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Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

When to Switch to a Backless Booster Seat

by Regan

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when to use backless booster seat

If your child is in a convertible car seat or a harnessed booster seat, you may be wondering when to use a backless booster seat. A car seat is the most important child safety choice you will make for your child. 

Most children transition from their convertible car seat to a booster seat at about four or five years old, or whenever they have outgrown their convertible car seat. When they’re ready to move on to a booster seat, it is recommended to choose a high back harnessed seat. Honestly, everyone would be safer in a five-point harness so the best choice for your child is to keep them harnessed for as long as possible. At some point, though, your child will probably want to make the switch to a backless booster. But how do you know when the time is right?

Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

I have been a longtime Britax fan since my oldest (now 16) was a baby. When it was time to choose a high back booster seat for Dub, the choice for me was obvious. I chose the Britax Frontier booster seat and I love it! I love it so much that we have one in each car. It has a high weight limit, a good torso height, and is super easy to install correctly. It gives me the piece of mind that he is as secure as he can possibly be.

Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

In the Britax Frontier high back booster, Dub can stay harnessed up to 90 pounds and it can be used with a seatbelt up to 120 pounds. But let’s be honest, an older child isn’t going to want to remain in a “car seat” for that long. 

Eventually, your child will probably ask to move on to a more age-appropriate booster. This happened with my oldest when he was six or seven, but he was still under 4’9″ tall and needed to remain in a booster seat. This is where the backless booster comes in. But when is a child old enough to make the switch?

Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

With a backless booster, your child has the feeling of sitting in the seat like a big kid, but they sit higher in the seat so the seatbelt falls properly across their shoulder instead of their neck.

We absolutely LOVE our Clek Olli backless booster because it is simple to install and uninstall, it has LATCH so it will stay in place and not become a projectile in an accident, and it is the most comfortable backless booster we’ve found. Also, it has a cup holder!

Even if your child is old enough and fits within the height and weight range of a backless booster, that doesn’t mean that they are ready to sit in one

When is your child ready for a backless booster seat?

  1. The seatbelt is across their collarbone, not their neck. 
  2. The lap belt is across the thighs, not the stomach. 
  3. They can sit straight with their back against the seat back.
  4. Their knees remain bent against the vehicle seat.
  5. They can sit still in their seat for the entire ride, 100% of the time.

Car seat safety: When to switch from a harnessed booster seat to a backless booster seat

Look what happens if your child can’t sit still. The seat belt slides off the collarbone and shoulder so if you are in an accident while your child is in a leaning position, it could result in serious injury.

If your child is still wiggly in his or her seat, they should remain in a harnessed booster. Once they have reached a level of maturity where they sit and act appropriately at all times in their seat, then you may move them to a backless booster seat. This sometimes happens around age five, but six or seven is even more likely. 

For instance, Dub will be six in November. When he is alone in the back seat he is well-behaved and I feel completely comfortable. The second his brother sits in the back with him, he leans over to talk to him or pick at him. So, for now, his backless booster seat is only used while we’re traveling. I imagine that it will be another year before he moves out of his Britax Frontier to his backless booster full-time. 

Click here to find out more about when to move your children up to the next car seat or to a booster seat.

 

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