Kids Archive

You Asked: When is the right time to move to a booster?

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A few weeks ago, I wanted to write something but no matter how long I stared at my computer, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting to write about. After an embarrassing amount of time, I took to my social media channels and asked my friends what their top car seat question was. I found a lot of commonalities among the things people offered up because there are definitely some areas of car seating that are more difficult than others, but there was a wide variety of things people want to know more about. And after looking through the responses and sitting on it for a bit, I’m going to use those suggestions (and new ones that come along), to launch a new series of articles.

I decided my first “You Asked” post would be whichever topic came up the most from my friends, and the result ended up being one of the questions I get most often in person from friends and family, so it feels right to start here.

You Asked: When is it time to switch to a booster?

I think boosters are confusing because all the seats you’ve used up to this point have been sort of similar. They all install in a relatively similar pattern, the way you secure your child is consistent, but then you get to boosters and they don’t install the same way and they don’t work the same way and it’s just hard to know if you’re doing it right. As a parent who is starting to booster-train for the first time, I feel this confusion first hand.

So let’s start with a little terminology. A booster, or belt-positioning booster, is a car seat that does NOT use a built-in harness, but instead uses the vehicle seat belt to restrain the child. There are products that refer to themselves as a “Harnessed Booster” or “Harness-to-Booster” and we call those types of seats “combination seats” because they combine a forward-facing seat that has a 5-point harness with a booster seat. Those are 2 completely different modes of use. If you are using a combination seat with the 5-point harness for your preschool-age child, that’s perfectly fine. Technically, it’s not a booster (even if that’s what the product name implies) unless you are using it in booster mode without the harness.

Most booster seats (or combination seats used in booster mode) have either a 30 or 40-pound weight minimum, a height minimum and an age minimum of 3 to 4 years, generally speaking. Unlike a harnessed seat, which restrains the child with a built-in 5-point harness, the booster is used to literally boost the child up so that the adult seat belt fits properly on the strongest parts of their body – the pelvic bones and collar bone. A good belt fit means the shoulder belt lays flat across the middle of the collar bone and the lap belt lays across the thighs and off the belly.

Now, I realize I just said that 3-year-olds can use boosters, but I want to stop here and clarify something. While some boosters do not list a specific age minimum, and others list age 3 or 4 as the minimum, it is my opinion that dedicated booster seats are not appropriate for 3-year-old children. I am currently raising my second 3-year-old and I’ve spent a pretty extensive amount of time around 3-year-olds and let me let you in on a secret: they are not known for excellent decision making. They just aren’t. My first child was probably one of the most compliant and calm 3-year-olds and even he lacked the frontal lobe development to make the kind of choices that a booster requires a child to make. Putting your 3-year-old in a booster might be legal in some states and with certain products, but it’s not a great idea unless you don’t have any other options.

I put my current 3-year-old child in a booster for less than 2 minutes to take a picture of him and I told him to sit still. This is a progression of what took place in those 2 minutes and it perfectly illustrates the issue:

   

Here’s the thing: boosters require maturity in a way that a 5-point harness doesn’t. A 5-point harness holds your child in the safest position without any effort on your child’s part. In a 5-point harness, your child can fall asleep, can reach for something next to them, can do any number of attempted gymnastics and assuming you have installed the seat well and buckled them correctly, they will still be just as safe. A booster, on the other hand, allows the child a lot of freedom of movement. It allows slouching, it allows toppling over when asleep, it allows them to tuck the shoulder belt behind them and it allows them to lean forward to pick toys off the floor, all the things my 3-year-old did in a matter of 2 minutes. But unlike in a harness, all of these scenarios in a booster are seriously dangerous. A booster only works to keep your child safe in a crash when the seatbelt is positioned properly on the child. So, if you can’t trust your child to sit upright for an entire car ride, even when asleep, they shouldn’t be in a booster. Period.

You can safely keep your child in a 5-point harness until they outgrow it by height or by weight, so there’s not a rush, no matter what anyone else is telling you. There’s no evidence (trust me, I’ve looked for it), that keeping a 6 or 7-year-old in a harness (if they still fit) is more dangerous than using a booster. We do know that allowing a young child who lacks impulse control to move to a booster too soon can absolutely be extremely dangerous.

So, you asked when you should you move your child to a booster and the simplest answer is:

In order to ride in a booster, a child must meet the height, weight AND age minimums of their seat AND they must be able to sit upright through an entire car ride with a good belt fit. Provided that your child is still within the height and weight limits of their harnessed seat, keeping a child in a 5-point harness beyond age 4 or 5 is fine and many parents choose to do that. If your child does not have the impulse control to sit safely in a booster seat but they’ve outgrown all the harnessed seat options, there are medical car seats that will allow your child to remain seated safely for longer (see your physician, medical therapists or a CPST near you for more information).

  

Some other information on boosters can be found here:

IIHS Booster Seat Ratings Bonanza: Where does your booster seat rank?

CarseatBlog recommended high back booster seats

CarseatBlog recommended combination seats

Halloween – The Most Dangerous Night of the Year

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The risk of a child pedestrian being killed by a driver is twice as high on Halloween night.

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If you are driving today (especially during the hours of 4-8 pm when most young pedestrian deaths occur) please exercise extreme caution and follow these tips:

1. Drive slowly and don’t pass stopped vehicles. The driver might be dropping off children.
2. Park your cell phone. Tonight is the worst possible night to be a distracted driver!
3. Watch for children darting into the street. Kids can cross the street anywhere and most young pedestrian deaths happen at spots other than intersections.
4. Always yield to young pedestrians. Children might not stop, either because they don’t see your vehicle approaching or don’t know how to safely cross the street.
5. Communicate with other drivers. Always use your turn signals and if you have to pull over to drop off or pick up your kids, turn on your hazard lights.

Have a Happy & Safe Halloween!

We don’t need no education…

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Okay, obviously not true but all I could do at open house this evening was sing Pink Floyd in my head and think of random Kindergarten Cop quotes. And come home to write this.

Dear teachers,

I bow to you. I really do.  As a mom who homeschooled and now is sending a kiddo to navigate the waters of school at his request, I don’t know how you do it. Teaching and corralling my own children is nerve wracking enough. I can’t imagine doing it with 20+ kids who aren’t even your own. Add the pressures of testing, teaching styles, grades, and various other controversial  topics and I imagine your days are just full of stress.

teacher

Let me just tell you something. Something that you may already know, but maybe just need to hear it again.

I don’t really care how my kid scores on all these exams in the long run. I don’t care if he’s top in his class. I don’t care if he won a spelling bee or if he’s a faster or slower reader than other kids. If the way it’s being taught doesn’t work for him, then we will find another way. As long as he’s doing his very best and is happy, then right now that is enough for me.

What I do care about is that he is learning to love and respect others. I feel like I’ve been teaching this at home, but it can only go so far when your world consists of your family and friends. His world is about to get a whole lot bigger, and I need you to help him navigate it. You are there on the front lines with him. I need you to be his role model and his platoon leader.

Obviously there are lots of things going on lately that are hateful and confusing. I feel like especially right now our society has reached a critical point where we need to alter our direction of where we’ve been heading in regards to basic respect and courtesy. Kids may not know the details but I guarantee you they know the underlying feel of it. I’ll be damned if my child ever feels it’s okay to hurt or belittle another person for who they are. So please, help my child feel safe to stand up for what’s right. Help his classmates embrace him for who he is and him to embrace them for who they are, each individually. Help him to trust his “inside feeling” when something isn’t right. If a child is lonely, encourage him to find a way to help. If he is the lonely one, encourage another child to do the same for him.

This all starts at home, and I need you to help me continue it at school.

I don’t care how fast he can do a math worksheet or how neat his handwriting is. I care about whether he’s happy. I care about what things make him happy. I care about whether he loves others as he loves himself and that he loves himself as he loves others. I tell him to always help others because it is the right thing to do. To always have open arms.  I need you to show him in action.

I’m sure this is redundant, and something you already do without question. Maybe I’m just writing this to reassure myself.

Thank you for teaching our kids math, handwriting, and all the other academic necessities that serve us well in life. But mostly thank you for training up our kids to be humans when they are with you. Good humans. Humane, kind, generous, strong humans who will steer humanity in the right direction. I could do it all by myself, but I’m choosing not to. I’m choosing not to because I feel like it takes a village, and our family extends beyond blood to the people around us that we share aspects of our life with.

 

From my hands to yours.

rabbit

An Open Letter to the Executives at Modern Family

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To Whom It May Concern-

I want to start out by saying that I love your show. I really do. I have loved it since it came on the air years ago and we watch it religiously, even though we don’t have cable or an antenna, because we love it so. But I would be lying if I didn’t also say that I am at the end of my rope with a significant oversight that just keeps showing up: child passenger safety.

The first time it happened, I don’t think it even really pinged my radar. Probably because I didn’t have kids and didn’t know anything about car seats (which I suspect is true of whoever oversees things on this show). But now looking back, I realize how big of an error it was.

The first time was when Lily, the daughter of modern family 1Cam and Mitchell, was a baby. It’s possible that she was over the age of 1, both in real life and in the show, but she is very small and it looks a whole lot like she’s forward facing in a rear facing only seat. I’ll admit I could be mistaken and will forgive them this one if I am (even though she would be substantially safer rear facing), since forward facing after age 1 and 20 pounds is legal in Los Angeles, but it’s where my mistrust began.

modern family 2The next time was when Lily was a bit older. This one nearly snuck by me, but if you look closely, Lily, who in no way, shape or form, should be in a booster, is not belted properly in her seat. If I had to guess, I’d say that the seatbelt is over the armrest instead of under it, but either way, the belt fit is not correct. Picky? Maybe. But as most of you know, child passenger safety is one area that we ought to be picky about. The seat belt should be contacting the middle third of her clavicle and low on both hip bones, as those are the strongest boney parts of the body and are most able to withstand the crash forces. Complaining about where the belt is now might seem picky, but it could cause really significant injuries.

And don’t worry, I’m about to get less picky.