Many moons ago, the minimum weight for almost every type of car seat was different than they are today. It’s living proof of “know better, do better.” As more research is done, more and more children walk away from car crashes thanks to children riding in the right seat at the right time, the car seat industry has slowly and steadily increased the minimum requirements for height, weight, and age.
We applaud this change for the most part because it leads to children riding rear facing longer (until their bones are strong enough to support their heads properly in a crash), riding in a harnessed car seat longer (until they’re old enough and mature enough to ride in a booster seat, ideally when they are at least 5 years old), and staying in a booster seat until they pass the Five Step Test. These are all good things.
As these minimum requirements increase on almost every car seat and booster seat, this change is creating a bit of a gap for certain children — most notably, children who may be old enough and mature enough (at least 5 years old!!) to ride in a booster seat but who do not yet weigh 40 pounds.
Canada has had a 40 pound minimum weight for some time, the options we suggest at the end of this article don’t apply to Canada.
With most booster seats sold in the United States now having a 40 pound minimum weight requirement, what do we do with the 35 pound 6 year old?
The Fine Print
Note: this article is about children who are old enough to ride in a booster seat (at least 5 years old) but who weigh less than 40 pounds. It is NOT about children who are younger than 5, regardless of how much they weigh or how tall they are. In our experience, booster seat readiness is as much about maturity as it is about size.
We’ll always advocate that those children ride in a harnessed car seat until they’re at least 5.
The first option is to wait. That child can ride in a harnessed car seat until it is outgrown, hopefully by that point they would weigh 40 pounds and could ride in a booster seat.
The second option is to find one of the very small number of high back booster seats with a 30 pound weight minimum left on the market. If your child is at least 5 years old and mature enough to sit properly, here are the remaining options:
- Harmony Dreamtime (starting at 34 inches tall and 30 pounds)
- Harmony Defender in booster mode (minimum weight for booster mode: 30 pounds)
- KidsEmbrace high back booster seat (starting at 38 inches tall and 30 pounds)
- Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest (starting at an average height of 35 inches tall and 30 pounds)
Unfortunately, that’s the full list of high back options for this small group of big kids. There is one backless booster seat in this category, the Harmony Youth Booster, but we don’t tend to suggest that new booster riders use backless boosters so we’re not including it in the list.
We’ll keep this list updated as things change.