Yay for Booster Seats
Booster seats are fabulous. Not only are they so cheap (between $15 and $50) that you can have an extra for Dad's car, plus another spare for carpooling and play dates, but they're also so light and portable that swapping them from car to car is a breeze. Add in the fact that boosters don't come with complicated installation instructions or require a fireman with a protractor and level to put in correctly, and that your child can actually get into the car and buckle herself into the booster with no help from you, and you can see why it's a day of celebration when your child is ready to move into one.
While booster seat laws vary by state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that a booster seat "is typically recommended for children who are 4 to 8 years old or who weigh at least 40 pounds and are up to 4 feet, 9 inches tall." Although most children fall under these guidelines, larger kids who hit the 40-pound threshold before age 4 may move into a booster seat at an earlier age, but if a child weighs 40 pounds and can still comfortably fit into his five-point-restraint car seat, keep him there until the straps don't fit anymore.
And just because a child turns 4 doesn't automatically mean a switch to a booster: Children must reach the state's mandated weight level to say goodbye to their car seats. A petite 6-year-old who doesn't weigh enough must remain in her car seat until she's physically big enough to move up. If you're not sure of the law in your state, call your local police department or highway patrol office for the facts. Remember that children in a booster must use a shoulder belt—never just a lap belt—and all children should ride in the back seat until age 13.
True Life Tale: Not only are boosters seats cheap and easy to install, they're a cinch to clean too. Unlike complicated car seats with straps, latches, harnesses, and various hard-to-clean doohickeys, boosters usually just have a simple seat cover that you can toss in the washing machine whenever it starts looking grungy.