Belt buckle help for 4 year old in booster seat

M

MaestroC

Guest
I am having a problem that is opposite of what many seem to have. My four year old sits in the back of the minivan in a booster seat. The seats in front of her are taken up by child seats for her younger siblings. The problem is that she still has problems buckling her seat belt on her own, leading to me or my wife having to open the back lift gate and lean in over the back seat to help her buckle it. She is having trouble both with sliding the buckle down the strap and also with having enough strength to get the buckle to snap together.

In the grand scheme of things I suppose this is not a huge deal, but does anyone have any ideas on what I can do to help her out without making the seat belt unsafe to use?
 
ADS

wendytthomas

Admin - CPST Instructor
Staff member
How heavy is your child? Most four year olds aren't mature enough to sit properly and in position for an entire ride, and so boosters are generally not recommended as full time seats for them.

I'd take her to the store and find a five point harness seat that she can buckle. My daughter can buckle herself in her Britax Wizard, but there's no way she'll be able to do a seatbelt buckle for another couple of years. And she's going to be six in July.

Wendy
 

christineka

New member
My ds is 5 and can't do up a seatbelt properly. Since he also couldn't stay perfect in the seatbelt all the time either I got him a harnessed seat. He can buckle himself properly now.

Christine
 

keri1292

Well-known member
I'd look into the Graco Nautilus. It's $150 and converts from a 5pt harness (up to 65lbs), to a high back booster, to a backless booster.

My 7.5yo is still harnessed and has been buckling herself for years. :)
 

MomToEliEm

Moderator
As the previous poster stated, most people here on the board would not recommend a booster for a 3 or 4 year old.

First, they are often not mature enough to stay seated properly at all times in the car.

Second, their hip bones are not developed enough to hold the child in place during a car crash. The child may slide under the lap portion of the seatbelt, which can result in internal organ or spine injuries.

Third, a harnessed seat is a lot easier for a child to buckle themselves in the back seat. A seatbelt is harder to get placed correctly in a booster, and there is often a chance of the seatbelt being threaded incorrectly through the booster belt guides. My 6 year old can buckle herself into her Britax Regent harnessed seat with no assistance from me. She does require me to help her with her booster seat (which she uses in Daddy's truck).

Here is a video you may want to watch showing why a 3-4 year old shouldn't be in a booster:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2LFo8vVi04

There are situations where a booster for a 4 year old is the best option, but usually a harnessed seat is a better option. There are some boosters that are easier to buckle, like the britax parkway, though it still often requires adult assistance to buckle. If you are sure you want your child in a booster, then it may require you to help her buckle in each time.
 

thepeach80

Senior Community Member
My son is 5 and could not do a seatbelt, he can get himself in his Nautilus though except for the crotch buckle. What about putting 2 kids in the back and taking out one of your captain's chairs? That may help get the kids in easier.
 

Tara

New member
Agreeing with the others..a 4 yr old should really still be harnessed. Then they may or may not be able to manage that buckle on their own.
In which case, refer to the other options mentioned..rearranging children and/or vehicle seats to make things more convenient/easier on the parents.
 

Defrost

Moderator - CPSTI Emeritus
The ease of buckling a booster really depends more on the seat belt than the booster. I have older kiddos so we've been through quite a lot of this. In our VW, the boys could buckle themselves pretty early because the buckle stalk is stiff - they can push the buckle into it with one hand and the buckle doesn't fall over.

In our Astro, though, they had a much harder time. The Astro has locking latchplates (the "male" end) so they don't slide up and down the seat belt as easily, and the buckles are on short webbing, so not only are they hard to reach from up on a booster, you really need two hands to do it - one to hold the buckle and one to hold the latchplate.

And in our Mazda5, we have two rows of seats, and the 2nd row has stiff buckle stalks and the 3rd row has the floppy kind. :rolleyes: So even my 12yo has a more difficult time buckling himself in his booster in the 3rd row!

As others have already pointed out, the ideal solution would be to get a harnessed seat appropriate for your 4 year old's size. Most kid have the motor skills to properly buckle their own harness long before they can properly buckle a seat belt while in a booster.

If you're really opposed to that, you could try out some different boosters to see if a different style makes it easier. What booster is she currently in?

Also, if you do decide to keep her in a booster and you find one that she can buckle herself, keep in mind that you still need to check and make sure she's buckled properly. For example, a common problem with the Graco TurboBooster is that the seat belt doesn't get routed under the armrests. This is a very dangerous situation, and many children forget or don't notice that it's wrong. It's also hard for many younger children to pull the seat belt tight after they've buckled themselves, particularly if the seat belt has locking latchplates, which is obviously another serious risk - a loose seat belt may not do its job at all!

Another option might be to re-arrange the kids - can any of your younger children buckle their harnesses? You might be able to move one of them to the back and move your 4 year old up so she's easier to reach and help.

Oh, and what kind of minivan do you have? Does it have captain's chairs? I know a lot of people remove one of the captain's chairs and put two kids in the back; that way they can easily get in to buckle the kids in the 3rd row.
 

Kat_Momof3

New member
I couldn't agree more. My boys were able to buckle harnessed seats way before they could do up boosters.

And my 4yr old can buckle her Nautilus, though she usually prefers me to do it as she's typically got things in her hands like ponies and a sippy cup, but no way could she buckle a seatbelt.

I would definitely have her harnessed, no question about it, until at least age 6, preferably longer.
 
U

Unregistered1

Guest
Hey, I tried out the Graco Nautilus at Babies R Us the other day for the little girl I watch (A, who is five) and that buckle is so easy for her that I will never have to worry about buckling her in again. I love it. Harnesses, IMO, are so much easier to buckle than seat belts... especially when you're trying to fit three across like so many people have done and the poor kid is getting his hand smashed between a booster and a car seat looking for the buckle stalk!
 

BW1426

Well-known member
Hey, I tried out the Graco Nautilus at Babies R Us the other day for the little girl I watch (A, who is five) and that buckle is so easy for her that I will never have to worry about buckling her in again. I love it. Harnesses, IMO, are so much easier to buckle than seat belts... especially when you're trying to fit three across like so many people have done and the poor kid is getting his hand smashed between a booster and a car seat looking for the buckle stalk!

:yeahthat:
 

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