There are two factors to choosing the right car seat for your child.

  • It fits your child’s height and weight. Choose the car seat based on your child’s height and weight rather than based on their age and the suggested age for the car seat.
  • The seat can be correctly installed in the vehicle being used. Not all car seats fit all vehicle seats well; sometimes parents need to try more than one car seat model.
national safety mark sticker
National Safety Mark sticker

NOTE: All car seats must be tested to meet government safety standards in order to be sold in Canada. Buying a car seat in Canada will ensure that it meets Canadian safety standards set by Transport Canada. Look for the National Safety Mark: it is proof that the car seat meets Canadian Safety standards.

Watch this three-minute video for important information to consider before purchasing a car seat.

Infant and rear-facing seat

Use from birth to seat height or weight limit.

  • Canadian law requires that newborns and infants use a rear-facing car seat. 
  • Infants must use rear-facing car seats until they are at least one year of age and weigh at least 10 kg (22 lbs).
  • Keep your child rear-facing for as long as they still fit the larger, rear-facing seat. Your child is safest riding rear facing until two, three or even four years old, as long as they still fit within the height and weight limits for the seat. 
  • The rear-facing position is safest and many manufacturers are now making car seats that fit heavier and taller children. 
Watch this seven-minute video for information on how long your infant should use a rear-facing car seat and a demonstration of how to install it. Dr. Andrew Howard of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children discusses the importance of a properly installed rear-facing child car seat in keeping your baby safe.

Forward-facing seat

Use after child grows out of rear-facing seat to at least 18 kg (40 lbs).

  • Use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness until their height or weight exceeds the restrictions for the model they are using: this may be at 4, 5, or even 6 years old. 
  • Then either purchase another forward-facing seat designed for larger children or move to a booster seat. 
  • Forward-facing car seats use a tether strap to prevent the top of the car seat from moving forward too much during a collision.
  • Choose a forward-facing car seat that fits a higher range of height and weight so that a child can use it for longer.
Watch this six-minute video to learn about when your child should transition to a forward-facing car seat and tips on how to install it. You’ll also discover why it’s important to leave your child in a rear-facing seat for as long they meet the height and size requirements.

Booster seat

Use from when a child is a minimum of 18 kg (40 lbs) to 145 cm tall (4 ft, 9 in).

  • The booster seat raises the child up in the vehicle seat so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt are positioned correctly. 
  • In order to safely use a booster seat, your child must be able to sit up straight and tall without moving out of position or unbuckling.
  • The lap belt must rest low across the hips and the shoulder belt must rest in the middle shoulder region – not touching the neck. Booster seats must be used with both the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt.
  • Children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats are much better protected in a booster seat than they would be using only a vehicle lap and shoulder belt. 
  • High-back booster seats are the right choice if a vehicle’s back seat does not have adjustable head rests. If a vehicle’s back seat does have adjustable head rests, parents can select either a high-back or no-back booster seat. 
  • Booster seats should be buckled even when they are not being used; otherwise, the seat may hit passengers or the driver if there is a sudden stop or collision.
  • Booster seat use is important even in provinces that do not yet have laws mandating their use.
Watch this four-minute video to learn about when to transition your child from a forward-facing child car seat to a booster seat and when your child will be at the right growth stage to start using seat belts alone. Along with simple installation tips, demonstration and guidance, Dr. Andrew Howard talks about the importance of a booster seat in keeping your child safe.

Seatbelt alone

Use when a child is taller than 145 cm (4 ft, 9 in).

Seatbelts are designed for adult bodies. For this reason, it is important that parents check where the lap and shoulder belts rest on their older child’s body.

Do this five-step test to see if your child is ready to move from a booster seat to a seat belt: 

  • The child can sit all the way back against the back of the vehicle seat.
  • The knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching.
  • The lap belt fits low and snug across the hips and doesn’t ride up on the stomach.
  • The shoulder belt goes across the chest bone and the middle of the shoulder, not touching the neck and never behind the back. 
  • The child can sit properly for the entire trip. 

If the lap and shoulder belt do not fit correctly, the child must return to using a booster seat for a little while longer. 

If neither the seatbelt alone nor the current booster seat position the lap and shoulder belt properly, a different model of booster seat is required until your child has grown a little taller.

A child may pass all five steps (above) to use a seat belt in one car but still need to use a booster seat in another vehicle.

The back seat is the safest place for children. Children should not sit in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.  

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