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4 minute read
3 Mar 2021
2:02 pm

Getting your child’s car seat just right for their age and height

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We all know that a car seat is required, but with so many to choose from, how do you know which one is the best to use for every stage of your little one’s growing years?

Last year’s Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa survey revealed that as many as 93% of little ones are not sufficiently strapped in to survive a car accident. Children who are not safely restrained are at higher risk of serious injury or death than those who are, even if a crash occurs at a slower speed.

While it’s important to have the most appropriate car seat for a child at each stage of development, correct installation is also crucial when it comes to safety. According to the AA, a correctly installed safety seat has been shown to help reduce the need for hospitalisation by up to 69% following an accident.

So, what do you need to consider when choosing the correct safety seat for your child?

Here are some factors to consider when matching your child’s age, size and weight with the most appropriate seat throughout their development.

  1. For babies

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • Newborn to 13kg
  • 75 – 80cm tall (approximately)
  • The best seat to use: Rear-facing infant car seat

The very first car seat a new parent will need is a rear-facing infant seat. These seats have been proven to be the safest option.

Rear-facing infant seats are also a must for preemies and infants who are very small. Small babies can be comfortably and safely placed in the correct reclined position within these seats. It is recommended that children rear face until at least 15 months of age.

A general rule of thumb is that once the top of your baby or toddler’s head reaches within 2.5cm of the highest point of the car seat, a new seat is required. You can also purchase a new seat when your child reaches the maximum weight that it is designed for.

Why are rear facing seats preferred?

Rear-facing seats are designed (and have been tested) to ‘cradle’ a child should an accident occur. This helps to reduce as much stress and injury to the neck and spinal cord as possible during a crash. It is also important to make sure the car seat has good side impact protection to prevent strain on your child’s neck and skull during the rotation movements of a crash.

  1. For young children

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • Between 9kg – 18kg
  • 80 – 105cm tall (approximately)
  • 15 months to 4 years
  • The best seat to use: A toddler seat (Group 1) adjusted according to your child’s body. A car seat with the option to rear face until 18kg will give you flexibility to rear face for as long as you can.

These seats are bulkier and provide ample leg space for your child as he or she grows. Your little one will likely make use of this seat for at least three to four years (or until the maximum height and weight specifications are reached).

Your child will have outgrown the seat when they reach the maximum weight, age or height specified for the car seat.

  1. For older children

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • Between 15kg – 36kg
  • 95cm – 135cm tall (approximately)
  • The best seat to use: A belt positioning booster seat (high-back)

Booster seats help to elevate a child safely in the back-passenger seats of a vehicle until the built-in seatbelt can be comfortably placed over the strongest portions of the body.

A high-back booster seat is best to use once your little one has outgrown his / her toddler car seat. They can also be used comfortably with lap and shoulder seatbelts built-in to a vehicle.

Booster seats typically need to be used until a child is between the ages of 10 and 12, after which he or she will likely have grown into sufficient height to use a vehicle’s built-in seatbelt. (1.5m or taller)

In general, your child will have outgrown their seat when the applicable age, height and weight specifications allowed for the seat and harness have been reached.

Other indications include:

  • Your child’s shoulders no longer sit comfortably beneath the top harness slots
  • When your child’s head reaches within 2.5cm of the top of the car seat.

When is your child ready to wear a vehicle’s seatbelt?

When a seatbelt can be worn comfortably across the shoulder and middle of the chest without making contact with the neck or throat, additional safety seats are no longer needed.

Your child must be tall enough to sit comfortably upright (without slouching) in the back passenger seat with knees bent over the seat edge. Your child must also be able to comfortably remain seated in this position for the duration of a trip.

Choosing the correct seat 

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This article was published in partnership with Discovery Insure.