A booster works by lifting a child up a few inches to allow the seatbelt to fit properly on their body. It’s an important phase in the car seat journey, because a seatbelt can only work optimally when positioned correctly, otherwise your child is at an increased risk of injury or death in a crash. Buckling up is one thing, but doing it right is essential! 

There are two types of booster seats. A high-back booster seat has a raised back and often arm rests. This is to give your child a little extra body and head support to maintain a safe posture. A high-back booster works by raising your kiddo up, so the seatbelt fits just right. It also provides protection at the head and neck if your child doesn’t have a vehicle headrest that is tall enough to give them support to the top of their ears.

A backless booster, or no-back booster is just a bottom piece, and the child leans against the vehicle’s seat back and head rest. It’s just as effective, but is for children mature enough to keep themselves in a safe, upright position. It’s important that children use a seating position that has head support to at least the top of their ears to prevent injury. If the seating position does not provide this level of head support, then you must move the child to another seating position or use a high-back booster instead.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends some type of booster seat for children age 4 until about 13. But we recommend waiting a bit longer than 4, preferably 5 or even 6. This is because using in a booster also requires the maturity to stay in place at all times and many 4 year old children are not capable of that. But today, we’re sharing when it’s safe to move your child out of a booster seat! 

When Can Kids Stop Using a Booster Seat?

There’s an easy 5-step test you can have your child do right now to determine if they’re ready to be a car seat grad! It actually has little to do with weight and height limits, and becomes more about your child’s proportions and maturity. This is because ensuring the seatbelt fits properly is the more important part of moving your child onto the vehicle seat. We can say that children under 57″ are unlikely to pass this seat belt test, and many kids under 60″ may not as well. Here’s the test they can take:

The 5-Step Test 

Step 1: Their back and bum are flush against the vehicle seat. 

First, have your child sit with their bum flush against the back of the seat. Do this wherever you intend the kiddo to sit once the booster is removed! Make sure they’re sitting all the way to the back with their back flat against the vehicle seat. 

Step 2: Their knees bend at the edge of the vehicle seat. 

Next, determine if their knees are able to bend over the seat of the vehicle while keeping their bum flush against the back of the seat. If it can, you’re on the right track! However, if they can’t bend their knees without sliding forward, it’s not time to move on from that booster. 

Step 3: The lap belt lays flat and taut across the top of their thighs. 

In step 3, confirm that the child’s lap belt is lying flat across the top of their thighs and it’s nice and tight. The seat belt should not be on the stomach!

Step 4: The shoulder belt fits flat on the body, positioned between the neck and shoulder. 

Once you confirm the lap belt fit, check that the shoulder belt crosses their body at the collarbone. If it’s too high, and closer to their neck or face, or if it is hovering in front of their body, your kiddo isn’t quite ready to leave the booster.

Step 5: They’re old enough and mature enough to maintain a proper seating position for the whole ride. 

Every child matures at a different age. If your kiddo is often slumping over or leaning on things while riding, and you must remind them to maintain his upright position, they’re not ready to go without a booster. A booster will be much safer for a child that struggles to stay sitting up on long car rides. 

If you want more help with the 5-step test, check out this video

9 Seat Belt Safety Tips

1. Require seatbelts even when parked. 

You often see “always wear your seatbelt in a moving vehicle,” but we should really enforce seatbelts being on ALL the time when you’re in the car with your family. 95% of crashes involve moving vehicles hitting stationary objects, and that stationary object could be your vehicle! Plus, 20% of crashes happen in parking lots, so, keep everyone buckled up until you’re ready to leave the vehicle! 

2. Position your seatbelt low and tight across the hips. 

A seatbelts fits low and tight across the hips, not the stomach! This is especially true if you’re pregnant. Ensure that the lap belt is below the stomach, sitting on the top of the thighs or hips!

3. Always wear the shoulder strap. 

The shoulder belts are not optional. Ensure all your riders are using their shoulder belts to further reduce the risk of injury or death in a collision. There is a reason vehicle manufacturers stopped making lap-only seat belts! They increased the risk of injuries!

4. Replace seatbelts if they’re damaged, frayed, or nonfunctional. 

The inner workings of a seatbelt are more intuitive than you think! However, a lot of factors can contribute to the wear and tear of a standard seatbelt. If you see or your child sees damaged or frayed seatbelts, they could be compromised. Don’t take any risks. Head to the vehicle manufacturer asap!

5. Don’t add extensions or adjusters unless the manufacturer approves their use. 

Do not add any extensions or adjusters to the seatbelt unless the vehicle manual specifies you can! This includes the trend pregnancy lap belt adjuster. These items have not been crash-tested, meaning it can be dangerous to utilize them especially in a collision. 

6. Never let your kids double-buckle. 

There is a seat for each rider. If you don’t have enough seats, have the child ride separately or take multiple trips. Never let kids double-buckle! Even if it feels a little nostalgic, it’s simply not worth the risk! 

7. Ensure you and your children are always sitting upright. 

As we mentioned, ensure you’re keeping an eye on your older kiddos to ensure they’re sitting upright properly. Confirm that you’re sitting properly too! 

8. Avoid bulky clothing with room for compression. 

Certain articles of clothing can compress in a crash, putting too much distance between you (or your child) and the seatbelt. This adds to the potential for injury. Wear thin layers when it’s cold! 

Graduate your child from a booster seat when they pass the 5-step test! 

Is your child ready to be a car seat grad? If so, follow these safety tips to keep them safe in their seat even out of the car seat! If your child’s not ready to move out of the booster, and you’re realizing you need a different seat, here are our favorite boosters!

On the Safe in the Seat website we have tons of resources like car seat consults, car seat buying kits, car seat courses, and free car seat resources on the blog!  

As an Amazon Associate, Safe in the Seat earns from qualifying purchases.

Skip to content