Big Kids & Car Seats: To Booster or Not To Booster


Last month, right before my son’s 8th birthday, I scheduled a visit for a car seat check with Safe Kids, led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. I have always considered myself fairly well educated on car seat safety, and I’ve repeatedly heard that around the age of 8 kids can transition out of a booster and into a regular seatbelt. Since my son had just had his yearly check-up that put him in the 95th percentile for height, I figured this would be a quick visit with the car seat technician, for them to basically tell me that I’m an awesome mom, and I can go ahead and ditch the booster. Boy was I wrong.


It turns out that age has very little to do with whether or not your child needs a booster. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids remain in a booster until they are 57 inches (4’ 9”) tall, typically this occurs when kids are between 10-12 years old. In fact, my exceptionally tall 8-year-old still misses the cut off by several inches.

Hmm… well ok then. We headed home from our seat check, with everyone buckled in correctly, and I decided to stage some “incorrect” booster seat pictures in our garage just to see what was so wrong with letting a not quiet 57-inch child sit in a regular belt.


As soon as I took away his booster my son was quick to point out how annoying the seat belt was rubbing up against his neck. I asked him to move it somewhere to make it more comfortable, and that’s when he put it behind him and then tucked it under his arm. All three of these situations could result in serious injuries if we were in even a minor accident.

I did a little more research and found that kids using boosters are 59% less likely to be injured in a crash than kids using a seatbelt alone. In fact, car accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death for children. Wow. If the meeting from the car seat technician didn’t convince me, these facts sure did the trick.

In addition to the 57-inch recommendation, there are also a set of guidelines to help you decide if your child is ready to get out of their booster.

  • Does he sit all the way back against the car’s seat?
  • Do his knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
  • Does the lap belt naturally rest below his belly, touching the top of his thighs?
  • Is the shoulder belt centered across his shoulder and chest?
  • Can he stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered no to any of these questions, or if your child is under the recommended 57 inches, then your child still needs a booster seat. Regarding backless vs. high back boosters, people often ask what the difference is.  Here is one thing to remember — the child’s head should be supported by either the vehicle seat back or the booster seat. Whether the child is sitting in a booster seat or a car seat the most important piece of information the technician passed on was — always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


My car seat check with Safe Kids provided me with some invaluable information about basic car seat safety. If you have any questions about how to install your car seat, or how to buckle your child safely into the car, I highly recommend that you give them a call and set up an appointment. For those in the Jacksonville area, you can call them at (904) 202-4302 and set up a one-on-one visit at their weekly inspection station or community car seat checks. If you live outside of the Jacksonville area, you can locate a car seat inspection station throughout the United States by clicking here and entering your state and zipcode. For online information about car seat safety including buying guides and how-to videos, I recommend The Car Seat Lady.

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week. I challenge all moms out there to make an appointment, get your seats checked and learn more about buckling your kids in safely.

Shannon Beckham
Shannon is a former Special Education Teacher turned SAHM to two great kids, Cole and Kiley. Originally from Miami, Shannon met her husband while they were both attending the University of Florida (Go Gators). They decided to put down roots in Jacksonville Beach, and are very much enjoying the laid back salt life.


  1. I still fail step 4 at age 33. Should I be in a booster? Can those be used in the driver’s seat, or must I surrender my driver’s license due to lack of stature? I’m all for keeping our kids safe. We just turned my 3 year old around to face forward 4 months shy of his 4th birthday. But there are a handful of carseat rules that are nonsensical or lacking limits to me. The one about coats, I have also been unable to find answers on. I get it for infants and toddlers, but no one can tell me when coats become safe, but it seems like I’d have heard if it were unsafe for anyone to wear a coat.

  2. Do not use those booster car seats. Very dangerous. They are not hooked or latched in and when there is an accident, it slides out from underneath the child making it a flying projectile. I was told this by a highway Trooper who has seen many accidents and deaths.

  3. Look at the picture at the top. You can see the arms of the booster keep it secure in a crash. It will not slide out from under the child.

  4. There is a very interesting TED talk about the pros and cons about not using a car seat after the age of 2. I suggest that everyone listen and do your own research.


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