Has your child outgrown their toddler car seat? At this point, your little one is likely heavier and taller than when you first strapped them in. If this is the case for you, then it's time for them to graduate from a five-point harness to an adult seatbelt. A car's seat, however, is not safe just yet. Mums and dads should invest in a booster to accommodate their growing child.
Does my child need a booster car seat?
Child car seats are incontestable, even until the age of 12. The only difference is that older kids are secured into a booster seat, using the vehicle's seatbelt, while an infant or toddler car seat has its own internal harness. This might seem like a loophole to forego a booster, but experts caution otherwise.
For detailed dos and don'ts, we spoke with Sophie Huang, a certified car seat safety advisor and the founder of Safety On Board Middle East, a consultancy based in Abu Dhabi that raises awareness about the best car seat practices.
"Seatbelts are designed to fit adults, and do not fit children safely without a belt-positioning booster. Children under the height of 1.5 metres can sustain severe or fatal injuries in an accident if they are just strapped in without a booster," explained Huang.
A booster seat essentially gives children a height boost, so that the adult seatbelt rests across their bones properly, especially their hip bones, sternum and collarbones. According to Huang, the lap belt should never run across a child's soft belly, and the shoulder belt must not cut into the neck, both of which, a booster ensures.
What age is best for a booster car seat?
Child passenger safety experts actually urge parents to delay this last transition in the car seat sequence. It's only when the child is five years of age and weighs at least 15kg or is 100cm tall, that they should consider the switch.
"Most children younger than the age of five are not cognitively or physically mature enough to be safe in a booster seat," said Huang. There's the risk of an ill-fitting booster, where a child under five may "submarine under the belt" during an impact. Younger kids also tend to slouch when napping. Huang added: "Before the age of four, their bones are not developed enough to withstand a forward-facing impact well."
Which booster seat is the safest?
A booster car seat can be backless, but, between high-backed and cushion-only variations, parents might not notice a difference. Our expert declares a high-back booster a clear winner in terms of safety.
With a back, the booster is more helpful than a backless one, in positioning the seatbelt across all the necessary points of the body. The specially designed headrest also cocoons the child's head from side impacts in an accident.
Another line of query may be about choosing a booster with an installation system. Huang says that ISOFIX (International Standard Organisation Fix) anchorage points are not necessary, since the car seatbelt restrains the child and the booster from moving. However, it's important to keep an empty booster seat buckled in, lest it harms other passengers in a crash. If your car does employ the ISOFIX system, then a booster with this installation can be useful.
Other worthwhile safety features include adjustable headrests and seatbelt guides, car seats that have passed the latest safety regulation ECE R129 and other independent crash tests, and a protective recline for napping kids.
We've curated a list of all the best-rated booster car seats for children of school-going age, starting with Huang's safest pick. Consider getting an Amazon Prime membership to get free, fast delivery.
1. Best Overall: BeSafe iZi Flex Fix i-Size
- Crash-tested booster seat
- Features comply with latest child car seat regulations
- ISOFIX arms to lock the seat in place
- V-shaped headrest with additional side impact protection
- Backrest reclines
Safety On Board Middle East highly recommends the Norwegian manufacturer BeSafe. The iZi Flex high-back booster seat ticks all the boxes for concerned parents. Huang even notes that the booster was awarded 'Good' across all testing categories by the German institute ADAC in 2018. The iZi Flex seat is suitable for children from 100 to 150cm, and is so space-saving that three could be installed in a row. Its safety features also comply with the latest international car seat regulations (UN R129-02). There's a recline position for children who like to nap during car rides, as well as a height-adjustable headrest that's V-shaped for added sleeping support. Plus, if your car seats have an ISOFIX system, this booster comes with lockable ISOFIX arms for peace of mind, so you can use it in combination with the three-point vehicle belt.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh149.92 for 12 months with select banks.
2. Best Convertible: Chicco MyFit ClearTex Harness + Booster Car Seat
- Suitable for children aged two to 12
- Adjustable headrest and backrest
- LATCH anchorage connectors
- Chemical-free upholstery
- Strong steel frame
- Reviewers say that it can be heavy to move from car to car
Chicco's MyFit is excellent value for money, since it's a toddler car seat and a booster in one. This is for mums and dads who are in the market for a solid convertible or are looking to replace an old car seat. It easily converts from a five-point harness to a belt-positioning booster for children aged two to 12. What makes this transition comfortable are the nine-position headrest and four-level recline for growing kids. The seat is upholstered in a fabric with no added chemicals, which means the air around your child will be far healthier. Underneath the ClearTex fabric, there are two layers of protection with a rigid steel shell and an energy-absorbing foam around the torso and head. Much like the BeSafe booster, this seat has LATCH (ISOFIX) connectors, and shoulder and lap belt guides. Children will also appreciate the two cup holders for all their snacking needs. Parents in the reviews note how comfortable their kids are in MyFit, leaving five stars on all else, adding that it's even toddler-approved. They're most satisfied with the booster's sturdiness and safety features, but it is a heavy seat (11.3kg) - this is something to keep in mind if you're going to be switching cars often.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh123.75 for 12 months with select banks.
3. Best for Sleeping: Britax Romer Kidfix 2 S
- Backrest removes for a backless booster
- SecureGuard adds a fourth contact point for the seatbelt
- SICT extenders absorb shock before it reaches the child
- Adjustable headrest and backrest
- ISOFIX anchorage points
- Can take up space in the car
This car seat saves you from shopping for a separate backless booster later down the road. The German-manufactured Britax Kidfix S 2 has a removable backrest once the child reaches a safe height of 135cm. It's padded in all the right places, from the side wings to the V-shaped headrest to prevent side impact. More side protection comes from the Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT), which absorbs shock via extenders before it reaches the child. A fourth contact point called SecureGuard helps position the lap belt across the hip bones, instead of over the abdomen, ensuring that there's no chance of slipping. Compared to the Chicco seat, this booster only weighs 7.2kg. Many reviewers say that the headrest manages to hold a sleeping child's head well, keeping their kids in the correct posture.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh88.75 for 12 months with select banks.
4. Best Budget: Kinderkraft Car Seat Safety Fix
- Budget-friendly booster with ISOFIX and Top Tether
- Accommodates toddlers and kids up to 12
- Has seatbelt guide
- Adjustable headrest
- Lightweight at 7kg
- No recline
Mums and dads on a budget can check out Kinderkraft's Safety Fix booster, which accommodates toddlers and growing kids. It's a convertible booster with a 10-point adjustable headrest, a five-point harness and adult seatbelt guides. Children up to 12 years old or 36kg can use the Safety Fix seat comfortably. At this price point, you're also getting ISOFIX attachments and Top Tether for extra security - reviewers love this as Kinderkraft models without the anchorage would rock, they note. Its lightweight construction is also a bonus point for parents. The only qualm is that there's no option to recline the seat.
5. Best Backless Booster: Graco TurboBooster LX Backless Booster
- Crash-tested booster
- Front-adjust LATCH anchor so kids can self-buckle
- Hideaway storage and cup holder
- Machine-washable cushion
- Expensive for a backless seat
Once your child outgrows a high-back booster by weight and height, it's time to go backless. Kids up to 45kg and 144cm can ride on the Graco TurboBooster LX. Despite the compact form, the backless booster has survived multiple crash tests in the US, winning the Graco ProtectPlus Engineered label for protecting children in frontal, rear and rollover crashes. Mums and dads say their kids love the hideaway storage compartment and the cup holder for giving them easy access. They also prefer the front-adjust LATCH system to secure the booster in place, encouraging kids to self-buckle in and out of the seat. The cushion is machine washable, which is another bonus.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh45.20 for 12 months with select banks.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.