We’re inching closer to the limits on our rear-facing car seats (125cm and 25kg) so I’ve had to consider an imminent transition to the scary world of forward-facing for my almost 5-year-old. I assumed we would rear face until he started school but after a recent growth spurt, it looks like he will be moving to a booster seat sooner than I thought!
So how do you know your child is ready for a high back booster?
1. They have reached either the weight and/or height limit on their rear facing seat
2. Minimum 4 years old
3. They have reached the minimum requirements for the high back booster (usually 15kg or 100cm)
4. They understand the importance of sitting upright and not undoing or loosening the seat belt
5. They can sit properly for an entire car journey without leaning forward, slouching or turning around
6. They fit the high back booster seat correctly
7. 3 point seatbelts are essential – you can’t use just a lap belt with a high back booster
So what are “booster” seats?
Booster seats raise your child up and correctly position the seat belt of the car to ensure they are well protected in the event of a collision. The seat belt needs to be sitting on the child’s lap, not on the softer belly area and a high back booster has a belt guide to ensure the belt rests between their shoulder and neck and provides head support via an adjustable headrest. Legally your child needs to use a car seat until they are 150cm or 12 years old but to be as safe as possible they should use a booster seat until the seat belt fits their body properly – i.e. lap belt across their lap and shoulder belt safely between the neck and shoulder, and when their knees can bend over the edge of the seat – that is when their knees are at the edge of the seat whilst their back is firmly against the back of the car seat. These criteria are also known as the 5 point test.
Choosing a high back booster?
There are a huge range of HBBs available, and prices range start below €100 rising to €400. However, you’ll find the seats at the higher end of the scale often offer additional safety features, some of which are essential for younger children. Similar to when purchasing any child seat you should always choose a reputable brand and purchase it from a retailer you can trust. It’s also important to keep in mind that this is probably the seat your child will use for the longest time – to the age of 12 approximately – so any money spent is a long term investment.
The right high back booster is the one that fits your child, your car and your circumstances – i.e. narrow seats are available for 3-across combinations – and your retailer or the RSA Check it Fits service should be able to advise.
Some cars come with booster seats built in but these are only suitable if your child fits them correctly, usually older children, and you’ll still need to use a high back booster until they do.
These are some of the features to keep an eye out for
1. Adjustable headrest – this is essential, especially for younger children. It’s very important to choose a seat that fits your child correctly and can grow with them.
2. Lap belt guide (4 th attachment point) – this ensures the seatbelt remains in the correct place and can prevent younger children from slipping out under the seatbelt in a collision – this is another essential feature for a younger child.
3. ISOFIX – this is very optional when it comes to booster seats as it’s only used to hold the seat in place when it’s unoccupied. The seat and child are held in place by the seat belt when driving, not ISOFIX. However, if your booster seat isn’t connected to ISOFIX it should still be strapped in when unoccupied as being thrown around the car will damage it and, more seriously, it could cause injury to another passenger in the car.
4. Side Impact Protection – if the seat will be positioned next to a door this would definitely be on my wish list.
5. Does the seat recline?
6. Comfort – if you will be spending time in the car you want a high back booster with plenty of padding.
7. Washable cover – because accidents will happen!
30th November, 2021