School-Aged Children

What age did you switch from 5pt to booster?

Many years ago I read the Kyle David Miller story and pledged to keep my son in a 5 pt harness as long as possible. I know a lot of parents move to a booster at age 4, but my son will be 6 in a few months. We haven't switched yet. Are there any other moms who are holding off? I will probably go to a booster when he is 7. The Foundation for this boy, suggests age 7-8 as long as they fit. What age did you choose to switch and why? Thanks.

Re: What age did you switch from 5pt to booster?

  • We switched Annalise at 5 years (44 lbs and 46"). I read the Kyle Miller story too. The seatbelt failed, right? I don't remember the details though. Was he big enough for the seatbelt to actually work? I thought he was under 4 yo.

    There's actually a lot of controversy now as to if a seatbelt or a harness is safer for a child who is old enough (and big enough) to use the seatbelt correctly. Most experts say a minimum of 4 years and 40 lbs for a booster with a seatbelt. A high back booster is safer than a backless booster also.

    I think it makes sense that the forces on the neck would be greater with a harness since the child's body is not allowed to move at all. A seatbelt allows the upper body to move a little more so it keeps the spine in alignment.

    Annalise Marie 05.29.06
    Charlotte Ella 07.16.10
    Emmeline Grace 03.27.13
  • I think the seatbelt worked for the initial impact, but then failed during the van rollover. He was then ejected, but his sister's belt worked. They promote the LATCH and tether as a second defense. I think with the booster, not just the belt, they say kids often remove the belt off of their arm for comfort. I know once you are past the height or weight limits, the booster becomes safer, but until then, the 5 point is supposed to be the safest if you use the latch. I know the state law is much more relaxed, I just want to keep them in their 5 points as long as reccommended. Didn't know when most other parents switched. 
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  • image Emerson2007:
    I think the seatbelt worked for the initial impact, but then failed during the van rollover. He was then ejected, but his sister's belt worked. They promote the LATCH and tether as a second defense. I think with the booster, not just the belt, they say kids often remove the belt off of their arm for comfort. I know once you are past the height or weight limits, the booster becomes safer, but until then, the 5 point is supposed to be the safest if you use the latch. I know the state law is much more relaxed, I just want to keep them in their 5 points as long as reccommended. Didn't know when most other parents switched. 

    This is the part I don't necessarily agree with anymore. Once the child is old enough to sit behind the seatbelt correctly, meaning not move the belt out of the way, lean forward, etc. etc., the seatbelt is just as safe as a 5pt harness. The 40 lb minimum is the minimum weight needed for the seatbelt to engage correctly. I looked up the story again, and the little boy was only 3 yo, way too young for a booster.

    The other problem is that many people don't install a carseat correctly or use the harness correctly. I see many many people with a harness so loose that the child would fly right out of the seat in an accident. In that case, those children would probably be much safer in a high back booster where the seatbelt would lock to hold the child in.

    Annalise Marie 05.29.06
    Charlotte Ella 07.16.10
    Emmeline Grace 03.27.13
  • Ds1 was 4 and some odd months when I moved him to a booster. He was getting uncomfortable with the strap between his legs and the shoulder straps. He would always scream and want them looser so we felt it was safer for him in a booster. He's tall and skinny. He weighed 40 pounds or 41 but is very tall for his age. I don't see a 6 or 7 year old being comfortable in a 5 point harness unless they are very small for their age
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  • And most cars have fairly low latch weight so you are then really talking about a 5-pt harness installed with the seat belt versus a booster seat.  I have always wondered about the safety of using both the LATCH plus the seat belt to install but since I have never read this as a recommendation I do not know if it is safe.

    I moved DS shortly before turning 5 when his 5-pt expired.  As of today I plan on having DD use a 5-pt until she outgrows it for shoulder height which I would guess will be not that long after turning 5 but I could be wrong.  Now I am wondering about the spine thing and questioning myself.

    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • DD2 was just moved out of her harness in her Frontier because she outgrew the harness by height, not because she was ready to be boostered (she's so not ready) and she'll be 7 this month, 95%ile for height (size 8 shirt). DD3 is still harnessed in her Frontier, she's also very tall (size6-7 shirt). She would be miles better at the booster than her older sister, but she still can't do it 100% of the time (maybe 75%, that's not good enough).

    As to comfort, neither are uncomfortable and believe me, if princess (dd2) had a pea in her seat, I'd hear about it. DD1 has sat in dd2's Frontier (she's 5' tall, she didn't have to sit in it, she fits the seat and seatbelt fine, she wanted to be close to the tv) for a 6 hour road trip and said it was more comfortable than the regular seat in the car.

    I'm all for leaving kids in seats as long as they fit for height and weight and it's developmentally appropriate.  Why rush? Also, as the parent, regardless if my kids want to be out of a seat that they should be in for safety, I'd be putting my foot down as the parent and saying no, or fixing why the seat didn't work for them. I would personally not be comfortable putting a 4 year old of any size in a booster without a harness. In order not to fit, the 4 year old would have to be the size of an 8 year old not to fit the tallest seat on the market.

    I'd also hazard a guess that the pp with the ds that complained about the crotch buckle was in a Graco Nautilus.



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  • 8, he got too big!
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  • My oldest is very small for her age, I switched her at age 7 to a high back booster.  My 5yo is still in a 5pt harness.  She is bigger for her age, so will probably transfer her sooner, but not yet.
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  • Thanks for the replies. My DS #1 and #2 don't have a problem with the 5 pt. One is almost 6 and 46lbs, and the other will be 4 and is only 35lbs, so he has a couple more years. We bought 2 of the Diono's (formerly Sunshine Radian Kids) and the height and weight is pretty high. Goes up to around 80 lbs. I do need to check the LATCH weight limit in my car for the older child. I will probably switch him around 7 years. However, his seat converts to a high back booster as well. Dh thinks I am being over-cautious, but I just want whatever is safest- whether it is booster or 5 pt.  It really seems like car requirements, hight, and weight play the main factors and all kids are different. 

     

    * as far as Kyle -who was 3 in a booster, his parents moved him because he was over 40lbs and thought he had to make that move up. 

  • My DD6.5 is still in a harness. She likes it, she struggles to reach the seatbelt buckle on our captain's seats, but can handle buckling/unbuckling the harness easily. I told her that I'd convert her seat to a booster whenever she's ready. She's not small at all (about 4'2" and 52lbs) but fits fine in her Nautilus. No complaints from her....no complaints from me!
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  • I don't remember the exact age, but I do remember that I didn't rush to switch them right on their 4th birthdays.  The law in my state is 5 point harness until 4 and 40 pounds; booster until 6 and 60 pounds. They were probably somewhere between 4 and 5.  Also, when my DD was that age, they didn't make 5 point carseats that would accommodate bigger kids.  There came a point when the 5 point seat was painful for them even on its biggest setting.

    You have to remember that Kyle David Miller was only 3.  Although some states don't have laws that require kids that age to be in a 5 point booster, it's been acknowledged for a long time that age 3 is really too small, even if the child is over 40 pounds. 

    There also becomes a social cost when kids start having friends over.  "You still sit in a CARSEAT???  Like a BABY???"  You don't want that factor to override safety, but it does become an issue as kids are in kindergarten and beyond.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • DS turned 7 the middle of January and is still in a 5pt.  He's in a Britax Frontier 85 which harnesses to 85# so he'll be there for awhile as he's not not even 40lbs yet, lol.  We do have a RideSafer vest (for 30+ pounds) that we've used on vacations in shuttle vans etc. so he's absolutely mature enough to handle a booster, just don't feel a need to move him.  But I couldn't yet anyway as the Frontier doesn't allow switching to booster mode until 40#
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  • While the Kyle David Miller story is incredibly sad, there are a few reasons that we should not be basing harnessing/boostering decisions solely on that. I've seen this discussed frequently with the techs on car-seat.org and tend to agree with them.

    The first thing is that true seatbelt failure, which is what they're claiming happened to Kyle, is exceedingly rare. The NTSB hears about a max of one case of true seatbelt failure per year, frequently they go years without it. Because of that most techs speculate that Kyle unbuckled himself, not that the seatbelt failed. That's because a 3 year old lacks the maturity to understand why they need to stay buckled.

    Also, at over 40 lbs his seat would have been installed with a seatbelt, not LATCH, regardless of whether he was in a harness or booster. So if it were a true case of seatbelt failure the outcome might not have changed because his seat would have been uninstalled anyway. Only some cars and some seats allow the use of LATCH over 40 lbs (I know in my 2004 Honda I have to use a seatbelt install for any child over 40 lbs even though we have LATCH). This story has prompted many parents to think LATCH is safer than a seatbelt (which it is not) and to misuse LATCH by using it over the car/carseat weight limits for it, meaning their child is less safe. This story also has parents thinking it's so important to harness as long as possible that many are ignoring height limits (you can't use a seat once the shoulders are above the top harness slots or the tops of the ears are above the top of the shell, these are critical limits) and putting their children in far more danger than boostering would.

    I personally am not a fan of extended harnessing. I am a huge proponent of rear facing as long as possible, but don't love the physics of how a forward harness restrains a child. It knocks the spine out of alignment (an adult seatbelt is designed to keep the spine in alignment because that's really important) and puts all the forces of an accident on the neck and head. Racecar drivers can only use harnesses because they have a han device installed to prevent this exact action after a famous driver passed from this issue. Plus there is no evidence at all that a harness is safer than a properly used booster (properly used being the operative term; this means the child must have the maturity to sit correctly 100% of the time). And in Sweden they never use a forward harness; they RF to between 4 and 6 then go straight to a high back booster and have the best record of any country in the world as far as children's outcomes following accidents.

    My oldest moved right at 4 because she hit the top slots on her radian and neither a nautilus nor a frontier (the only seats that could have kept her harnessed at that point) fit in our beetle, so we had no choice. She has never given us reason to doubt this decision, but she's seriously more mature than I am. I laid out the rules (no slouching, reaching for toys, unbuckling, leaning out of position, putting the belt behind your back or anything else that would put the seatbelt in the wrong place) before her first ride and she understood and listened; she's a natural rule follower.Her sister just hit the top slots on her radian this week (at 3y 8m) and we're trying to figure out how to fit a frontier into our budget in the next month or so before she grows again because she lacks the maturity to use a booster properly (she's 99.99% fine, but 2-3x a year has a major meltdown and needs to be wrestled into her seat, so that alone is reason for me not to booster her; she needs to be 12 months meltdown free before I'll consider it). It's really about maturity and size combined and you need to know your child well before moving them. 

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  • 6 for DH's car (occasional trips only), 6.5 for my car.
    Mom to J (10), L (4), and baby #3 arriving in July of 2015
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  • Between 5 to 5.5 we will convert from highback harness to highback seatbelt (theirs is a combination highback seat). They are right at the cusp of the seat weight and height requirements (not quite there yet). Their current seat will hold them until they are tall enough to go without one.

    There is absolutely no way I will put them in a backless booster.

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  • alakealake member
    250 Answers Fifth Anniversary 1000 Comments 100 Love Its
    My fifty pound 47 inch 7 year old is harnessed 90% of the time.  She uses a booster when we fly or when she goes with friends.  I will booster her when she asks to go full time.  I am fine if she wanted to full time, but she hasn't requested it yet.  My five and a half year old just went forward facing in February, so it is easier on me.  We have three rear facing and two forward facing.  I have a six month old and guardianship of a two year old and a newborn.  Leah would still be rear facing for not getting the other two.  It is easier to forward face her.
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  • image alake:
    My five and a half year old just went forward facing in February, so it is easier on me.

     I'm sorry, but if my kids had been RF until age 5 1/2, they would have had to sit "pretzel legs" in the car all the time, or sit with their knees drawn up to their earlobes like a frog.  You must either have a tiny child or a ginormous carseat.

    I understand that RF is safer, but it's technically safer for everyone. I think there's got to be a time when RF becomes either unsafe or impractical.  Heck, it's safer for everyone not to ride in a car at all!

    Where do you draw the line?

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • image neverblushed:

    image alake:
    My five and a half year old just went forward facing in February, so it is easier on me.

     I'm sorry, but if my kids had been RF until age 5 1/2, they would have had to sit "pretzel legs" in the car all the time, or sit with their knees drawn up to their earlobes like a frog.  You must either have a tiny child or a ginormous carseat.

    I understand that RF is safer, but it's technically safer for everyone. I think there's got to be a time when RF becomes either unsafe or impractical.  Heck, it's safer for everyone not to ride in a car at all!

    Where do you draw the line?

    I have tall kids, so I didn't have the option to rear face as long when DD1 was young. She outgrew the rear facing height limits of her seat at 2.5 years, 39-40", and 32 lbs.

    DD2 has a newer, bigger carseat, so she should make it to 40 lbs. If she follows her growth curves, she should be around 3.5-4 years and 41-42". Right now she already has a 15" torso at 2y8m, which limits things.

    I would love to be able to rear face and then go straight to a booster. The recommendation of experts has always been to rear face to the limits of the seat. I think it's great that people are starting to follow that recommendation.

     

    Annalise Marie 05.29.06
    Charlotte Ella 07.16.10
    Emmeline Grace 03.27.13
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  • DS just turned five and is in a Frontier. I expect he'll stay in it until after kindergarten he'll be 6.5 and then we'll reevaluate.
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  • alakealake member
    250 Answers Fifth Anniversary 1000 Comments 100 Love Its
    She was in an RXT.  She is pretty small.  I had her forward facing for quite sometime, but she requested to rear face, and I knew that I would eventually need another rear facing seat.  I was pregnant at the time.  I decided to purchase the seat for her.  I needed the rear facing seat and turned her forward facing.  I have three rear facing.  A two year old, a six month old and a one month old.  My DH and I were given a guardian order for the two year old and the one month old.  I now have the two year old in the RXT.  It is my choice to decide how long to rear face a child.  I didn't import seats. or go spend crazy on a seat that I wouldn't eventually use for another child.
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  • image penguingrrl:

    While the Kyle David Miller story is incredibly sad, there are a few reasons that we should not be basing harnessing/boostering decisions solely on that. I've seen this discussed frequently with the techs on car-seat.org and tend to agree with them.

    The first thing is that true seatbelt failure, which is what they're claiming happened to Kyle, is exceedingly rare. The NTSB hears about a max of one case of true seatbelt failure per year, frequently they go years without it. Because of that most techs speculate that Kyle unbuckled himself, not that the seatbelt failed. That's because a 3 year old lacks the maturity to understand why they need to stay buckled.

    Also, at over 40 lbs his seat would have been installed with a seatbelt, not LATCH, regardless of whether he was in a harness or booster. So if it were a true case of seatbelt failure the outcome might not have changed because his seat would have been uninstalled anyway. Only some cars and some seats allow the use of LATCH over 40 lbs (I know in my 2004 Honda I have to use a seatbelt install for any child over 40 lbs even though we have LATCH). This story has prompted many parents to think LATCH is safer than a seatbelt (which it is not) and to misuse LATCH by using it over the car/carseat weight limits for it, meaning their child is less safe. This story also has parents thinking it's so important to harness as long as possible that many are ignoring height limits (you can't use a seat once the shoulders are above the top harness slots or the tops of the ears are above the top of the shell, these are critical limits) and putting their children in far more danger than boostering would.

    I personally am not a fan of extended harnessing. I am a huge proponent of rear facing as long as possible, but don't love the physics of how a forward harness restrains a child. It knocks the spine out of alignment (an adult seatbelt is designed to keep the spine in alignment because that's really important) and puts all the forces of an accident on the neck and head. Racecar drivers can only use harnesses because they have a han device installed to prevent this exact action after a famous driver passed from this issue. Plus there is no evidence at all that a harness is safer than a properly used booster (properly used being the operative term; this means the child must have the maturity to sit correctly 100% of the time). And in Sweden they never use a forward harness; they RF to between 4 and 6 then go straight to a high back booster and have the best record of any country in the world as far as children's outcomes following accidents.

    My oldest moved right at 4 because she hit the top slots on her radian and neither a nautilus nor a frontier (the only seats that could have kept her harnessed at that point) fit in our beetle, so we had no choice. She has never given us reason to doubt this decision, but she's seriously more mature than I am. I laid out the rules (no slouching, reaching for toys, unbuckling, leaning out of position, putting the belt behind your back or anything else that would put the seatbelt in the wrong place) before her first ride and she understood and listened; she's a natural rule follower.Her sister just hit the top slots on her radian this week (at 3y 8m) and we're trying to figure out how to fit a frontier into our budget in the next month or so before she grows again because she lacks the maturity to use a booster properly (she's 99.99% fine, but 2-3x a year has a major meltdown and needs to be wrestled into her seat, so that alone is reason for me not to booster her; she needs to be 12 months meltdown free before I'll consider it). It's really about maturity and size combined and you need to know your child well before moving them. 

     

    While I think much of what you say sounds logical, some I disagree. I still think that a 5 pt harness is safer than a booster if the weight and height limits are not maxed. Also, while Kyle could have unbuckled himself, the official report (per the parents) said that his booster and seatbelt worked for the initial crash (i think they were t-boned, the belt became unbuckled during the van roll-over. So they were saying that seat belts do not function as well during a rollover, but I don't know the stats. However, like you said, the LATCH only goes up to a certain weight limit (mine is 45lbs) so you have to rely on the belt.  

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