forty pounds -- she's only thirty-four. What we didn't know is that it only protects kids up to forty inches -- marketing materials and the website only mention the weight limit; we had to check the manual. At her last doctor appointment in June, Sara was thirty-nine inches tall. Luckily, we have the next larger model sitting in the garage (from when she was a newborn and Jared wasn't ready for a booster seat.)

What we ended up getting was a booster seat (with a back). It's recommended that you keep kids in a five-point harness as long as possible because of the added security. When we were looking at a booster seat for Jared, the salesman pointed out that it's not so much a matter of size as it is the kid -- are they old enough not to slip out of the belt to reach something on the floor or to annoy their sibling? For Sara, we're keeping the regular car seats in our cars, where she does the majority of her riding, but we did get a booster for the short ride from preschool. She's ridden in it once so far and apparently did fine.

So don't just think about weights when it comes to car seats; consider height as well. The top parts of the shoulder straps should be at the level of the child's shoulder; if they attach to the back below shoulder-height, you need to adjust the car seat or buy a bigger one. And if you're thinking about a booster seat, consider not just your child's age and size, but also their maturity and ability to sit correctly in the seat.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.