How to Know if It’s Time to Move Your Child to a Booster Seat

A young boy seating in his booster seat.

You may have seen stories in the news lately about the use of booster seats for children who weigh less than 40 pounds. Many caregivers struggle with the decision of when to move a child from a car seat to a booster seat and often place their children in booster seats before the child has outgrown the car seat.

But the reality is a car seat with a properly used and tightened 5-point harness is the absolute best protection for a child in a vehicle. That means the safest way for a child to ride is to use their car seat with a harness until it has been fully outgrown by height or weight. In many cases, a child can stay in a car seat with a harness until they weigh 65 pounds. The key is to follow the label on your car seat. 

So, parents, take your time. Advance your child from rear-facing, to forward-facing, to a booster seat, then to a seat belt only when your child is too heavy or tall to meet the requirements of your current car seat. These four different but very important steps can take more than 10 years to complete but it’s worth the wait for every child. And remember, forward-facing car seats all go to a minimum of 40 pounds so don’t consider moving your child to a booster seat until they are at least 40 pounds or more. An extra tall child who is skinny and weighs less than 40 pounds may need a different car seat with a taller back and a harness—there are many to choose from. 

Car seats are the product of careful engineering and research. We understand that knowing all the ins and outs of cars seats can be difficult. That’s why Safe Kids created the Ultimate Car Seat Guide to provide expert guidance to parents on the important decisions they face when choosing and using a car seat, including when to move from one seat to the next or when the seat belt fits. And the guide is available in both English and Spanish. Please check it out and share it with friends and family.

Safe Kids, with the support of the General Motors, also hosts thousands of child seat inspections across the country as part of its Buckle Up program. Parents can find an inspection station in their area or more information on how to keep kids safe in and around cars by visiting