Some common questions we get are “can a 4 year old sit in a booster seat?” or “can I put my 5 year old in a booster seat?”
First off, don’t rush to move your child to a booster seat before they are ready. If you can safely keep your child in their forward-facing harness car seat for longer, do so.
Your child ideally should be at least 5 years old, although some boosters start at age 4.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children use a 5-point harness car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight of that car seat.
Once your child has outgrown the weight or height limit of their forward-facing harness car seat, which is generally between 40 and 65 pounds, they can sit in a belt-positioning booster seat.
Every car seat has its own height and weight limits so you need to refer to the manufacturer’s manual for your specific limits.
How to Know When Your Child is Ready For a Booster Seat
So how do you know when your child is ready for a booster seat?
To sit in a booster seat, your child should:
- Have exceeded the height or weight limits on their harnessed car seat
- Ideally be at least age 5, although some boosters start at age 4
- Weigh at least 40 pounds
- Be mature enough to sit properly in the booster without slouching, leaning forward, or playing with the vehicle seat belt for the entire car ride
To test that your child is ready to use a booster seat, have him sit in the booster seat and ensure that he is all the way against the back of the seat, with his knees bending at the edge of the seat cushion. If he is too small for the booster seat, his legs will stick straight out and he may be slouching, both of which can be dangerous.
How do you know if your child has outgrown his forward-facing car seat?
- He has reached to maximum weight or height allowed for his seat with a harness.
- His shoulders are above the top harness slots.
- The tops of his ears have reached the top of the seat.
Booster Seat Tips
When your child is in the booster seat, ensure that the lap belt crosses his hips, not his belly, and touches the top of his thighs. Make sure that the shoulder belt lands on his shoulders, not his neck or upper arm, and crosses the center of his chest. The shoulder belt should never be placed under your child’s arm or behind his back.
Always make sure you use both the shoulder and lap belts with a booster seat. Never use only the lap belt with a booster seat. You can use a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt can correctly fit your child without the use of the booster seat.
Remember, each time you move your child to the next seat, there is a reduction in the level of protection for your child, so don’t rush to move him!
Booster Seat Age NY
You should check your own state’s specific law. For the State of New York as an example, booster seats are for children who are 4-8 years old, weigh 40-80 pounds, and are less than 4 feet, 9 inches in height.
Many states, such as California, do not specify a booster car seat age requirement. As long as your child follows the checklist that we have provided above, you can move him to a booster seat.
Combination Car Seats
If your child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat but is not ready to stay seated properly in a booster seat using the lap and shoulder belt, look into combination car seats, otherwise known as toddler booster car seats.
Combination car seats have a 5-point harness that you can later remove and use as a belt-positioning booster car seat. This will provide your child the best protection as you get to keep him in a harnessed car seat for longer. Most children can continue using the harness until they weigh at least 40 pounds.
One of the best combination car seats is the Cosco High Back Booster Car Seat, a 5-point harnessed car seat that converts to a belt-positioning booster seat. The seat protects harnessed children from 22-40 lbs and belt-positioned children from 40-80 pounds.
Other top harnessed booster car seats include the Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat and Graco Tranzitions 3 in 1 Harness Booster Seat.
Booster Car Seats
There are 2 types of booster seats: booster seat with high back and backless booster seat. They do not come with a harness but are used with both lap and shoulder seat belts in your vehicle.
You can read more about the types of booster car seats here.
If you’re in the market for cheap booster seats, read our top Booster Car Seats Under $100.
If you’re in the market for a narrow booster seat, especially if you have a small vehicle, check out our top narrow booster car seats.