The Best Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds: Keep Your Kids Safe
Keep your child safe with these top-rated car seats for 4-year-olds
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON July 14, 2021
Having a proper car seat for your child's age is more than a matter of safety — it’s the law. Car seats protect kids in a collision, but they're much more than that. Seat size varies by age, weight, and height. Choosing the best car seat for your child’s age is a matter of familiarizing yourself with the necessary features: neck support, side protection, leg protection, and harnessing. It’s there for more than accidents. From rapid braking to quick turns, car seats keep your child safe and comfortable.
For infants, the seat must face backward. Four-year-olds, on the other hand, need a forward-facing seat. Sometimes, if the child is tall and heavy enough, you can use a booster seat. Often, car seats are convertible, letting you switch modes as the child grows. To help you find the best car seats for 4 year olds, we’ve crafted a list of the top selections. This article breaks down everything you need to know about keeping your child safe in the car. Let’s get started.
Featuring a safe harness and comfortable upholstery, you can adjust this car seat to three different styles. It fits into any type of vehicle.
- Works as a rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster car seat
- Can handle up to 100 pounds
- Keeps children safe and in their seats
- Can be difficult to clean
- Fabric is easy to stain with spills
- Buckle must be clean to close properly
Available at a friendly price, this car seat works for kids between 40 and 100 pounds. It’s easy to install and is designed for durability.
- Transitions from forward-facing to booster seat
- Fits in most standard vehicles
- Fabric is soft on children’s skin
- Cup holders can be tricky to attach at the sides
- Can cause the seat to take up too much space in the car
Touting an innovative appearance, this Spiderman-style car seat features an advanced harness. You can convert it from a forward-facing car seat to a booster.
- The adjustable headrest keeps the child's neck safe as they grow
- It comes with cup holders to keep food and drink close
- Can handle up to 100 pounds
- It can sometimes loosen in the car over time
- Requires continual readjustment to ensure optimal function
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Benefits of Car Seats For 4-Year-Olds
- Keeps your child safe. The main benefit of car seats is the ability to protect your child from harm while you are driving. The padding and harness are designed to prevent damage to the child while on the road.
- Promotes comfort on long trips. Car seats enable your child to stay comfortable while you’re on the road for long periods. The padding is soft and the harness is made specifically to prevent damage and maximize comfort.
- Adds convenience as you drive. Most car seats feature cup holders to keep sippy cups and snacks close to the child. This way, you don’t have to turn around constantly to pass supplies.
- Contributes to peace of mind. Instead of worrying and doing a perpetual shoulder-check to see your child, a quality toddler car seat lets you rest easy knowing that your 4-year-old is safe.
- Protects the child’s neck. This type of injury is incredibly serious, especially for developing children. Car seats are specifically designed to protect the neck, with the size requirements changing as the child ages.
- Grows with the child. Car seats for 4-year-olds are valuable since, in most cases, they transition to booster seats. This way, instead of getting a whole new one, you can just adjust the seat when the child grows.
- Prevents serious injury. Car seats incorporate comprehensive features. The front is meant to protect legs, the side protection and neck protection fortifies these benefits.
Types of Car Seats For 4-Year-Olds
This type of car seat is probably the most common for 4-year-olds, especially those who just had a birthday. As the name suggests, the car seat faces forward. Just like a regular chair, the seat is sized so the headrest reaches the top of the child’s skull. The legs are meant so the knee reaches just at the end and can bend comfortably. These car seats feature a five-point harness system, going over the chest of the child. To use a forward-facing seat, the child must be at least 22 pounds and no more than 40 pounds. When the child is within these parameters, you can get the most safety value from the seat.
The decision to move to this type of car seat for 4-year-olds is a matter of weight. Usually, this type of car seat goes on a 4-year-old once they weigh 40 pounds. Often, a forward-facing car seat can transition into a booster seat by removing the back. These seats are very simple, geared toward protecting against impact in a different way. There is no harness, instead relying on the car’s seat belt system. The flat base adds height and uses the car’s design to offer neck protection. Provided the child meets the weight threshold and is less than 4 feet and 9 inches, a booster seat is the go-to.
This type of car seat is very uncommon amongst 4-year-olds, though with height and weight disparity amongst children, it is worth noting. This car seat faces backward and it is generally used on infants. However, if the 4-year-old doesn’t meet the weight threshold for forward-facing seats (is under the 3rd percentile for growth), a rear seat may still be in order. These car seats offer maximum neck protection and are geared to prevent damage from side impact as well. If your child weighs less than 22 pounds, a rear-facing seat is in order. For further details regarding the proper child seat, your pediatrician can assist.
COSCO, located in Columbus, Ind., was founded in 1935 as the Columbus Specialty Company, but in 1941, began using the Cosco brand name (COlumbus Specialty COmpany). Cosco made military equipment during World War II and later introduced home goods and furnishings. A top selection is the COSCO Finale DX Car Seat.
An American business that has roots in North Carolina, Graco has been creating baby products since 1998. Quickly becoming an industry leader in everything from car seats to strollers, this company focuses on quality and durability. A popular offering is the GRACO Tranzitions Harness Booster Seat.
An international supplier of child-safety products, Safety 1st began work in the 1990s. It offers everything from safety to hygiene supplies, all geared towards children. With a wide range of products and a successful track record, as the name suggests, it focuses mainly on safety. A top offering is the Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat.
Opening its doors in 1920 in Ohio, Evenflo began as an infant food-supply company, ranging from sippy cups to soothers. Now, this international supplier of childcare gear has expanded its product lines to include highly-rated car seats. One of the top products is the EveryFit Convertible Seat.
Car Seats For 4-Year-Olds Pricing
- Under $100: Car seats in this price range are usually single or dual-functional, meaning they will convert between two settings (forward-facing and booster seat). Durable and meeting all safety standards, seats at this price point are fairly durable though lack some bells and whistles.
- $100 and up: Products within this price range tend to have multiple transition settings, moving from a rear to forward-facing and then a booster seat. Usually quite plush and easy to maintain, you can often find things like cup-holders and more user-friendly harnesses.
In effect, the harness component is the seat belt for the child in the car seat. In most cases, the seat belt attaches the seat into place and the harness keeps the child in the seat. Check for five points of attachment. The harness disperses pressure in the event of a collision. The straps (and their direction) dictate where the force moves. Find something that features five points of attachment and is simple to adjust yet sturdy.
Though forward-facing seats have less protection than rear counterparts, it is still important. The key to this is protection from debris or impact caused by surrounding objects. Basically, the sides need to keep things from sliding into the child. Check how distinctly the sides protrude. This feature must be sufficient to secure the child against impact in the event of a collision (or even a sharp turn).
Another critical feature is neck protection. This feature is two-fold. The first is whether it clears the top of their head and has reasonable padding. The next step is to look at the sides of the neck protection. It needs to rest evenly on the child’s head, otherwise it needs adjusting. Ensure that the seat features an adjustable headrest if it is separate from the body of the seat (through a smaller attachment). If it is attached, be sure that the sides extend beyond the child’s face.
While this is less a matter of safety, it does contribute to the product’s overall viability. Be sure that there is enough support to have the child sit comfortably. The material should be sturdy, so the padding needs to balance plushness with security. Most car seats include this feature, though some have more advanced padding than others.
Car seats quickly become frustrating when they are tricky to install. Check for a couple of things when looking into this feature. Does it come with instructions? In terms of both safety certification and installation procedures, your car seat requires documentation. Car seats are only viable if they meet DOT standards. This plays into installation because an improperly setup seat won’t perform correctly. Choose something that is proven and user-friendly for best results.
- Duration of Use. Think about how long you’re going to need the seat for. Is it just a few years until your child ages out of the seat? Are there younger siblings who can benefit from it further down the line. This consideration is important because it speaks to the amount of value you’ll glean. For longer-term use, consider a seat with multiple settings.
- Quality of Material. Especially in children, skin sensitivities are prevalent. In terms of both metal and fabric, you need to check if the material is safe for your child. Sometimes, the upholstery can be scratchy or metal may be irritating to the child’s skin. Consider this when making your purchase, because it is tricky to cover a car seat with another material.
- Comfort of Child. This plays into how much use (and peace and quiet) you’ll get on longer rides. Keep an eye out for added features like cup holders. Think about the amount of padding, the softness of material, and whether it impedes your child’s ability to communicate (blocked view, etc.).
- Size of Vehicle. The car seat needs to fit into your vehicle. Think about this when you go to make your purchase. Each item will state dimensions. Consider whether there are other car seats in the back. Think about any storage needs and how much gear you travel with. Be sure that the seat will fit into the vehicle.
- Upkeep. Eventually, you will need to clean the seat and make adjustments. Keep an eye on how easy this is going to be. Think about how easy the material is to stain. Is the cover removable and machine washable? Can you clean the buckle with relative ease? All of these considerations factor into how easy it is to keep the seat in good condition for longer.
Best Car Seats For 4-Year-Olds Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Familiarize yourself with the safety standards of car seats for different ages and weights.
- Ensure that the car seat will fit in your vehicle, particularly if there are already seats in the back.
- Choose something that is as adjustable as possible. Continually check on the fit of your child in the car seat.
- Be sure the headrest is at the top of your child’s ears. It is a matter of force dispersion and ensures head and neck safety.
- Make sure that you change the seat when needed. Children grow and require different harnessing, headrest placement, and even the seat type.
- Use the cupholders, though keep maintenance needs in mind. Car seats are washable, though the process is time consuming.
- If you are using a blanket, put it over the top of the harness and never behind it.
- Make sure your child’s legs rest easily over the end of the car seat for both bone safety and their comfort.
Q: What car seat should a 4-year-old be in?
Depending on the height and weight of the specific 4-year-old, they should either be in a forward-facing or a booster seat. Since the weight and height factor into how the child is best protected from a car accident, it is essential to check the specifics of the car seat and your child.
Q: Is a booster seat legal for a 4-year-old?
Provided the child meets the height threshold and the weight parameters (over 40 pounds minimum), the child can safely go in a booster seat. This shifts the attachment from a harness to the car’s seat belt. If you are in doubt about making the switch, consult your pediatrician.
Q: Can a 4-year-old use a booster seat?
It all depends on the individual 4-year-old, their development, and how long until the child turns 5. Sometimes, children stay in forward-facing seats for longer, others switch to booster seats sooner. The essential consideration is making sure they meet the weight and height thresholds.
Q: Are backless booster seats safe?
It is more common to use a booster with a back for 4-year-olds. The safety is directly related to the height and weight of the child. There’s a car seat for every size, it is simply about finding the right one.
Now that you know the ins and outs of car seats for 4-year-olds, you can find the perfect fit. There is an option for everyone, like the GRACO Tranzitions Harness Booster Seat or the COSCO Finale Booster Car Seat for its excellent value.