Determining what type of booster seat to use may seem daunting, but properly boosting and buckling up will ensure your child is as safe as possible in the event of an accident.

Just when you’ve finally perfected the art of installing a car seat, your child has sprouted up and seems ready for a big kid booster seat.

But don’t be too hasty to let your child graduate to a booster. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children who are too large for rear-facing seats should remain in a forward facing car seat until upwards of 4 years old and 40 pounds or the maximum height and weight limits of the seat. (Some car seats with harnesses have higher height and weight limits.)

If your child is ready for a booster seat, follow the manufacturer’s height and weight guidelines, including shoulder height limits, to determine whether the seat is a proper fit.

Then make sure your child continues to use the booster seat with lap and shoulder belts until at least age 8 and when he reaches 4 feet, 9 inches. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a child is properly seated in a booster when:

  • the lap belt lies low and snug across the child’s upper thighs;

  • the shoulder belt crosses the middle of the chest and shoulder; and

  • the shoulder belt is not tucked under the arm or behind the back.

Using a booster seat in the middle rear seat of a car with only a lap belt is not recommended. Many automobile manufacturers can retrofit cars with middle lap and shoulder belts, or some travel vests that fit bigger children can be used with only a lap belt.

The AAP also recommends that children sit in the back seat until they are 13 years old.

More than half of states require all passengers to be belted in moving automobiles. Adults can set a positive example by always wearing a seat belt in every position of the car. For more information, see the AAP car seat guide at

©2010 American Academy of Pediatrics. This information may be freely copied and distributed with proper attribution.