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How to choose and fit booster seats and booster cushions

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Joie to see how you decide which is the right seat, and even more importantly, how you should fit it.

The final stage before your child can use the car’s own seat belts is using a booster seat or booster cushion. The choice can be utterly bewildering, so we’ve teamed up with the experts at Joie to see how you decide which is the right seat, and even more importantly, how you should fit it.
How do booster seats work?
The idea behind booster seats and booster cushions is very simple: they lift the child up, mimicking an adult, so they can use the car’s seat belts, and you put the belts in the right place using guides on the seat/cushion.
The difference between a booster seat and a booster cushion is that the cushion doesn’t have a back, so it doesn’t offer side impact protection. You can also buy booster seats with a removable back, but our advice is to keep the back in place – especially if it incorporates side wings – as this will give valuable extra protection. Recent changes in law also mean booster cushions can’t be used until a child is above 22kgs weight, or 125cm tall, encouraging the use of high-back seats for longer. Finally, remember to fasten a booster seat or cushion even when nobody is sitting on it, or remove it from the car altogether. If possible, train the child to fasten it for you when they get out of the car. This is because an unfixed booster cushion is a loose projectile if you have an accident, and the last thing you want is a loose ‘safety device’ injuring you.
Who are car booster seats for?
As with toddler seats, there’s a wide range of booster seats you can use.
First, there are Group 2 seats, which cover children of between 15-25kg (or about four-six years); but, much more common are Group 2 & 3 seats, which cover a wider weight range, from 15 to 36kg (or roughly four – 11 years of age). Then, there is a wide variety of combination seats, some allowing rear-facing travel until four years, others only forwards-facing use. These combination seats generally cover groups 0 and 1 using an integral harness, and then convert to use the cat’s seat belt for groups 2 & 3.
I’ve heard there are some new regulations about booster seats. How does this affect me?
From August 2017, the starting time at which children can use these seats is changing. From that date, a child has to be at least 22kg in weight or 125cm tall before they can use any newly bought booster cushion.
However, it’s important to note this rule only applies to new seats bought after that date, so they will be clearly labelled. If you already have a booster cushion that was bought before the change, you can carry on using it, although we recommend using a high-back booster because of the extra protection it gives.
When should I stop using child booster seats?
As with any child seat, you should only stop using it when you child has outgrown it. The law says that children must use a car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever is sooner. However, RoSPA’s (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) advice is to wait until they are 150 cm (5ft) or taller before moving them to the seat belt on its own.
How do I fit a child booster seat?
Like any car seat, booster seats are best used in the rear; and you’ll have the choice of Isofix and non-Isofix seats.
With an Isofix seat, you simply secure the seat in the fittings and check that it’s fitted properly, either by looking at an indicator on the seat or listening out for a tell-tale click. Then, whether you have an Isofix or non-Isofix seat, the procedure for fitting the belts is the same. Make sure any adjustable parts on the seat, like a back rest or head rest, are positioned correctly for your child. Removing the car’s head restraint may ensure a better fit, but if you’re in any doubt at any point, consult the instruction manual. With some seats that cater for younger children, you use the integral harness, which will automatically sit in the right place. But, if you’re fixing the seat with the car’s seat belts, you’ll need to feed the belt through guides on the booster seat. Ensure the lap belt is fed under the guides, as these keep the belt away from the stomach area; and, the upper guide will keep the diagonal belt in the centre of the chest and away from the neck.

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