When to Move Your Child to the Next Car Seat Stage

Protecting Your Most Precious Cargo: When to Move Your Child to the Next Car Seat Stage

Allstate Canada partnered with Dorel Juvenile Canada, makers of Safety 1st products, to launch “Protecting Your Most Precious Cargo,” a series of articles and videos focused on taking a proactive approach to car seat safety. In this installment, Dave Pereira – an Allstate Agency Manager, Certified Car Seat Safety Technician, and father of three – explains when you should consider moving your child up to the next stage of a car seat and why there’s no rush to do so.

According to a recent Allstate Canada poll, 42 per cent of all Canadians say they are unsure about the rules around when to move children up from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing car seat, followed by a booster seat. When faced with this question, it’s important for parents to remember that there’s not really one right answer, and that progressing through the different types of car seats is not a race against time.

So, what are the factors that need to be considered before moving a child up to the next level of car seat? According to the same Allstate poll, 37 per cent of all Canadians consider weight to be the most important factor, while 36 per cent believe it’s height. The fact of the matter is that both are important factors, but every child is different, so you need to consider your child’s level of development as it pertains to height and weight when considering a move to the next seat.

While different car seats and regulations may vary, experts agree that children should stay in their rear-facing car seats until they’re at least 18 kg (40 lbs.) or when the child’s head is 1 inch below the top of the car seat; their forward-facing 5-point harness seat until they are at least 29 kg (65 lbs.); and should use booster seats until they are at least 9 years of age and able to sit up straight with their back flat against the vehicle’s seat, and knees easily bent over the seat.

In other words, you don’t need to rush in moving a child up to the next level. Parents should take their time and transition their child to the next car seat when it makes the most sense for their safety. In fact, the longer a child can stay in their rear-facing seat, the safer they’ll be because these seats help to protect the neck and spinal cord of developing children better than any other seat.

According to Mimi Brandspigel, Senior Product Manager of Car Seats at Safety 1st, parents should also consider provincial car seat regulations for guidance. Brandspigel notes, however, that, “provincial legislation provides just a minimum requirement of when to move a child to the next stage of seat. Even though kids are ‘legally’ able to use a booster seat at 18 kilograms or 40 pounds, it’s much safer to keep them harnessed as long as possible. You should use a car seat for as long as your child fits the height and weight limits, in addition to the fit requirement. In fact, if you can keep your child in their rear-facing seat until they are at least two years old you should, because that is the safest position for them to be in.”

Thankfully, car seat manuals provide guidelines based on the seat, and on both weight and height that parents can reference, but it is usually a good idea to wait until your child outgrows their current seat or reaches the seat’s maximum threshold, whichever comes first before you make the move.

When it comes to buying a car seat, another very important — and often overlooked — factor is the car seat’s expiry date. Most safety seats expire within 6 to 10 years of their date of manufacture. The reason for this stems from the primary material that car seats are made of: molded plastics. These plastics tend to break down because of seasonal temperature changes, general wear & tear and the simple passage of time.

If you’re considering a used seat or maybe borrowing one from a friend or family member, always make sure you know the seat’s history. And never buy a seat that has been involved in a collision as the structure could be compromised. When buying a seat with the intention of expanding your family down the road, remember that a seat is only safe if it’s the right size for your child and if it hasn’t expired. As long as your child is comfortable, dressed properly, strapped in well, and you’re meeting both the provincial and manufacturer’s safety requirements, you’re doing all of the right things to help keep your child safe.