Ideally a child spends as much time in each stage as their car seat allows, making sure not to rush to the next stage once its minimums are met. It is important to know that to safely and legally use a car seat all the stated minimums must be met and that the seat can no longer be used once any of the stated maximum limits have been reached. Looking to buy a new car seat? Check out this post –> Buying a Car Seat – What you need to know!
Curious about your province’s child restraint law? Here is a list of Provincial Child Restraint Laws
For the best protection of a child’s developing spine, they should stay in a rear facing convertible seat until the height or weight limit has been reached or the child is no longer within the seat’s fit restriction (many seats require a certain amount of space above the child’s head. Refer to your seat’s manual). Plenty of seats on the market today are capable of keeping most children rear facing until the age of 4 or longer. Aim to rear face until your child is at least 2 years old.
Once your child’s rear facing convertible is outgrown and you child is at least age 2, they can move into a forward facing seat using the 5-pt harness. Children should stay harnessed until they meet the seat’s height or weight limit, the harness is no longer above the shoulders, or their ears are no longer contained within the seat. They will need to be mature enough to be in charge of their own safety and can sit properly in a booster 100% of the time.
Belt-Positioning Booster Seat
Once your child has outgrown their forward facing 5-pt harness and is mature enough to sit properly 100% of the time, they can move into a belt-positioning booster seat. Children are usually mature enough for a booster closer to age 6 and should stay in one until they pass the 5-step test (see below). The seat belt should be positioned with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the tops of the thighs and the shoulder belt across the center of the chest, making contact with the shoulder.
Adult Seat Belt
Once your child can pass the 5-step test (below), usually between the ages of 10 & 12, they can sit using the adult seat belt alone.
- Back against the vehicle seat
- Knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat with feet touching the floor
- Shoulder belt centered at the collarbone
- Lap belt low, touching the thighs
- Remain seated in position the entire ride