Car Seat Safety 101

Tot Squad Team

Ensure your child is in the right seat at every age and stage with this simple guide.

Rear-Facing Car Seats

Rear-facing seats include both infant seats (consisting of 2 parts; base + bucket seat with handle) and a convertible car seat. Children should be in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2, but ideally until they outgrow the height and weight limit of their specific car seat, as rear-facing is safest for toddlers’ developing spines

  • Position the harness straps at or below your child’s shoulders
  • Position the chest clip at the child’s armpit level
  • Ensure the seat is installed at the correct angle. Refer to seat manual.
  • Using an infant seat? Make sure the handle is locked in the travel position. Be sure to check your owner's manual to determine the correct travel position.
  • Worried about your child’s legs? DON’T BE! Your child can cross their legs, prop them up or leave them hanging on the side and they will be safe.

Front-Facing Car Seats

Child should be at least 2 years old or have outgrown their rear-facing seat before shifting to a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness. Consult your car seat manual for height and weight limits. Most children will outgrow their seat in height before they reach the weight limit. If your child’s head is less than one inch below the top of the car seat shell when seated or if the harness straps (at their highest position) no longer fall just below their shoulders, it’s time to change seats.

  • Position the harness straps at or above your child’s shoulders
  • Position the chest clip at the child’s armpit level
  • Ensure your child’s ears are below the top of the shell
  • The top tether should be attached to the designated anchor point. See your vehicle owner's manual for the location.

Booster Seat

Child should be at least 5 years old, have outgrown their 5-point harness and be mature enough to sit properly before moving to a belt-positioning booster seat.

  • Shoulder belt should fit evenly and smoothly across your child’s torso. Make sure it is NOT cutting into your child’s neck, slipping off their shoulder or too loose in front of the chest.
  • Shoulder belt should be positioned at or above the child’s shoulders
  • Lap belt should be positioned low on their hips, and touching the tops of their thighs
  • If using a backless booster, your child’s head should be supported with the vehicle headrest - at least to the tips of their ears
  • When child is not in the vehicle, make sure to secure the booster seat with a seat belt or lower anchors. If you have lower anchors it can be used at all times to secure the seat, not just when the child is not in it.
  • Child should be mature enough to stay seated without leaning out of the seat belt or unbuckling it for the entire ride.

Seat Belt Alone

Child should be at least 8 years old, and pass the 5 step test below to use only the seat belt.

  • Child is able to sit all the way back in the vehicle seat
  • Their knees bend comfortably at the edge and their feet are flat on the floor
  • Shoulder belt fits comfortably across their torso, and crosses the collarbone. It should NOT cut into your child’s neck or face
  • Lap belt fits low on the hips and at the top of the thighs
  • Child can stay seated like this, comfortable for the whole ride