We are all familiar with the classic fairy tale, “The Story of the Three Bears”. While on a stroll through the woods, the story’s human protagonist, Goldilocks, happens upon the house of three very domesticated bears. Exhausted from her journey, the young girl decides to sit in the chairs, eat the porridge, and sleep in the beds belonging to the bears. In several of the story’s most defining moments, she struggles to find the items that will provide the perfect fit for her. Modern parents could take an important lesson from Goldilocks when selecting car seats for their children. In order to ensure their safety, it is imperative that children always ride in a car seat that provides the perfect fit for their age and body size. Parents should always consult manufacturer guidelines and their pediatricians when selecting a car seat, but may also benefit from the following general guidelines.

Rear-Facing Car Seat

First, it’s important to remember that the proper seat for your child is determined by the child’s height, weight, and age. Children should begin their automotive journeys in rear-facing, five-point-anchor car safety seats. Parents should not turn their seats around for as long as their children remain under the height and weight guidelines established by the manufacturer. Generally, children will face backwards in their car seats until two years old.

Forward-Facing Car Seat

Once children have met the age, weight, and size requirements, they can face forward as long as they remain in a car safety seat featuring a five-point harness. Ideally, car seats should bet secured to the car through an anchor and tether system. As children grow, it’s important that they graduate to larger seats once they exceed the limitations of their current seats. As a rule of thumb, children ages two through five should remain in forward-facing car seats.

Booster Seats

Even after they grow out of the five-point harness car seat stage, children should be in booster car seats whenever riding in an automobile. A booster seat simply ensures that a car’s seatbelt crosses a child’s body properly. Children should remain in booster car seats until they have grown to meet the upper limits of manufacturer recommendations. Generally, this will occur somewhere around the age of eight or nine years old.


Eventually, older children can use the car’s standard seatbelt as a safety restraint. While this often occurs around the age of eight-years-old, the final decision should be based on the size of the child. Once a child is big enough to have the seatbelt rest across the upper thighs and cross the chest and shoulder properly, they can ride without a car seat. A lap belt should not cross a child’s stomach and the shoulder belt should never rest on a child’s neck or face.

Just as Goldilocks worked to find the perfect fit, parents should always be sure to have their children in car safety seats that are weight-, height-, and age-appropriate. While they should always adhere to guidelines set by manufacturers and relevant medical authorities, there are also useful rules of thumb that can help keep families safe on all of their drives through the woods.



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