Car seat safety is one of the most important things parents must consider. This guide will show you when it’s the right time to move to a booster seat.
Thank you Diono for providing our family with booster seats to review in return for our honest opinion. Every opinion stated here is 100% mine.
Everything You Need to Know to Move Your Child to a Booster Seat
The bright yellow fields of mustard flowers stretched as far as the eye could see. My mom drove her tiny Danish car, the one I called the “tuna can”. In the backseat, my eyes caught a glimpse of two tired boys with ice cream stains on their shirts. They were sitting snug like bugs in a rug in their Diono booster seats. The smiles on their faces confirmed that they were living their best life as we drove through the Danish countryside.
I recently brought our two youngest boys (5 and 7) with me to Denmark to visit my mom. Before I left on our trip, I researched if it would be appropriate for me to move our youngest son into a tall-back booster seat.
It certainly would be easier to swing a bag with two light-weight booster seats over my shoulders instead of schlepping a five-point harness car seat across the Atlantic. While the convenience would be nice, safety was my highest priority. I had to ensure that we complied with child car seat laws in both Denmark and in the state of Washington (where we live).
Child Passenger Restraint Laws:
The child passenger restraint laws in the state of Washington are changing as of January 1, 2020. The new laws aim to keep children between the ages of 5 to 12 safer by requiring children less than 4’9” tall to remain secured in a booster seat.
The new child passenger restraint laws are, as you can see below, much stricter than in most other states in the US.
- Children under age 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children ages 2-4 must be properly secured in a car seat with a harness (rear or forward-facing).
- Children 4 and older and less than 4’9” tall must be secured in a booster seat with a seat belt (or continue in harness seat).
- Children over height 4’9” must be secured by a properly fitted seat belt (typically starting at 8-12 years old).
- The child restraint system must comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation standards and be used according to vehicle and child restraint manufacturer.
- Children under age 13 required to ride in the back seat when practical to do so.
Expert car seat and booster seat advice:
While researching the car seat laws in the state of Washington, I had the opportunity to speak with Allana Pinkerton from Diono. As a Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor, she was thrilled to see the stricter laws and she hoped other states will follow suit in the future.
Over the past several years, the push to keep babies and toddlers rear-facing as long as possible has dramatically reduced the number of traffic-related deaths in children younger than 5 years old. However, there is still a lot of public awareness and education needed to keep children between 5 – 12 years old equally safe.
When should a child move from a 5-point harness to a tall-back booster seat?
Allana shared guidelines that may keep your child in a 5-point harness longer than legally required by the state in which you live. As with all safety issues, being conservative and “erring on the side of caution” will only benefit your child.
Children should stay in a 5-point harness until they:
- exceed the weight limit of their specific car seat.
- are 5-6 years old, from a maturity standpoint.
- weigh at least 40 lbs.
- can sit upright for long periods of time without slumping over or wiggling.
- won’t unbuckle themselves while the vehicle is in motion or turned on.
Once your child meets the above criteria put a tall-back booster in your car as a trial.
Transitioning your child into a tall-back booster seat:
- Start by using the booster seat during short in-town drives.
- Make sure the child doesn’t slump over into an unsafe position during naps.
- Once the child has proved their maturity level, start extending the driving distance/ time.
- Be prepared to go back to a 5-point harness if the child cannot sit still while in the booster seat.
Important safety reminder about booster seats:
- Children in booster seats should not be expected to buckle themselves. (I realize that one of the perceived benefits of using a booster seat is that you no longer have to buckle your child in. However, you will have to wait a bit longer to reap the rewards of this perk!)
- An adult should still buckle the child into the booster seat to ensure proper belt positioning.
- You may not even want to show your child how to UNBUCKLE until you make sure they are mature enough NOT to unbuckle while the car is moving.
One important reminder Allana wanted to share with parents:
How does a properly buckled child in a booster seat look?
- The seat belt should be routed through the belt path without any twists or tangles in the belt.
- Any slack should be moved from the lap belt.
- The lap belt needs to lie low and snug across the child’s upper thighs.
- The shoulder belt should cross the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder and stay off the neck.
- The child should not slide the seat belt off the shoulder or around the back. Be sure to feed the seat belt through the shoulder strap loop, if you are using a tall-back booster seat.
And now to the burning question:
WHICH booster seat is right for your child?
(Answer: Diono… and here’s why!)
Our family has used Diono car seats and booster seats for well over 8 years.
I have always found Diono seats to be:
- Sturdy and well-built. During our 13 years as parents, we have owned our fair share of car seats and Diono seats have always given us a sense of security that none of the others did.
- Perfect size for our kids. Our kids find Diono seats to be comfortable for long drives. The seats adjust in a way that the child doesn’t have a lot of empty space between them and the sidewalls, adding an extra layer of protection.
- Easy to clean and maintain. We all know that ACCIDENTS happen, whether it’s a potty accident or food and drink spillage, the seat covers are easily removed. Reassembling the car seat is equally as easy.
- SIMPLE and QUICK installation without concern of whether the seat is securely installed. We have traveled across the country and overseas with our Diono seats. Proper installation takes all of two minutes and can be done in the loading zone at the airport – it’s THAT QUICK!
- Lightweight! I recently traveled to Denmark from Seattle with our two youngest kids. I brought with me a Diono booster seat and a Diono tall-back booster seat. I single-handedly carried both seats AND luggage for three people across an airport, installed both seats without losing my kids or my sanity – and without breaking a sweat – and I am NO super-woman or power-lifter!
- Weighs only 8.9 lbs. This is the seat I brought with me to Denmark. The lightweight makes it a great booster seat to move between cars or for traveling.
- Easy click rigid latch which folds up under the seat when not in use. This latch system allows for fool-proof installation.
- 7 headrest positions.
- Washable cover.
- The tall back is attached to the bottom seat with a strap. This booster seat isn’t meant to be used without the tall back. However, being able to remove the tall back from the seat allows you to collapse the seat for easier storage when traveling.
- Weighs 13.9 lbs.
- Aluminum alloy reinforced sides.
- Converts to a backless booster.
- Multiple reclining positions, a wonderful seat, great for long car rides.
- Expandable side wings which make it extra spacious. It is 2” wider than the Everett NXT.
- Cup holders with snack compartments on both sides.
- 11 headrest positions.
- Washable cover.
As our kids get older and slowly outgrow the need for a child restraint seat, I will always look back on our experience with Diono and be thankful for the confidence I have always had in their products.
Whether you are in the market for an infant car seat, a car seat for a busy toddler or one for a more compliant preschooler, remember to check out the convenient and incredibly well-engineered car seats by Diono. We are continually impressed with their constantly improving safety features along with the sleek designs.
Which Diono booster seat feature is your favorite?