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When Can a Child Move to a Booster Seat?

I have a 3 year old son who is the size of a 5 year old. We battle at the car seat everytime we try to go out in the car. I was thinking that a booster seat might be in order, but I can not find the requirements for height and weight. Does anyone know this info? Also, what are the advantages/disadvantages to a highback vs. no back booster? Thank you in advance for any help on this.

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Thank you all so so much for the great advice and tips. My husband and I have decided to wait until our son is 4 years old to move him into a booster seat. I am grateful for all the responses!

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most of the places i have looked have the info on the product display. booster seats age 4 or eight until 4'9"
tall.front facing until 4 years and 40 lbs.look on this website it has all of the info you are asking about-national highway traffic safety administration. NHTSA for abbreviation.

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It's much safer for our little ones to remain in a 5 point harness as long as possible. Britax has a seat called the REGENT which Harnesses to 85 lbs. It sounds like this might be an option for you.

The detailed information can be found at: http://www.britaxusa.com/products/product_detail.aspx?ID=9

It's a forward facing only seat and it looks like the minimum weight/age is 1 year and 22 lbs.

there's an incredibly heartbreaking video on youtube from the family of Kyle David Miller. Despite the fact that it brings me to tears, I really believe that it's a must watch for anyone with a child in a carseat. Here's a link:

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My little girl is 4 and only 35 pounds they are not able to go into a booster seat until 40lbs. I have her still in a 5 point harness but her carseat transforms into the booster when the time is right. I would check with the department of transportation to double check.


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most of the places i have looked have the info on the product display. booster seats age 4 or eight until 4'9"
tall.front facing until 4 years and 40 lbs.look on this website it has all of the info you are asking about-national highway traffic safety administration. NHTSA for abbreviation.

1 mom found this helpful

It looks like you got somse ideas for the weight and height requirements. You should also be able to look on any seat or in the instructions and find them. Any website with a seat would also have that info - there are general ranges for each type of seat, but each seat has it's own specific limits. The other way you can determine if it's time to move up is comparing your son's shoulder height to the strap on that back of the seat - the strap should be at or ABOVE your son's shoulder for front facing. If this is not true, then it's time to move on (especially if he also weighs 30+ pounds.) (This is opposite for rear-facing children -- so you can use the rule the opposite way for your daughter.) Be aware that many kids that cannot release a child seat buckle can do so with the car seatbelt so it gives them some more freedom.

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Hi S., I haven't had a chance to read the replies so hopefully I'm not duplicating. My daughter is also VERY large for her age (especially tall) - she is 3 1/2 and although I would love to get her a booster seat, in PA you have to wait until they are four for a booster (even if they are over the 40 pounds that is usually an additional recommendation).

We have an Eddie Bauer's seat that is supposed to be transferred into a booster but it's just too small and she can't wear any coat or anything like that in there - at this point, we are going to just battle it out until she's four in October.

Good luck!


1 mom found this helpful


Frist let me say that I am glad you are concerned about your child's safety in your car and are willing to find the correct car seat/booster seat for your child. Have you ever had a car seat check? Most people, about 85%+, of us do not know how to install car seats properly or in your case your not sure what to use. Check with your local police department as they probably had the training and if not they should know who to contact. Your local 4-H office might also have someone who has experience with car seat checks as well as your DMV office.

Good Luck,


1 mom found this helpful

I would check on the PA Dept of Transportation website for ages/weights, etc. I agree with a high backed booster IF he's old/heavy enough to move him. My son is 5 and without the belt positioning back part, the seatbelt still hits my son across the neck, so he still has his back on the high back booster. The important thing is that the position of the seatbelt is correct. You can also go to a free safety seat check (most local police/fire departments have a certified person). Surprisingly, most safety seats are not installed correctly at all!

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Hi S.! My husband's a state trooper and he's also a certified car seat safety inspector. Legally, he needs to be in a regular car seat until he's 4 yr old and 40 lbs. Part of the reason is that he needs to be old enough to be aware of sitting up and proper positioning, and part of it is that he needs to be big enough to not get hurt by a regular seat belt. When it is time for a booster, the high back ones are the best. My husband comes home sometimes from car seat checks and is just fuming at the mothers who let their nine month olds ride forward because they're heavier or 5 yr olds ride without a booster because they're "big for their age". Call your local police department and see if they have a car seat inspector and/or find out when they're having the next car seat check.

1 mom found this helpful

The high backs are safer because many these days will still offer the 5 point strap. The no backs to me aren't as safe since they only use the shoulder strap which is usually too high and the seat isn't strapped onto the larger seat, unless they've been improved. You'll need to check state requirements on what is and isn't allowed to use for a child your age. I suggest using the high back with a 5 point. One of my triplets is very large for his age at 3 1/2. He's 46 pounds and is shaped very wide like a line backer, lol. He wears size 8 clothes, lol! He's in a larger booster car seat. He won't fit it until he's 8 as the law requires. The straps are at it's highest position and this is the largest seat we could find in this style. So he'll be moved up before the other two and will go into one of the high back seats, the largest I can find. It's better to have them over protected in the car than using the bare basics.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

1 mom found this helpful

I'm so glad you are looking out for your son's safety!

There is SO much misinformation out there...most of it well meaning. Please keep in mind that the internet is not always the most accurate source for information. I was a certified child passenger safety technician for 4 years--just let my certification expire in October because I didn't have time to do the recert-requirements.

Anyway...I wrote a response to the "David Miller-5 point harness" u-tube video on my blog at http://knittedinthewomb.blogspot.com/2006/12/5-point-harn... Bottom line...the intent of the u-tube video is to be helpful, but it isn't entirely accurate.

I see MANY people in this thread who seem to be using seats (like the Eddie-Bauer 3-in-1) with a harness that has a 40 lb limit well beyond 40 lbs. The first and most important rule of carseat use is READ THE DIRECTIONS AND FOLLOW THEM. So important.

I've also seen statement that high backed boosters are safer than low backed. This simply isn't true either. In some situations, low backed boosters are safer, because they position the child further back on the seat, thus reducing the chance of the child hitting the seat in front of him. But if the vehicle seats are not high enough (at least to the top of your child's ears) then you need a high backed booster to protect against whiplash. Also, with younger children who fall asleep you may need the high backed booster to keep the child properly positioned in the vehicle seat belt.

A 3 year old is typically too young for a belt positioning booster--they will just move around too much and not stay well protected. In this case, as some posters have said, there are seats available (for a hefty price) that have a harness designed for a higher weight limit. These are an excellent choice. If they are out of your budget, then you can try "locking" your seat belts. You do this by buckling your child, then pulling the shoulder belt the whole way out. This will turn the belt (in some vehicles--not all) into "locking retractor" mode, or "boa constrictor." It stays tight on the child, so the child can't move as much.

Hugs & good luck!


1 mom found this helpful

Hi S.. I had the same problem with my son. He is very very tall. High back booster seats are safer. They have less risk of head, neck and back injury so I would go for a high back booster seat. I cant specify the limits to them because every booster seat has their own limitations and requirements. The small booster seats with no back on them are a 40 pound and over requirement. Alot of the high back boosters are 30-100 or 40-80 pounds. You can check walmart.com, target.com, babiesrus etc... Search booster seats. Most of them have the weight limit in the item description. Good luck with your search... Hope this helped =0) beckie

1 mom found this helpful

Delaware County Safe Kids does car seat checks all over the county and there is a trooper at the barracks near the Granit Run Mall that does seat checks...call the barracks and make an appt.

Also if you want to look at a great site check out CHOP's website for Child Passenger Safety...they have done a 10 year study on this and are well known around the country for their study, findings and information. They have a great website with info and videos to watch.

1 mom found this helpful

Booster seat requirements can be found on individual car seats, however http://www.aap.org/family/Carseatguide.htm states:

"Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats."

"She should ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness until she outgrows it (usually at around 4 years of age and about 40 pounds)."

When you do get it in, you can schedule a meeting with a professional seat checker at www.seatcheck.org

GL. :)

1 mom found this helpful

Usually the experts recommend keeping your child in his regular childseat until he reaches the limits of the seat. The National Highway Trasportation Safety Administration has information about usage of each type of seat on their website. It states that the booster seat should be used once they outgrow their forward facing carseat usually around the age of 4 and 40 pounds.

It should also state when it is safe to begin using a booster seat on the packaging of the seat your choose.

I recommend the high back booster for a couple of reasons. It does a better job of adjusting the seatbelt at the shoulder. Also, if your child falls asleep in his carseat, there is usually some extra support for his head so that his head isn't falling over the side into the middle of the backseat or against the door.

One thing to consider is if your son fights you now about being belted in his carseat, moving him might be a bad idea. The booster seats are easier to get out of for the kids. If you have a friend who has an extra one, you might want to try it for a couple of days to see if he will try to get out of it. Or alternatively, you can purchase one and see if he will stay in it. If not, you can use the forward facing one for a while longer and store the new booster.

Anyhow, I hope this helps. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Pennsylvania state law requires that children under age 4 ride in a federally approved car seat ot booster that is appropriate for the child's age, height and weight. Children ages 4 to 8 must use a booster seat if they are no longer in a car seat. Pennsylvania law further requires that children ages 8 to 18 use a seatbelt whenever they are in a vehicle, regardless of seating position.

I got this from http://babyproducts.about.com/od/statecarseatlaws/qt/penn...

I take that as saying as long as the child fits the height and weight requirements of the booster seat then it's ok to use a booster at 3 years old. I'll double check w/ my husband's best friend, though. He's a cop in Bensalem.

1 mom found this helpful

I feel your pain!
However,safety experts do suggest NOT taking a child out of a 5 pt. restraint until they are AT LEAST 4 years old AND 40 lbs. Their skeletal structure is not strong enough until then.
When you do make the switch, a high back booster provides better protection than a backless booster. I don't know if you're on MySpace at all, but they have a carseat saftey group that has been extremely informative & helpful to me. The link is: http://groups.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=groups.gro...

Here's a link to info about extended harnessing: http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/pages/4211/Car_Seat_Safety...

And what can happen to a child when moved to a booster too soon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2LFo8vVi04

I share those links with you not to scare you, but to help you make a truly informed decision about your childs safety. This is, unfortunately, something that most people do not know about. I'm not sure why that is exactly, but no one knows about it! I didn't know about most of this stuff till I joined that MySpace group! I didn't even know that carseats have expiration dates!--Who knew?!

I hope that this helps you some & I hope your sweet little boy stops giving you such a hard time soon!

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

The responses I saw gave you the lowdown on when to move to a booster w/ a seat belt.

So...my advice? Find a convertible seat like the Costco Summit which does the 5 point harness until they are big enough to use the seatbelt. We got that one for my oldest when she was at that stage where she'd be moving up soon but still needed the 5 point. When we did it, that was the only one recommended by Consumer Reports for that type but things may have changed since then.

That seat was great & we still use it now for her as a booster. When my youngest gets to that point, we'll probably do the same thing. (Of course, that will be a long ways off - she couldn't even get turned around until after her 2nd birthday when she finally got above 20 lbs!)

**edit:just saw the other post about the same thing. I guess more people feel like I do**

I too was anxious to get my son into a booster seat. I even bought one and was happy with it, until I saw a story about a little boy who was in a t-bone car accident, and his seatbelt failed (he was just in a booster). Sadly he was killed. If he would have been in a five point harness seat, he would have lived easily. The story was very sad, and there was a good video on the internet about it (sorry, I don't have the link). I immediately went out and bought a new five point to hold bigger kids and feel much better about it.

I know this is not the answer you were looking for....but it just may be the safer thing for him. If he is that squirmy, he may be able to just move the seat belt over under his body and be really unsafe.

Just my 2 cents. Good luck.

Hi S., I also have a big boy who is 2.5 and I have had the same issue. I had done a lot of internet searching and found a seat on line called Safeguard. It has surpassed safety regulations and is supposed to be a wonderful and easy to use seat. It keeps your child in a 5 point harness up to 60 lbs, and then converts to a booster when the time comes. Most seats only go to 40 lbs.. It is recommended to keep your child in a 5 point as long as possible, especially at a younger age like your child as they may try to get out of a booster. I have purchased the Safeguard seat (can't find in stores) online, and it is so easy to use and fits my son quite comfortably with room to grow. I highly recommend! Take care and good luck! T.

For a booster, we use the Britax Regent. Pricey but extremely safe.

The stores should have the info posted with the floor displays or on the boxes. You can also check out the manufactorers website. There are height, weight, and age requirements. And they are not the same for every car seat. The backless ones are for older kids. We have a Graco one for my 3.5 year old. The one we have has a removeable back for when he gets older.

But make sure you get one that is safe, because that should be your number one factor, not because it's easier. Getting kids in carseats of any kind can be a battle sometimes.

Booster seats are great! AS long as you are firm about keeping the seat belt on properly just check the weight and hight requirements on the box of the booster. They have a really great booster at WalMart for $20 from graco that has two cup holders that my daughter really liked.

You can check on line with the state you live in to get the advice on seat requirements. my suggestion would be to go to walmart and get the car seat that has a high back with no straps. You can then use the car seatbelt becasue they have strap adjustments on the top of the seat

Even though your son is bigger it is still safer to keep him in a 5 point harness. There are many seats on the market that can safely keep a child in a 5 point harness- Britax Regent, Graco Nautilus, Sunshine Kids Radian...

I encourage all parents to watch this video on how important it is to keep your child in a 5 point harness as long as possible.

the seats have different height/weight requirements so go to the store and read the boxes. A three yr old is probably not big enough for one w/o the back

Hi Sephanie, I found this information on About.com:pediatrics.
"Although laws vary from state to state, you are much better off following the guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and keep your child who is over 40 pounds in a belt positioning booster seat until they are eight years old, unless they are already 4'9" tall. This is because 'a child under 80 lbs. is generally too small for an adult seat belt."
The NTSA has information in a chart for as well.
Hope this helps.

In PA, the rule is age 4 and 40 pounds. I would try this: THe next time you want to go somewhere - maybe Saturday? get yourself and your daughter ready, and then CALMY take your son and lead him to Daddy and kiss him good-bye. When he asks where you are going, tell him thetruth, you are going out but that you are not taking any children with you that cannot behave in a car seat. Don't be mean, or rude, just be calm and matter-of-fact. Tell him that the car seat is to help him see out the windows of the car, and that it keeps him safe, but there will be no more rides in the car until he can behave in his car seat.

Sometimes tough love is the only thing that works.


My son is very tall so we looked into this (he's 2.5). I found they have to be in a regular car seat until 4. So, I researched car seats and found that Evenflo has a new car seat out that is good to 50 inches and 50 lb. Britax also has a car seat that is good but I don't know that height and weight restrictions on it (as we went with Evenflo - much cheaper and I'm very happy with it). Hope this helps!

Typically the wt requirement is at least 30 lbs. This info is available online as well. For instance - if you have a graco car seat/booster - log on to graco's website for the details. I cannot recall the ht requirements - so you will need to check.

DEFINITELY go with a booster with a back. It helps position the seat belt correctly for little ones (otherwise it sits too close to their head and neck. Ask your child's doctor for advice too!

Good luck!

I also have a very big boy and go through the same thing each time we have to get in the car. Each car seat is different on the weight/height limitations. You can alsways call the manufacturer if you can't find the info anywhere. That being said, there is a lot of research that is coming out that kids should be in a 5 point harness until they are 65 lbs b/c their little bodies can't absorb the shock of an accident the way a larger person's can. However, that is easier said than done most of the time. I actually just bought the Graco Nautilus because my son was at the weight limit for his convertible seat. I totally sold it to him as his cool new big kid seat (he is VERY stubborn). He LOVES it and tells everyone we meet about his new seat (we got it 3 weeks ago). The cool thing about it is it goes from a 5 point harness to a high back booster to a no back booster. It really will be the last seat you will ever need and the safety ratings are outstanding on it. I hope some of this helps. Good luck!

Most boosters your child has to be 35-40lbs. and 38". I would suggest getting one with a back that can convert to a seat. This way when your child is ready you can just take the back off

check with your local police department or state police, last i knew it was 4 years old

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