Navigating thru the waters of parenting can be challenging at times. So many opinions, so many rules, and all of us wanting to make sure we get it just right. I always love the posts showing the throwback to “those were the days” when you could jump in the bed of your dad’s pickup truck, picking up your friends along the way. Of course, we’d all agree, probably not the safest way to where you were going, but a ton of fun.
Now days, we are not as brave, a touch smarter, and we make sure our kids are safely tucked into their car seats, boosters , and seat belts. But it can still be tough to know when is the right age to transition from each level of seat. Transportation Canada gives some very straight forward guidelines to help parents know when the time is right.
You are ready to leave the hospital, and take your treasure home for the first time. Rear-facing will be your child’s first ride in a vehicle. You should keep your child in the rear-facing seat until he or she grows out of it. Your user guide will tell you the maximum weight and height of a child for that seat. If your child grows out of the rear-facing seat, there may be another model that will still fit your child. Some rear-facing car seats are made for children up to 20kg (45lbs). It is okay if your child’s legs touch the back of your vehicle seat, as long as your child is still below the manufacture’s weight and height limits. Even if your child weighs 10kg (22 lbs), is able to walk on his or her own and your provincial/territorial law says you can use the forward-facing seat, the rear-facing position is still the safest.
Singing along to ‘If you’re happy and you know it’, over and over, dust and dirt become the norm look of your interior, with footprints all over the backs of your seats. They are now in a forward-facing car seat. This is when your child has developed stronger back and neck muscles. They can be in this harnessed car seat up to 30 kg (65lbs). Forward-facing seats are for older children with stronger back and neck muscles. As long as your child fits within the weight and height ranges of his or her rear-facing seat, it is best to use that seat for as long as possible.
Overnight it seems harnessing has become difficult and they HATE it. You are thinking, ‘It would be so much easier if we just got into a booster’. Don’t hurry to move your child to a booster seat. Your child must weigh at least 18 kg (40 lbs.) and meet the height guidelines in your booster seat user guide. As long as your child still fits within the weight and height ranges for his or her forward-facing seat, it is safest to use that seat as long as possible. Always install the booster seat in the back seat of your car. You want them as far away as possible from the front seat in the event the air bags deploy during a crash. Make sure you have them strapped in correctly. They should have the lap and shoulder belts in place across your child’s hips, chest and shoulders. If you are using a low-backed booster, the vehicle MUST have adjustable head restraints. They will protect your child’s head and neck in a crash.
Finally, are they ready for the big time? It is best to keep your child in a booster seat for as long as possible, for their safety. But if the time has come and you make the decision to take them out of their booster, make sure your child is able to sit up straight, with his or her back against the back of your vehicle’s seat. Their legs should be able to hang over the seat without slouching, as slouching makes the lap belt move up over the stomach when it should be lying over the hips. They should also be a minimum of 36 kg (80 lbs.).
Then the day comes and they are asking to sit in the front. You hesitate. What is the right time for this? According to Transport Canada, kids 12 and under should always be in the back seat. The reason for this is that most cars have front seat air bags, and these can hurt small children if the bags inflate during a crash or sudden stop. The safest place in the car for children is always in the back seat. So keep them back there for as long as you can swing it.
3 great resources for further information about car seat installation at all levels, purchasing the right car seat, and other important tips include: Transport Canada, Child Safety Link, Atlantic Car Seat Safety
Visit O’Regan’s Kia Dartmouth at 402 Windmill Rd, Dartmouth or oreganskiadartmouth.com for all your family’s automotive needs. Amanda Morvan, General Manager, is mother to 2 school age children, and partner to her husband who attends college full time.