Car Seat Tips Moving to a Booster

What IS Booster Training?

Most parents are pretty good about getting their kids in the car seat that’s right for them without rushing them to the next step before they’re ready. These days, it’s easy to research and figure out exactly how your child should be riding for their age, weight, and height. Generally, you know when it’s time to transition.

But what seems to stump parents is the how of it all. How do you transition a five, six, seven year old, who has been harnessed, literally, their entire life, and teach them how to ride with a new sort of restraint? A seatbelt feels different, behaves differently, and is, in many ways, a huge change. It can be uncomfortable for a parent AND a child to make the switch. Booster training is a great answer.

My younger daughter is going through it right now. She’s on the cusp of needing to move – right around the 40 lb and 40 inches mark – at five and a half years old. She still fits in her harnessed seat, but we’ve started “training” her for the next step. When people ask – and they do – how she rides, this is what I answer with, and a majority of the time people have no idea what it is.

Booster training is, simply, teaching your child how to behave in a belt positioning booster. They will have more freedom than they’ve ever had from a harnessed seat, and although a seatbelt is just as safe (assuming it fits them properly), you have to sit correctly. That means they need to ride without tucking the shoulder belt under their arm, leaning forward or to the side, slumping as they sit, and stretching out/playing with the belt itself. For a preschooler, this is a lot of self-control they may not yet be ready for.

So rather than make a sudden switch, you start small. When my younger daughter was alone in the car, I suggested she might want to try her sister’s high back booster on the five-minute ride to the store. When she could handle that trip without constant reminders, we moved on to a fifteen-minute ride to dance class. Then a thirty minute trip in someone else’s car.

Important to know:
• She is the appropriate size for a belt positioning booster – old, heavy, and tall enough.
• She’s been instructed in how to sit in the car.

Most of her car time is still harnessed, but slowly and surely, we’re teaching her how to get to the next step. A few weeks ago, we carpooled to a tourist attraction about ninety minutes away. Instead of moving her heavy harnessed seat, we brought a booster. Even with the fun of the having friends in the car, the excitement of the destination, and the exhaustion on the way home, she sat properly, without reminders, for the entire trip. When your child can do that, you know that when you make the switch permanent, it’s an easy switch.