Child Safety Seat/ Toddler Car Seat Tips

Whether you like to call it a child safety seat, toddler car seat, or just plain car seat, the purpose of it is the same: to protect your child if he/she is ever in a car accident. For a child safety seat to do it’s job properly, you have to choose one that will fit your child and your vehicle and make sure you buckle your child up properly every time your child goes for a ride. Remember too, that the safest place for your child is in the back seat.

Forward-facing or rear-facing?:

Many parents are not aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated it’s policy on when a child is ready for a forward-facing car seat. The minimum age to turn toddlers forward-facing used to be 1 years old and 20 lbs. The updated minimum is 2 years old or until the child has grown out of the  rear-facing car seat (for toddlers, not the infant one).

It’s exciting for parents to move their little one forward facing but there are solid reasons to keep your child rear-facing longer. Studies have consistently shown that children are less likely to die or be severely injured if they are rear-facing. Rear-facing car seats support a toddler’s head, neck, and spine better because the force of the crash is distributed more evenly across the entire body.

It’s okay if young toddlers feet touch the back seat or their legs bend a little in their rear-facing car seat. Keep them rear-facing until 2 years old or until they outgrow their rear-facing seats. Infant seats are only rear-facing and often won’t accommodate a toddler, but convertible seats and 3-in-1 seats allow your toddler to sit rear-facing for the recommended time.

Now That Your Child is Facing Forward, Which is Best: A 5-Point Harness or a Booster Seat?

The next step after a rear-facing toddler car seat is usually a forward-facing one with a 5 point harness. You want to keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as your child is within the height and weight limits of that type of child safety seat.

Many children will not outgrow their forward-facing car seat with a harness in their toddler years. Don’t rush to put your child in a booster before s/he is ready.

How Do I Install The Child Safety Seat Correctly?

Properly installing a child safety seat is an important, though often frustrating, job. You’ll have to read the instructions that came with it and also read read your vehicle’s owner manual for information on it’s belt system and how to get the seat belt to lock to make sure you are properly installing it.

In many areas of the country, you can find a car seat check event. At this type of event, your car seat will be checked to see if it’s properly installed and if your child is properly buckled up. Another benefit to attending one of these is that if you have any questions, you’ll get personalized answers.

Here is a great website with step-by-step instructions on how to install rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. This website includes how to use the LATCH system as well as how to install car seats using your vehicles seat belts.

How do I know if my toddler is properly buckled into the child safety seat?

Always read the child safety seat manual to make sure your child is properly buckled up in the seat.

Here are some good general rules to follow for 5 point harness seats:

  • Make sure all of the straps lie flat, meaning no tangles.
  • Buckle the chest clip at armpit level
  • Make sure the shoulder straps are in the right slot position for your child’s size. You want them at or below the shoulders for rear-facing and at or above the shoulders for forward-facing seats.
  • Make sure the harness is snug. It should lay flat without much slack, but should also not be so tight it’s digging into your child.
  • The hip straps should also be snug.

Keeping toddlers safe in a vehicle involves making sure they are in the right child safety seat, making sure it’s facing the right direction for their age and size, installing it properly in your vehicle, and buckling your child up properly every time he/she goes for a ride. It may seem like a lot of work, but parents know it’s worth it!

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