What you need to know before you switch to a booster seat!

We all want our children to be safe when traveling in the car.  And rightly so – motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death and injury in young children.   But let’s face it, navigating the world of car seat safety is not easy.  There are many stages of seats, there are several brands of car seats and there are numerous laws.  In addition, there are injury prevention experts who suggest doing more to provide maximum protection for your child.  It can be downright confusing.

You probably have a lot of questions; don’t worry – you’re not alone.  Parents tend to have the most questions when children are transitioning from one stage to another.  Let’s talk about the transition from Stage Two (forward-facing) to Stage Three (booster seat).


The law:

  • Car seat laws are the MINIMUM requirement. Ontario law states children cannot use a booster seat until they weigh at least 18 kg (40 lbs)

The recommendation:

Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario, Parachute Canada, the Infant and Toddler Safety Association and the Halton Partners for Car Seat Safety all recommend:

Use your forward-facing 5-point harness seat until your child reaches the maximum height or weight for this seat.

  • Many forward-facing car seats can be used for children up to 30 kg (65 lbs). 
  • Check your car seat manual and the sticker on the side of your seat for your seat’s maximum weight.

Why keep your child in their forward-facing car seat as long as possible?

  • The 5-point harness system on a forward-facing car seat spreads crash forces over more points on your child’s body. This decreases the potential force on any one part of the body in a crash.
  • The 5-point harness restricts the movement of your child and keeps the harnesses in place, even when your child wiggles around or falls asleep in their car seat.
  • A forward-facing car seat requires the use of a tether strap. The tether strap prevents the top of the car seat from moving forward in the event of a collision or a sudden stop, and therefore reduces injuries to a child’s head and neck.

Myths you may have heard:

  • Myth: Your child is ready for a booster seat when they are 4 years old.
  • Myth: Your child can move to a booster seat when they start school.

Your child is ready to move to a booster seat when they have reached the maximum weight and height for their seat and are ready to stay still and sit upright in a booster seat.  This means no leaning forward, sideways, slouching or wiggling out of the shoulder portion of the seat belt.  If you have a taller or heavier child,  you may want to shop for a forward-facing car seat with higher weight and height limits that can accommodate your child in a 5-point harness system as long as possible.

Final tips:

  • Don’t rush your child out of a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat.
  • Ensure your car seat is installed correctly in the vehicle and your child is harnessed correctly into the seat. Visit our Stage two: Forward-facing installation and harnessing tips section for help with this.
  • Always check your car seat manual and your vehicle owner manual for specific installation instructions.
  • If you are using the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) to install your forward-facing car seat into your vehicle and your child is over 18 kg (40 lbs), please remember that vehicle and car seat manufacturers have guidelines regarding the maximum weight of child that the UAS may be used for. Consult your vehicle and car seat manufacturer instructions for more information on this limit.  If no guidance is available from your vehicle or car seat manufacturer, install your seat using the vehicle seat belt system and tether if they are over 18 kg (40 lbs).

Is your child ready to move to a booster seat?

Do you have car seat questions?  Let’s talk!  We are here to help!

About Karen Hay, RN

Parenting and supporting families to be as healthy as possible is my passion. I love opportunities to connect with Halton families on social media and look forward to chatting with you online. Halton Region is where my family lives and plays.
This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What you need to know before you switch to a booster seat!

  1. lucyjindra says:

    Is there a hard law about putting winter coats on kids and putting them in their car seat? I see everyone getting out with big coats on but meanwhile the same people seem to preach about how this is not safe. Any comments other than ones that will preach? How realistic is it to put on a winter coat once a child is outside in -10c? My rule is that for long highway trips I won’t put on coats because it is more comfortable.

  2. Karen Hay says:

    Hi Lucy,

    Thanks so much for your question. Dressing kids warmly while keeping them safely secured in their car seat can be tricky! There is no hard law about winter coats on kids and putting them in their car seat. However it is a recommendation to not harness your child into their car seat with bulky winter clothing on. The reason is that the padding of bulky winter coats compresses in a crash. This compression will result in the harness straps becoming loose and potentially not holding your child in their seat. We have a blog with some suggestions of how to keep your kids safe and warm while travelling in the car. I hope it helps! https://haltonparentsblog.ca/2013/12/12/why-car-seats-snowsuits-bulky-jackets-and-bunting-bags-dont-mix/ Thanks for reading our blogs!


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