Special Seats for Toddlers
Now that your child is a toddler, you have a few car safety seat options open to you. You can purchase a convertible seat, which works rear-facing as well as forward-facing. This means it can also work for your infant, although it may not fit the needs of a newborn. Toddlers should be placed in these seats forward-facing. The convertible seat comes with adjustable buckles, so you can use the type of child safety harness you feel most comfortable with. Read the instructions, and make sure that you are correctly harnessing your child.
You can also chose a nonconvertible forward-facing car safety seat intended for toddlers. This seat fits children between 22-40 lbs. These safety seats can be used with either a lap-only belt or a lap-shoulder belt, making it more compliant with your needs.
Once your child outgrows car safety seats or weighs over 40 lbs, look for a booster car seat. These are designed so that the child will fit comfortably under the lap-shoulder safety belt, which would normally be too high to protect your child.
When is your child ready to use normal seat belts? Once they've reached 4'9" or over 60 lbs. That means around the age of 8 to 12 years. Once your child is using a regular seat belt, you may want to consider a shoulder strap adjuster (see product description below). This allows proper placement of the shoulder straps and ensures a safer car ride.
Install Your Car Seat Properly
Most importantly, you need to make sure you're installing the car seat properly. If you have a car or van manufactured after 2002, your vehicle will be fitted with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH is an attachment system for car safety seats to make them easier to use. With LATCH, you will not need to install the car safety seat with seat belts, making installation more simple and safe. Some car seat manufacturers offer a LATCH retrofit kit (see product description below) that offers a tight and proper fit for both forward and rear facing car seats.
Tethers are essential as they hold the car safety seat firmly against the car seat. A top tether will attach the top of the child safety seat to the car seat, so that your child's head will not be thrown out very far during an accident. Once a child safety seat is tethered, it should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or front to back. Tether equipment can be bought and installed in cars that are not manufactured with a LATCH system.
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