Car Seat Grads: How Soon is Too Soon?

Car Seat Grads: How Soon is Too Soon?

It’s that time of year again, when Father’s Day and school graduations and (lots & lots of) traffic all seem to join together to give us the big middle finger. Don’t get me wrong—I get as teary-eyed as the next parent looking at the start of school year versus end of school year chalkboard pictures.  I can’t help but think how big my kids are getting and that I wish time would slow down. It’s only natural that with all this growing and graduating that I should also move my kiddo to the next stage of car seat safety. Right?

Whoaaaaaaaaa, mama. Hold the brakes. 

Unless your child is physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the next car seat stage, they are not ready for graduation.

This is one of the biggest misuses I see in the world of car seat safety; moving our kids to the next stage too soon.  From rear-facing to an adult seat belt, here’s the biggest rule to keep in mind pre-stage-graduation: 

Children are meant to stay in each car seat stage for as long as possible. It starts with rear-facing (have they outgrown the limits of their convertible seat?), but it doesn’t stop there. When your littles are in a forward-facing seat harnessed seat, they’re meant to stay in that for as long as possible, too. Think your harnessed kids are ready for a booster seat? Can you sit properly for 100% of the ride with a shoulder belt (‘cause I still struggle with this!)?  Are booster riders ready for an adult seat belt? Have they passed the five-step test? (Link to the YouTube video here.) Is your big kid asking to sit in the front seat (spoiler alert: it’s over 12 years of age!)?

Are you ready for the hard truth?

The higher the stage, the more dangerous. Let that sink in.  

Get your kid a new backpack.  Let them have their first sleepover.  Give them a little extra screen time.  Celebrate summer and the end of another school year with a trip to a water park.  Don’t celebrate it with a trip to Target to buy a seat they are not yet ready to be in.  

When to Transition

Bottom line: There are lots of milestones to celebrate.  Car seat stage graduation is not one of them.  You spend a lot of money of car seats—use them until your child reaches that seat’s stated age, height and/or weight limit. Where your child sits matters.

Sorry kids, mama is taking the wheel on this one.  

Why does my 9 year-old still ride in a booster seat?

Because that is what is safest! Your big kid may be ready to ditch their booster car seat but, not so fast! Car seat safety doesn’t stop when your child hits big kid status. What is safest isn’t always what is convenient or even what your state’s booster seat requirement is. In this video, I take you through the 5-Step Test to determine if your kiddo can safely and correctly ride in the vehicle seat without riding in a booster seat. The road to car seat safety is a long one. Let’s make sure you aren’t speeding ahead too quickly.

Featured Booster Car Seat

Check out my video Ages & Stages to be sure your big kid’s journey is a safe one. From high back booster seat to car safety belt, you’ve got this!

Why Your Kid will be in a Car Seat for 10+ Years

How do you know it’s time to graduate your child?

Take the guesswork out of graduating from one seat to the next with our Car Seat Safety Progression eBook. It includes a car seat safety road map, a cheat sheet for your glovebox, and more! From baby to big kid, you’ll feel confident and safe at every stage. Child safety seats are confusing. We’re here to help!

Head over to our Shopify page for our in-depth car seat safety courses & resources for parents of infants to big kids, including buying kits (what car seat should I buy?), an airplane travel course (everything you need to know — from arriving at the airport to getting your rental car), and in-depth courses (think car seat installation and use) for both the infant stage and the toddler stage.

And make sure you are following along on Instagram and YouTube for free content too!

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