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  1. #1
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    Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    I have a very petite 5 1/4-year-old daughter who is currently in a Britax Roundabout. She weighs 34 lbs. and is just hitting 40 inches tall, so she is finally outgrowing the Roundabout on height. I'm trying to figure out which seat to get her next and price isn't an issue. Should I get her another harnessed seat such as a Radian or Safeguard Go, or should I get her a high-back booster that starts at 30 lbs like the Monterey? I want her to be safe, comfortable, not feel like a baby, and I'd also love it if there was a seat she could actually buckle/unbuckle herself. She's in Kindergarten (and most of her friends are in boosters or no car seats at all - scary and illegal), but I feel like we're holding up the school car line when I have to get out and strap her in. It's not as big of a deal when she's in Kindergarten, but she'll be in this seat for years given her size and at some point she's not going to want her mom to be buckling her in every time. Extra points if it's easy to travel with and install. If it matters I have one other daughter who is 3 1/2 and also in a Roundabout, and I drive a 2007 Acura MDX. My daughter is mature and likes to follow the rules. Any recommendations on seats to consider? Thanks so much!

    Ally

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  3. #2
    CPS Technician Qarin's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    I would not get any of the seats you list- the Radian would be a good seat if you wanted to turn your DD rearfacing again, which would be very safe but I'm suspecting is not what you're considering. The Safeguard Go is a nice seat, I gather, but not very comfortable for daily use, and the Monterey, while it states that it starts at 30lbs, often does not position the seatbelt very well on smaller, narrower riders.

    At just barely five, I would hesitate to suggest a booster fulltime, but it would be an option- likely good choices for your DD would be the Recaro Vivo and the (high back) Graco Turbobooster. A better option, in my opinion, would be a combination seat that will keep her harnessed for another year or more- my oldest DD, who is on a similar growth curve as yours, likes her Graco Nautilus, harnessed, very much, at 8 years old (she's 47" tall now)- it's nice because it looks like a big-kid booster, harnesses to 65lbs and to quite tall has a great cup holder, and little cubbies for toys. Another, similar seat is the Britax Frontier. There are a few other combination seats which may be an option for you, depending on your DD's size (torso height) and your budget.

    She's been able to buckle and unbuckle herself from it since she got it two years ago, and my younger DD (age 5) is also able to buckle and unbuckle it, when she gets to use it (I always check to be sure it's tight enough, though, but that's easily done from the front seat in our car).... in fact, I find that once they know how to do the harnesses, it's easier for them than getting the seatbelt buckled and the belt routed correctly around/under the armests of their booster seats when they use them (I usually have to help my 5yo; my 8yo can finally usually take care of it herself).

    Also, about the Roundabouts- the standing height limits are guidelines- you need to make sure that your DDs shoulders are lower than the slot where the harness comes out, and that the tops of their ears are not above the seat's shell. If your 5yo's shoulders are still under the top harness slots, and her ears haven't started going above the shell (mine still fit in the Roundabout at that age), then she hasn't yet outgrown it; if either of those things aren't true, then she has already outgrown it and you need to get her a new seat ASAP.
    Homeschooling mama to safely transported kids-
    DD1- 11/2001 - 61.5", Seat Belt (5-steps)
    DD2- 11/2004 - 62.5", Seat Belt (5-steps)

  4. #3
    Senior Community Member natysr's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Hi Ally. Welcome to the board!

    Your daughter is about the same size as my son. He turned 5 August 20. He is 34 pounds and 41" tall. Slightly taller than your daughter.

    My son is also in kindergarten.

    Do you have 2 vehicles that your child currently rides in?

    I can tell you without a doubt that I would not be comfortable with not having a harnessed seat for my son to have available to him. Especially for longer drives.

    He normally rides in a Frontier in one of our cars and a Marathon in the other.

    We did buy a booster seat for him just last Sunday. We got him the Graco Turbobooster. It fits smaller kids like ours very well. We are currently booster training him. Only on drives to school. We've been leaving a couple of minutes early to give him plenty of time to practice buckling himself. This also teaches him exactly how his belt should be (just in case he needs to ride with someone else). Since then, he's also insisted on buckling his own harnessed seat. He loosens his harness first, buckles himself, then I reach back and tighten it. It does take longer to get in the car and get going, but that's okay.

    So, basically he now rides in the booster on the way to school. Other rides that are longer, freeway trips etc., he is in a harnessed seat.

    Each type of seat has its place. You wouldn't want her falling asleep in a booster just yet. She likely isn't old enough to know that even while sleeping, she needs to stay in position and not lean out of the seat.

    So, if price is not an issue, I would look at a Graco Nautilus or a Britax Frontier and a Graco Turbobooster. (You could get the turbo and a Nautilus for about the price of a frontier).

    Basically, at her size, a properly fitting and properly used boosterseat is safe. But a harnessed seat is safER. But, being that she is school aged now, there may be oportunities for sleepovers, trips to the mall with friends etc. It is practical for her to know how to ride in a booster, just in case.

  5. #4
    CPS Technician mommycat's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    A few items:

    1. She is front facing in the Roundabout, yes? The numerical height limit on the seat really means very little as all kids are proportioned differently. She needs to have the harness coming out at or above her shoulders, and have the shell extend to at least the tips of her ears. If either of these is not being met (ie shell below tips of ears or shoulder above the top slot), she has outgrown the seat and needs a new one YESTERDAY.
    2. At only 34 lbs, I would be reluctant to put her in a booster, and especially the Monterey as it does not fit smaller riders very well. I would get another harnessed seat, but instead of a convertible, get a harnessed-to-booster combination seat like the Britax Frontier or the Graco Nautilus, whichever one you prefer, can install and use well, and that she fits well and likes. Both harness to 65 lbs (more in US or not??) with top harness slots of over 18" and then convert to good boosters, Frontier just a tall HBB and the Nauti to a somewhat lower HBB and then a no-back booster. The Frontier has install issues in some vehicles so try before you buy.
    3. Is she mature enough in terms of impulse control to sit well in a booster 100% of the time? If yes, and you decide you do want a booster after all, options to look at would be the Vivo (if you are in US), [ETA not the Britax Parkway SG as it has a 40lb min weight], and the Graco Turbobooster HBB, as these fit smaller booster riders better than the Monterey.

    ETA ok I type too slowly.
    Cat in Canada
    DS1 7 yo - 47 lbs (47"/??"t/??"top of head) - boostered in SKMonterey/2TBs/2CowmooPWSG/2HarmonyNBBs
    DS2 4 yo - 34.5 lbs (40"/15"t/??"top of head) - FF in CowmooMA/TrueFit/2Radians/2Nautiluses/HarmonyV7
    Also in possession of: Graco SafeSeat1 and MyRide (loaned out) + 1 demo seat: SnugRide.

  6. #5
    CPS Technician Qarin's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Quote Originally Posted by mommycat View Post
    options to look at would be the Vivo (if you are in US), the Britax Parkway SG, and the Graco Turbobooster HBB, as these fit smaller booster riders better than the Monterey.
    The Parkway SG has a minimum weight requirement of 40lbs.
    Homeschooling mama to safely transported kids-
    DD1- 11/2001 - 61.5", Seat Belt (5-steps)
    DD2- 11/2004 - 62.5", Seat Belt (5-steps)

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  8. #6
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    I have a very petite 5 1/4-year-old daughter who is currently in a Britax Roundabout. She weighs 34 lbs. and is just hitting 40 inches tall, so she is finally outgrowing the Roundabout on height.
    A forward facing seat is outgrown by height when the shoulders go over the top slots or when the tips of the ears go over the top of the shell. If she's got a short torso it's possible she still actually fits in the seat. Most average sized kids outgrow the Roundabout before four.

    I'm trying to figure out which seat to get her next and price isn't an issue. Should I get her another harnessed seat such as a Radian or Safeguard Go
    Why those two seats? 99% of harnessed seats have higher top slots than the Roundabout, so the world is your oyster, but at 5.25 and 34 pounds I'd narrow it down to the combination seats. They're forward facing with a harness that then gets removed and turns into a booster down the line. I'd look at the Evenflo Maestro (great harnessed, but not a very tall booster, with 18" top slots, 50 pound weight limit, $80) and the Graco Nautilus (18.5" top slots, 65 pound harness, 100 pounds as a booster with 21" top belt guide height and then becomes a backless booster. $!50). The Radian is a convertible seat, so unless you're going to rear face her or you need a very narrow seat you won't use all of the potential of the seat. The Go has 17.5"-18" top harness height, a 60 pound limit, turns into a backless booster, and requires a top tether to use the harness. It's an ... interesting seatbelt installation though a very easy LATCH install. It hasn't got a shell.

    or should I get her a high-back booster that starts at 30 lbs like the Monterey?
    The Monterey does not fit petite kids well. Even on the narrow setting it's very broad in the shoulders and can misplace the shoulder belt. My petite seven year old doesn't fit well in it.

    I want her to be safe, comfortable, not feel like a baby, and I'd also love it if there was a seat she could actually buckle/unbuckle herself. She's in Kindergarten (and most of her friends are in boosters or no car seats at all - scary and illegal), but I feel like we're holding up the school car line when I have to get out and strap her in. It's not as big of a deal when she's in Kindergarten, but she'll be in this seat for years given her size and at some point she's not going to want her mom to be buckling her in every time. Extra points if it's easy to travel with and install. If it matters I have one other daughter who is 3 1/2 and also in a Roundabout, and I drive a 2007 Acura MDX. My daughter is mature and likes to follow the rules. Any recommendations on seats to consider? Thanks so much!
    I'd look at the Nautilus first. Piper could easily buckle and unbuckle herself. Much easier with the harness than the booster, too. It's easy to install with the seatbelt (you have a 40 pound LATCH limit in your car), is pretty easy to travel with.

    Is your other daughter rear or forward facing? She'll outgrow the Roundabout rear facing at 33 or 35 pounds, depending on how old it is, or when she has less than 1" of hard shell above her head. Forward facing she'll outgrow it when her shoulders go over the top slot or when the tips of her ears go above the top of the shell, or at 40 pounds.

    HTH

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

  9. #7
    CPS Technician mommycat's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Quote Originally Posted by Qarin View Post
    The Parkway SG has a minimum weight requirement of 40lbs.
    Thanks for catching that - all our boosters in Canada have a min weight of 40 lbs, so I don't tend to look at the lower limits.
    Cat in Canada
    DS1 7 yo - 47 lbs (47"/??"t/??"top of head) - boostered in SKMonterey/2TBs/2CowmooPWSG/2HarmonyNBBs
    DS2 4 yo - 34.5 lbs (40"/15"t/??"top of head) - FF in CowmooMA/TrueFit/2Radians/2Nautiluses/HarmonyV7
    Also in possession of: Graco SafeSeat1 and MyRide (loaned out) + 1 demo seat: SnugRide.

  10. #8
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Wow, this is amazing info!! I'm open to any seat, not just the ones I mentioned. Price isn't an issue at all - she's in my car 98% of the time and I want to get the best seat for her needs over the next few years. I'll measure her torso tomorrow and look at her in the seat, but I'm pretty sure she hasn't outgrown the Roundabout yet. She is forward facing in it, and her shoulders are below the top harness and I can't imagine her ears are over the seat. But I am ready to get a new seat soon because her Roundabout straps get jammed and are now hard to tighten and she's also starting to complain about being in a "baby seat" (she's been in this seat for 4 years). I would prefer to keep her harnessed for now since she does fall asleep in the car occasionally on long car trips, so the harness-to-booster seems to be the best way to go for us. Maybe I'll consider something like a Turbobooster or Vivo for my husband's car which she rides in very occasionally as a way to booster train her for riding in friends' cars. It sounds like I should look at the Nautilus, Frontier and Maestro. A friend had the Frontier and I remembered it being a huge seat so thought it might be bigger than we need, but I'll check it out. That's great info that your kids can buckle the Nautilus themselves.

    My younger daughter is 3 1/2, 29 lbs, and on the exact same growth curve as my older daughter. She is forward facing in her Roundabout - she hated the car seat and does much better in it since we moved her forward facing at age 2.

    Thank you so much - you guys are a wealth of info! Keep any other thoughts coming.

  11. #9
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    One more question... would you travel with a Nautilus or Frontier or are they too unwieldy to be taking in and out of the car? We do quite a bit of US plane travel since we live far from both of our families and currently check our Roundabout on the plane. I seem to recall my friend with the Frontier complaining about how heavy it was when they travel. Just curious what others do about travel.

    Thanks!
    Ally

  12. #10
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    I think you'll really like the Nautilus.

    We take our carseats on board, or leave them home and use a vest, if our child is heavy enough and we so desire (yours aren't heavy enough. No, I take that back, your older one is heavy enough for the new version). Checking seats can lead to damage, since handlers are not normally gentle on seats, and kids under 40 pounds generally don't fit in the lapbelt, the FAA recommends seats until 40 pounds, and kids are more comfortable and sleep better in seats that fit them well. My daughter has barely slept a wink on a plane since we started traveling with a vest a year ago. Before that she'd sleep for hours straight in her carseat.

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

  13. #11
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Wendy, when we travel we bring one car seat on board for my 3 1/2-year-old. Then we have a CARES harness that we use for the 5-year-old. We find it too unwieldy to lug 2 car seats around in the airport with all of our other stuff. We check the 5-year-old's car seat - we either bring the Roundabout or sometimes our back-up Cosco Scenera because it's so light. We have a padded car seat bag so we thankfully haven't had any damage checking a seat yet and we've taken lots of flights with the girls. What's a vest - is that different than the CARES harness? Thanks!

  14. #12
    Carseat Crazy Thanksgiving_Twins_Mom's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    One more question... would you travel with a Nautilus or Frontier or are they too unwieldy to be taking in and out of the car? We do quite a bit of US plane travel since we live far from both of our families and currently check our Roundabout on the plane. I seem to recall my friend with the Frontier complaining about how heavy it was when they travel. Just curious what others do about travel.

    Thanks!
    Ally
    If you travel a lot, it might be worth getting a lighter weight high weight harnessed seat like the Evenflo Maestro for your travel seat which ODD could also use in your DH's car. The Maestro doesn't work well as a booster but since you have a younger child who could use it as a harnessed seat when your ODD outgrows it, you should be able to get your full money's worth out of it.
    Elaine
    Mom to Lydia & Deborah (both 5-stepped and almost as tall as mom) 15YO
    and comfy chair to Lily Cat (no car seats but will use a kitty harness for walks)

  15. #13
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    A padded bag may not protect against high falls (say falling out of the plane onto the tarmac), nor is all damage visible. I'd be wary. A carseat is a lifesaving device. Would you trust a defibullator to the baggage handlers? A tank of oxygen? Even trust a life preserver to come through being checked, flown, and moved around multiple planes completely unscathed and trustworthy?

    A vest is a Ride Safer Travel Vest. It's not used on board a plane because it requires a top tether with a lap belt only. We carry ours in our carry on luggage (no chance of losing it if it's checked, another concern with checking a seat) and Piper wears it at our destination.

    You're replacing the Roundabout anyway, but I'd make sure it's destroyed, rather than sell it or let someone else use it. I really distrust baggage handlers that much. Basically you put the trust of her life in their hands. Will they treat her carseat with the respect it needs as a life saving device. Even in a padded bag damage can be done.

    As for getting them around the airport, a lot of us here travel with multiple seats. Mine are seven years apart, so it's not actually coming up for us. When we talked of having a second child Piper was still using a Radian for travel. Traveling by myself with the two girls would have been Piper walking through the airport with her suitcase and backpack (if she was bringing one), the baby in a sling on front. Piper's Radian with straps on my back, baby's carseat strapped to my rolling bag with a Traveling Toddler, and obviously my suitcase being pulled carrying the carseat. My purse/diaper bag would then be either on my shoulder or around the handle of my suitcase. Two kids, two carseats, and no checked luggage (that's just personal, we hate checking luggage). I had already thought it through (because that's what a carseat geek does when talking with her husband about having a second baby) before we decided to move on and get Piper the RSTV for travel. And like I said, she hasn't slept as well and I really miss her Radian for travel (she's too tall now for it anyway, and it's loaned out).

    It's cumbersome traveling with little ones, but definitely possible. When you get new seats you can continue to use the CARES on the plane, then use a RSTV at your destination. Both vehicles will be taken care of and you'd still only be stuffing the "carseats" into pockets at various times.

    If you haven't seen a Traveling Toddler before, look them up. $15 and super easy to use. We also used to use a luggage cart and bungee cords. Which was ok, but I'd have to check luggage when I traveled alone with Piper (which is how we did 90% of our traveling), and I hated that.

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

  16. #14
    CPS Technician firemomof3's Avatar
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    Re: Best seat for my petite 5-year-old

    For your 5y/o I would also recommend the Nautilus (it comes in really pretty covers!). It fits smaller kids exceptionally well, is user-friendly and super easy to install. As Wendy mentioned the Safe Rider Vest would be a great option for travel.
    DD1 10.5y/o seatbelt
    DD2 8y/o 45" 52lbs. backless
    DS 7y/o 51" 58lbs. ProBooster or backless

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