A Basic Guide to Convertible Car Seats


(Graco Extend2Fit)

Convertible Car Seats will hold a child for a large part of his or her young life.  Children as young as infants can be put in rear-facing convertible seats, while even school-age children can sit in forward-facing convertible seats.  Convertible car seats have different weight limits, and can be as low as 40 up to over 100lbs.

Infants placed in convertible car seats should have some sort of extra padding or inserts to make sure that they are properly secured.  Convertible car seats are certainly versatile, but no seat can be every thing to every child, so it is important to research the convertible car seat you’re buying, whether it caters more to a specific age than another, and what accessories, if any, you might need.


(The Britax Head and Body Pillow is a common accessory for an infant put in a convertible car seat)

It is a popular rule of thumb for parents with a rear facing seat to turn it forward facing once the child reaches the age of one.  However, some studies have shown that children can benefit from staying rear-facing until age two, or even three, depending on child size.  Regardless of the specifics of your particular child, convertible car seats can be turned from rear facing to front facing, and generally have adjustable parts to account for the growth of your child.

When purchasing a convertible car seat, take into account how easy it is to use, and how readable the instructions are.  If you can’t figure out how to use the best car seat, then it’s not the best car seat for your child.  The National Highway Safety Administration scores all types of car seats on multiple points, including ease of use.  Note how some seats, such as the Britax Pavillion 70G3 RF score 5 stars on “Securing the Child” but only 3 stars overall?  It’s because they’re potentially difficult to use, and consequently most users will not take advantage of everything they have to offer.

Also, remember that a convertible car seat is used to hold children (the sometimes sticky and messy kind).  Does the car seat use a material that’s easy to wipe down?  Better yet, does the car seat have a cover that you can take off and wash?  Or is the peanut butter from a sandwich forever mashed into a crevice in the seat?

Before moving on to a Booster Seat, make sure to research local law, the model convertible seat you own, and take into account the size, not just age of your child.  Sometimes children as young as four can be legally and securely put in booster seats, while seven year-olds may still be found in some larger convertible seats.

Introduction – A Basic Guide to Car Seats

Part 1: Infant Car Seats

Part 2: Convertible Car Seats

Part 3: Booster Car Seats

Part 4: 3 in 1 Car Seats

Part 5: What is LATCH?


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