Types of Child Seats
An appropriate child restraint is one which:
- Conforms to the United Nations standard, ECE Regulation 44-03 or later version
- Is suitable for the child’s weight and size
- Is correctly fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Child restraints are divided into categories, according to the weight of the children for whom they are suitable. These correspond broadly to different age groups, but it is the weight of the child that is most important when deciding what type of child restraint to use.
Retailers often describe child restraints in terms of “Stages”:
Stage 1 = Groups 0 and 0+ (Group 0 baby seats are no longer produced.)
Stage 2 = Group 1
Stage 3 = Group 2
Stage 4 = Group 3
(Booster seats that only fit into Group 2 or only into Group 3 are no longer produced. They now fit into either Group 2 and 3 or Groups 1 to 3)
Some child restraints are capable of being converted as the child grows and, therefore, fit into more than one group or stage.
The main types are:
Rearward-facing Baby Seats
Group 0: for babies up to 10 kgs (22 lbs) roughly from birth to 6-9 months, or
(Group 0 baby seats are no longer produced).
Group 0+: for babies up to 13kg (29lbs) roughly from birth to 12-15 months
They can be used in the front or rear of the car. It is safer to put them in the rear. DO NOT put them in the front passenger seat if there is a passenger airbag. Rearward-facing seats provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. So, it is best to keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible. Only move them to a forward-facing seat (or a larger (group 1 or 2) rearward-facing seat) once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the baby seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.
For more information about rearward-facing seats for older children, take a look at Rearward-facing Child Car Seats for Children Under 4 Years Old.
Forward-facing child seat
Group 1: for children weighing 9-18 kgs (20-40 lbs) roughly from 9 months – 4 years.
Once children have outgrown a rearwards facing seat, the best option is to use a Group 1 seat with an integral harness; the large area of the harness helps to reduce the risk of injury if there is a crash. The bottom attachment between the legs will also prevent the child from sliding under, and out of, the harness.
They can be used in the front or rear of the car, but it is safer to put them in the rear, especially if there is a passenger airbag in the front.
Once again, it is safest to keep children in this type of system until they have outgrown it. Only move your child to a booster seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the child seat, or when the manufacturer’s advice recommends that they are too tall for the seat (usually this will be when the top of the seat is below the eye level of the child, but this can depend on the model of seat).
Booster seats and booster cushions
Group 2: for children weighing 15 – 25 kgs (33 – 55 lbs) roughly 4 to 6 years.
Group 3: for children weighing 22 – 36 kgs (48 – 79 lbs) roughly from 6 – 11 years.
Booster seats that only fit into Group 2 or only into Group 3 are no longer produced and modern booster seats are designed for children between 15kg and 36kg (33 – 79 lbs).
Booster cushions can be approved for Groups 2 and Group 3, although some are only approved for just Group 3. You should ensure your child is within the weight range of any booster seat or booster cushion.
Some booster seats are designed to be converted into a booster cushion by detaching the back rest, and you should always check the manufacturers advice about when and how to do this.
Booster seats and booster cushions do not have an integral harness to hold the child in place. The adult seat belt goes around the child and the seat. So it is important that the seat belt is correctly adjusted. The basic points to note are:
- the belt should be worn as tight as possible
- the lap belt should go over the pelvic region, not the stomach
- the diagonal strap should rest over the shoulder, not the neck
When children first move out of the forward-facing child seats into booster seats and cushions, initially, ones with backs may provide a better fit for the seat belt. Booster seats with side wings will also help to prevent injury in a side impact by protecting a child’s head, and on several seats, the height of the side wings can be adjusted as the child grows.
Booster seats and booster cushions can be used in the front or rear of the car, but it is safer to put them in the rear, especially if there is a passenger airbag in the front.
Information issued by ROSPA