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Toddler Car Seats - Car Seats for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Car Seats


Updated March 27, 2011

Choosing a car seat for your baby is usually pretty easy, as there are only a few options. Infants have to sit in a rear-facing, infant-only car seat (with a carrier that sits on a base), or a rear-facing, convertible car seat.

It can be more confusing for toddlers though, as there are more options for toddler car seats, including:

  • forward-facing toddler car seats -- can only be used facing forward and with a harness strap; appropriate for children until they are 40 to 80 pounds
  • convertible car seats -- can be used in the rear-facing position until a child is 35 to 45 pounds, then converted to a forward-facing car seat once a toddler is two years old
  • combination car seats -- can be used as a forward-facing car seat with a harness strap until a child is 40 to 65 pounds, then as a booster seat

Rear v. Forward-Facing

In addition to there being more types of car seats to choose from for their toddler, parents may also be confused about the safest way for their toddler to ride.

The latest car seat guidelines state that all infants and toddlers should ride rear-facing until they are two years old or until they reach the weight or height limits for their car seat.

That doesn't mean that you should necessarily switch your toddler forward-facing just because he reaches the weight or height limits of your rear-facing infant carrier though. Instead, it is best to continue rear-facing in a convertible car seat.

Also, some smaller toddlers may be safest riding rear-facing even after they are two years old if they haven't yet met the maximum weight or height limits of their rear-facing car seat.

All of this means that your toddler should be able to ride in the rear-facing position well into her second year if she is in a convertible car seat, which often has a rear-facing weight limit of 35 to 40 pounds, or a newer, infant-only car seat with a higher 30 to 35-pound weight limit, such as the:

If rear-facing is safest, then why don't more parents keep their toddlers in this position in the car? It is usually because they either think their toddler won't like it, or because they feel like they can't see their child when he is rear-facing. Neither, however, is more important than a toddler's safety.


American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Child Passenger Safety. Pediatrics 2011;127:788-793.

Marilyn J. Bull and Dennis R. Durbin. Rear-Facing Car Safety Seats: Getting the Message Right. Pediatrics, Mar 2008; 121: 619 - 620.

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