Car Seat Guide From Birth to 5-Step Test Share this article Print article Is the child’s harness snug as a hug? The harness in a child’s car seat helps keep the child safe by spreading the forces of a crash over the strongest parts of their body. As such, a harness that’s set at the right height and tightened properly to a child’s comfort maximizes their safety. Here’s a quick checklist : ✓ Straps at or just below shoulders when rear-facing and at or just above shoulders when forward-facing. ✓ Unable to pinch a horizontal fold at the child’s collarbone. ✓ Chest clip at armpit level. ✓ Visible slack removed. ✓ Snug on hips. Rear-Facing American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping a child rear-facing until at least age 2. Rear-facing protects the most fragile parts of a young child’s body – their head, neck, and spine. Positioning the car seat to face the back of the vehicle gives your child the best possible protection in a crash. Options include a rear-facing only seat, convertible, or 3-in-1. Forward-Facing Once a child outgrows a car seat in the rear-facing position, it is now time for them to ride in a forward-facing car seat using a 5-point harness. The harness helps keep the child safe by spreading the forces of a crash over the strongest parts of their body. Booster Seat Once a child reaches the maximum weight or height limit of their forward-facing car seat, decide if they are ready to move on to a belt positioning booster. This can be determined by their age, height, weight, and most importantly their developmental level. Are they mature enough to sit in a booster seat safely (i.e. leaving the seat belt in its proper position, not slouching or leaning, not trying to escape, etc)? Boosters raise the child up in the vehicle seat to allow the seat belt to pass correctly across their upper torso and their lower hips. Consider a full back belt positioning booster to better place the seat belt over the shoulders. Vehicle Seat Keep a child in a booster seat until they pass the 5-Step Test: Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat? Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat? Does the shoulder belt cross the child between the neck and shoulder? Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs? Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, your child needs to remain in a booster seat for the best crash protection. Your child will be more comfortable, too!