What is forward facing? Child passengers ride facing the front of the vehicle in a seat with a 5-point harness. It is often shortened to FF, also referred to as Stage 2.
Why do children ride forward facing? For older children who have outgrown their larger, convertible rear-facing car seat, It is the best way to protect the small bodies of children who still need the 5-point harness.
Cars and car seats are designed to best protect passengers in the most common and most frequently fatal types of crashes: frontal or front offset (front corner) crashes.
When child passengers ride in a 5-point harness car seat that faces the front of the vehicle, the 5-point harness spreads the crash forces onto the strongest parts of the body, and the top tether holds the top of the car seat back.
Best practice is to keep a child forward facing until they are old enough, heavy enough, and mature enough to safely ride in a booster seat with an adult seat belt. Bare minimum depends on the province, in addition to how the seat is labeled. Some require a higher age or weight minimum to forward face.
Who MUST ride forward facing? Children who have outgrown their larger, convertible car seat and who meet the minimums to do so in their province, must ride forward facing. Children who are not yet old enough, heavy enough, or mature enough to safely use a booster seat must ride forward facing.
Who MAY ride forward facing? Provincial rules and individual seat requirements vary, but generally anyone who is 22 lbs (10 kg) or more, and/or over one year of age, may ride forward facing. Almost all kids in almost all seats can safely ride forward facing until at least age 5.
Younger children often can continue to ride rear facing until age 2, 3, or even 4. It is considered best practice for a child to remain rear facing until they meet the limits of the larger, convertible seat. Almost all kids can safely remain rear facing in almost all seats until at least age 2.
How can kids ride forward facing? They can ride forward facing in a variety of types of seats.
Convertible: Convertible car seats are also called infant/child seats or stage 1/2 seats. This is because they convert from rear facing to forward facing. See our favourites here.
Combination: Combination car seats are also called child/booster seats or stage 2/3 seats. This is because they combine forward-facing with a 5-point harness with a belt-positioning booster later on. Sometimes these are called harnessed boosters, but that term refers to two very different mechanisms and is not a term we use. See our favourites here.
3-in-1: 3-in-1s might be called a multi-mode seat, all-in-ones, infant/child/booster seats, or stage 1/2/3 seats. They tend to have three modes, including rear facing, forward facing, and booster. Some manufacturers differentiate between rear facing for infants and rear facing for toddlers, and may also differentiate between high back boosters and backless boosters. Phew – that’s a lot to wade through, we know. We group our favourites together with convertibles and you can see them here.
No really, how?
Forward-facing seats require the use of a tether, sometimes called a top tether or tether strap. This very important piece of equipment helps to hold the top of the car seat back in a frontal crash, which helps protect the child’s head from injury. Read more about tethers here.
I have questions.
How do I find out about what car seat to buy? How do I find someone to help me install my seat?
Please ask us. Or ask another CPST near you. We tend to get to questions on our Facebook page more quickly than anywhere else, but if you don’t do social media please reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would be delighted to help you choose an appropriate seat that fits your family’s needs.