Evenflo recently released a brand new booster seat to the Canadian market. After Evenflo announced the retirement of the much loved Big Kid AMP Booster last year, we have been eager to try its replacement, the GoTime Sport! So far, the kids we’ve had ride in this booster have given it two big thumbs up!

GoTime Sport Limits:

  • 40 – 120 lb (18 – 54.4 kg) in high back booster mode and backless booster mode
  • 44 – 57” (112 – 145 cm) in high back booster mode and backless booster mode
  • At least four years old**

**It is worth noting that only the tallest of four year olds will meet the height minimum of 44?, as 50th percentile kids don’t reach that height until age 5.5 — an excellent age to start thinking about boostering. Most kids don’t have the impulse control or maturity to properly and safely use a booster seat until 5.5-6 years old. Some might be ready sooner, and others not until later. It’s important not to rush this step.

GoTime Sport Important Info:

  • Expires six years from date of manufacture
  • Does not require a vehicle head restraint behind it
  • Highest belt guide position is 19”
  • Shoulder belt clip for use in backless booster mode
  • Machine washable and dry-able
  • MSRP $79.99

GoTime Sport Measurements:

  • Tallest shoulder belt guide position: 19”
  • Lowest shoulder belt guide position: 14”
  • Widest point (at cupholders and side wings): 19.25”
  • Width at the back (arm rest to arm rest): 14”
  • Internal width at shoulders: 12.5”
  • Internal width at hips: 11”
  • Depth of seat pan as high back booster: 13.75”
  • Depth of seat pan as backless booster: 15”


The Evenflo GoTime Sport ships in a relatively small box for a high back booster seat, much to my surprise! This is because the GoTime arrives disassembled. Assembly instructions can be found in the manual and additional assembly instructions are included on the “Troubleshooting Your GoTime Booster Assembly” supplement found in the box with the booster. Assembly is an 8 step process for the Canadian version of the GoTime Sport. Set aside a few minutes to read over the instructions in the manual and the additional assembly supplement carefully before getting started.

Especially important is not to miss the step for installing the booster inserts on the back of the GoTime. The booster inserts are mandatory and must be installed before using the GoTime booster in high back booster mode. It may be easy for parents and caregivers to miss this step as it comes after the last step of checking your work in the manual. Do continue reading on to the next page where the instructions for installing the booster inserts are outlined.

Booster inserts – cheekily nicknamed “bat wings” amongst techs getting to know this seat – line up roughly with a child’s shoulder blades, but are attached on the outside back of the seat.

Using the GoTime Sport

When used in high back booster mode, the head rest of the GoTime is easily adjusted. Simply squeeze the grey handle at the top of the head rest and pull up or push down until the shoulder belt guides are at or just above the child’s shoulders. With the GoTime, there’s no need to reach in behind the seat as the adjustment handle is accessible from the front of the head rest. The GoTime has seven headrest positions and the highest shoulder belt guide position is approximately 19”.

When your child has outgrown the shoulder belt guide height in high back booster mode, you can remove the back of the GoTime and continue using it as a backless booster. In backless booster mode, the GoTime has the same height and weight limits as it does in high back booster mode (44 to 57” or 40 to 120 lb). The GoTime comes with a shoulder belt clip for use in backless booster mode. This clip will help position the shoulder portion of the seatbelt properly over the child’s shoulder. It should be used if the shoulder belt fit is not optimal without it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cup holders on the GoTime. I know for some kids, cup holders can be the deciding factor in choosing their favourite seat. The GoTime has two cup holders that are part of the seat shell. That means they are not removable for washing. They are smooth on the inside though which makes wiping them out easy enough.

Fit to Vehicle

We tried the Evenflo GoTime Sport in a 2017 Nissan Versa Note, 2019 BMW X4, 2016 BMW X5, 2014 Honda Odyssey, 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan with Stow & Go, 2014 Honda CRV, 2015 Toyota Sienna, and 2022 Tesla Model 3.

As the Evenflo GoTime Sport is quite a bit wider than its predecessor, it’s unlikely to be a top pick for tight seating situations (like fitting two seats side by side or fitting three across). That being said, it is narrower in the back than at the front which may allow it to fit well in sport-style vehicle seats that might have more pronounced side bolsters in the outboard seats.

The Booster Inserts (aka bat wings) on the GoTime will keep this booster sitting more upright in some vehicles. In vehicles with seats that are naturally more reclined, the GoTime only seemed a little more upright than other boosters we’ve tried. In vehicles with relatively upright vehicle seats, it was definitely noticeable that the booster was sitting quite upright. An added bonus of these booster inserts is that in vehicles with fixed or forward leaning head restraints, it’s unlikely those vehicle head restraints will make contact with the GoTime or push it forward at all. That’s great news for those with forward leaning head restraints that must remain in place.

If you have a middle vehicle seat with an arm rest or cup holder that pulls down from the seat back, you may find that the booster inserts of the GoTime sink into the seams/edges of that stored arm rest/cup holder assembly in the vehicle seat back. I found this to be the case in a 2017 Nissan Versa Note where the width of the booster inserts just happened to perfectly match the width of the arm rest/cup holder pull down when it was stored in the seat back. The GoTime booster inserts did sink into the seat back in this vehicle, but after sending photos to Evenflo, this was given the okay. This was a non-issue in the other vehicles I tried the GoTime in as the booster inserts didn’t line up perfectly with those middle seat arm rests/cup holders in the other vehicles.

We were pleased to see that the GoTime Sport fit so nicely in the 2022 Tesla Model 3. It has been challenging to find booster seats that work well in this vehicle as it has fixed forward leaning head rests, pronounced side bolsters, and recessed fixed buckle stalks. The narrow back of the GoTime Sport base meant it did not sit on top of the buckle and it left lots of room for easy buckling. The Booster Inserts (aka bat wings) kept the GoTime well in front of the vehicle head rest so there was no interference.

The only difficulty we experienced with the GoTime in any of these vehicles was in the third row outboard seats of the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan – known for its notoriously challenging seat belt geometry. In the outboard positions (driver side and passenger side), belt retraction was poor. That means that when the child leans forward slowly (nose to knees) and then sits back upright quickly, the shoulder portion of the seatbelt lagged behind the child and remained loose. Good belt retraction is a key component of proper booster fit, and we want to see that shoulder belt stay with the child’s torso and remain snug against their body when they sit back upright. For this reason, we would not recommend using the Evenflo GoTime Sport in the 3rd row outboard seats of this generation Dodge Grand Caravan, or in any other vehicle seating position where retraction is poor.

As with any new car seat or booster seat you intend to purchase for your children and your vehicle, we recommend trying it out before buying.

GoTime Sport High Back Booster

We recommend that children remain in their high back booster until they outgrow it. Belt fit in a booster, whether that’s a high back or a backless, is key to booster fit. In our experience, belt fit is best in a high back booster. Regardless of whether your child is riding in a high back booster or a backless booster, proper belt fit is the same: the lap belt should be low across the thighs and hips, and the shoulder belt needs to make contact with the chest, cross the collarbone, and sit centred on the shoulder.

The advantage to a high back booster seat, especially for new booster riders, is that the back of the booster provides a physical reminder to the child to sit upright for the whole ride, every ride. The headwings also help prevent a child who has fallen asleep from slumping or leaning out of position. If you have a child who still sleeps in the car, teach them to look up at the ceiling of the vehicle when they feel sleepy. This will help ensure they remain upright in their high back booster seat even if they fall asleep. The headwings and sidewings of the GoTime Sport Booster are nice and deep, providing great support to keep a child properly positioned and minimizing the likelihood a child can lean side to side out of position.

Our GoTime Sport testers are 6 years old, 46lb, and 48″; 7 years old, 47lb, and 47″; 8 years old, 52lb, and 50″; and 10 years old, 62lb, and 53″. (Special thanks to Lindsay of Car Seat Cubs for sharing her 6 year old GoTime tester with us.) All four of our testers can still use the GoTime Sport in high back booster mode. The 10 year old needs the headrest in the highest of the 7 positions, but the 6 and 7 year olds have lots of room to grow.

Despite their depth, none of our testers found the headwings to feel confining. They found the cover to be comfortable, even for longer drives, and I’d have to agree. The padding does feel soft and squishy and I can’t press down and easily feel the hard shell of the seat through the seat pad.

Buckling up the GoTime is really simple. The armrests are surprisingly short making the routing for the seatbelt quite open. This made it easier for our 7 year old tester to buckle himself into the seat (something he still needs help with in other boosters). There’s an indentation under the armrests that the seatbelt nestles into, ensuring it’s not going anywhere during the drive.

The GoTime Sport’s seat pan in high back booster mode has a nice depth. It’s not so deep that the 7 year old’s knees can’t bend nicely over the edge of the booster, but it’s not so shallow that the 10 year old’s thighs feel unsupported. It’s a great balance.

Belt fit at the shoulder was excellent for our testers. Our 7 year old tester has narrower shoulders, and finding a booster that positions the shoulder belt centred on his shoulder has been a bit of a challenge. No problems here with the GoTime. Belt retraction is also excellent in high back booster mode for both children in the majority of the vehicles we tried (see my note above regarding the 3rd row outboard seats of the Dodge Grand Caravan).

Although the GoTime Sport does look to be more upright in high back booster mode than other boosters, none of our testers complained about this. The overall comfort of the seat certainly seemed to outweigh the more upright seating position.

GoTime Sport Backless Booster

I quite like the Evenflo GoTime Sport in backless booster mode, and our 10 year old tester does too. As a backless booster, the GoTime is comfortable and supportive. The seat pan is fairly deep at 15”, offering plenty of support for a child’s thighs.

Our 10 year old tester still has 4” to grow before he’s outgrown the height limit of the GoTime in backless booster mode. With a maximum height limit of 57” (or 4’9”) the GoTime should get many kids to the height where they can ride safely using the adult seat belt without a booster. In general, kids need a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” and they pass the 5-step test for seat belt readiness. You should expect your child to need a booster of some kind until they are between 10 and 12 years old. At 53” tall, our 10 year old tester has some time before he’ll be ready to ride without a booster seat. Some kids will need a booster seat beyond 57” before they can safely 5-step in their vehicle, so it would be nice if the GoTime had a higher standing height limit than 57”. That being said, boosters with a higher standing height limit are few and far between.

Our 10 year old tester does not need to use the shoulder belt clip with the GoTime in backless booster mode. Belt fit across the shoulder is good without that clip. Our 7 year old tester, on the other hand, does need that shoulder belt clip. Our 7 year old tester is a couple years away from riding in a backless booster on a regular basis, but for testing purposes we tried him in the GoTime in backless mode. Belt fit is great with the shoulder belt clip for him, and he found the seat comfortable.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Evenflo GoTime Sport is a great replacement for the Evenflo Big Kid AMP. Its open belt path makes routing and buckling the seatbelt a breeze, even for new booster riders. The cover feels plush and comfy and even long drives garnered no complaints about comfort from our testers. The seven head rest positions provide a fit that grows with your child, allowing the seat to be used in high back booster mode for a good long time. Though we would prefer to see a top height for the shoulder belt guide that’s higher than 19” for this high back booster, it was more than sufficient for our testers. Our own 10 year old tester has not yet outgrown the back of the GoTime Sport, though he has long legs and a slightly shorter than average torso. The cup holders and sidewings of the GoTime Sport are fairly wide at 19.25” making this a booster that’s less likely to fit side by side with another seat or three across. With that limitation in mind, we still think the GoTime Sport booster is a great choice. The Evenflo GoTime Sport retails for $79.99 which makes it a nice price point for a long lasting booster that fits well in most vehicles.

Also available is the Evenflo GoTime LX. The difference between the Sport and the LX, according to Evenflo is minimal. “The use, child fit and key features are consistent between the two. The big differences are primarily aesthetics of hard goods and soft goods (which is easier to see when the product is side-by-side.”

Your chance to win one!

Thank you to Evenflo for providing the GoTime Sport used in this review. All comments are our own.

Also thank you to Evenflo for offering one up to our readers! Enter for your chance to win an Evenflo GoTime LX in Chardon Black fashion. Use the widget below to enter.


About the author:

Originally from Vancouver, Stefanie spent twelve years in Calgary and moved back to BC with her family in 2018. A CPST since 2017, she now lives in Victoria with her cat, husband, and two boys (aged 10 and 7). Stefanie is available for in-person car seat checks in Victoria. You can book with her right here.

Chicco released the MyFit onto the Canadian market in June 2020, and we purchased one so that we could check it out and share our thoughts with you. This was just after much of Canada cautiously emerged from round one of lockdowns and things were starting to open back up. We thought we’d get this review out soon.

Reader…it was not soon.

But here we are, happy to report that the MyFit is a really wonderful option, and is high on our list of recommended seats. Keep reading to see if it might work for you!

The Chicco (pronounced Key-Ko, for real) MyFit is a forward-facing only seat that later converts to a high back booster. It is appropriate for kids who are at least two years old and forward-facing. The specific fit requirements are as follows:

In harness mode:

  • At least 2 years old
  • 25 – 65 lbs (11.4 – 29.5 kgs)
  • 54” (137 cm) tall or less

In booster mode:

  • At least 4 years old
  • 40 – 100 lbs (18 – 45.3 kgs)
  • 38” – 57” (97 – 145 cm) tall
  • Able to sit tall and straight at all times (for most kids this is closer to age 6)

Measurements and features:

  • Torso height in harness mode: ~12.5” – 19.5”
  • Torso height in booster mode: ~13.5” – 20.5”
  • Width at widest point:
    • 17.5” at the shoulders
    • 17” at the base and arm rests
  • Two crotch buckle positions
  • Nine headrest/harness height positions
  • Four recline positions and bubble recline indicators to fit a good range of vehicle seat shapes (not for discretionary recline)
  • Premium, push-on UAS connectors
  • Integrated shoulder belt lock-off for seat belt installation
  • Removable harness pads and crotch pad
  • Flexible and foldable cup holders
  • Built-in storage compartment for harness system while using booster mode
  • Use lower anchors to secure the seat when in booster mode (optional)
  • Expires 8 years from date of purchase (with proof of purchase) or 8 years from date of manufacture
  • MSRP of $400 but often on sale for $330 or so; available at Canadian Tire, sometimes at Amazon.ca, often at boutique retailers

Things we love about this seat (spoiler alert – a lot, we 🧡 this seat):

  • It has one of the tallest standing height limits in harness mode of any seat currently available – a super choice for tall or long-torsoed kids, or those who need to be harnessed for longer than average
  • It is narrow – a great option for a 3-across situation
  • It has a lock-off, which makes seat belt installation easier
  • It has very nice finishing details and a polished feel
  • It has a really smooth adjuster mechanism, making it easy to tighten the harness

Things we don’t love (minor things):

  • The manual is bilingual, but all mashed together. Every line alternates between English and French, making it very distracting to read and follow along. Caregivers will miss things, it’s bad. It helped to cover most of the page and read line by line to ensure we didn’t miss important details. Some readers may prefer to acquire a PDF of this manual and do a CTRL+F for keywords. It’s that distracting. #WhyChiccoWhy?
  • Interference with vehicle head restraints in harness and booster modes may be an issue. This is a vehicle issue more than a seat issue, but will make this seat incompatible in many vehicles with forward-leaning or non-removable head restraints, and is a problem common among seats in this category.

Since we are slow getting this review published and the seat has been on the market for some time, we are able to provide feedback from a broad range of CPSTs as well as from a parent struggling to make 3-across work in their vehicle. Yes, we are rationalizing our tardiness, shhhh.


  • Extremely well-liked by CPSTs – we are a tough bunch but this one tops the list of many CPSTs
  • The lock-offs are nice and easy to use – although not obvious if you aren’t familiar with them (hint: always read the manual, even if you think you know what you are doing!)
  • The harness is easy to tighten, and in the words of many techs who’v had their hands on it, the smoothest harness they’ve ever had the pleasure to tighten
  • The harness length is great – it fits bigger, taller kids without running out of harness, so the max height and weight limits aren’t inflated
  • The crotch area and adjustability of the crotch buckle position is roomy enough to accommodate larger kids comfortably
  • Little details make a big impression: the crotch buckle pad doesn’t pull off constantly, the foldable cup holders are genius in tight seating situations, the head rest is easy to adjust up and down while the seat is installed (not always the case with no-rethread harnesses, sadly)
  • Age 2 to forward face and age 4 booster minimum are appreciated; we’d advocate for later on both of those transition points because it’s important not to rush the stages but those are very good minimums on a seat like this.

If you need extra width you can easily squash the cupholders inside themselves to save space – so smart! Chicco is known to refer to them as “cup folders” – I do love a good play on words. The puppy insisted on checking it out.

Parent report:

A family of five was looking for a car seat that would work in a tight 3-across in an 2013 Acura MDX. On the verge of having to consider a new vehicle to accommodate the growing children (and my goodness, have you seen the used vehicle market lately, ouch!), the MyFit saved the day, particularly the lock-off. The MyFit was nestled in between two Clek Foonfs, and feels sturdy even when the littlest kids have to climb over it to access their own seats. 

The six year old who now rides in this seat noticed that it sits a lot lower than the Clek Foonf he was used to, but he finds it comfortable and likes the arm rests and the dual cup holders. Pro tip: even when a child is booster ready it is often easier for everyone to keep them harnessed because boosters take up a lot of space.

This family likes that it looks good with their other seats, and that the polish and finish on it is well done. It feels sturdy and is easy to use for all of the kids. Grandma finds it simple to tighten and loosen – the strategic orange markings are appreciated. They liked their first one so much they bought a second.

Jen’s report:

  • I have always loved the Chicco KeyFit rear-facing only seat and had high hopes for this seat, and it lived up to my high expectations, thank goodness.
  • A much-needed slim but tall seat for our market. Options for a seat to accommodate kids over 49″ tall are hard to come by.
  • It can be a little bit finicky to find the sweet spot for recline and positioning when installing but once you find it, it’s golden. Goes in easily and stays put.
  • Smooth harness adjuster – like butter!
  • If you have protruding, forward-leaning, non-removable, or non-adjustable head restraints in your vehicle then this seat may not be a great option. It will depend on the severity of the lean, so you will want to do your research in advance or try the installed MyFit at *all head rest heights* before you buy to make sure it will work for you throughout the life of the seat. 
  • Booster fit is reliable
  • The process to convert to booster mode is not difficult, but it is made worse by the horribly bilingual manual. I liked how all of the pieces tucked away in the seat. I never liked using a harnessed seat converted to booster mode for my own kids – I always preferred a dedicated booster seat and so did they – but I know not everyone feels the same way. So relatively speaking it’s neat and tidy when converted. However, a tip: if you follow the instructions and put the harness cover pads into the little storage cubby, and then LOSE THEM IN THE DEPTHS OF THE SEAT and start to panic because how on earth will you retrieve them, take a breath. Sit the seat upright and recline it to the most reclined position, and then reach under the seat pan. That should give you enough space to find the missing harness cover. Or better yet, don’t even put them there. Store them in a ziploc with the manual, in your glove box.

Thank you to the parents, kids, and CPSTs who contributed their thoughts and photos to this review! 

As with any seat we really recommend trying before you buy – try a friend’s, test yourself at a store, or go to a store with a CPST on staff (or hire one to go with you!) to help you shop for seat that will be perfect for your child and your car.

Jen Shapka lives in Winnipeg with her kids, husband, and dog, who does not much like to swim. She visits Lake Winnipeg often, and pretends it is the ocean. You can often find her running, teaching CPST courses for CPSAC, and trying to get her kids to clean their rooms. She has been a CPST for 11 years.

We’ve written before here and here about flying with harnessed seats, but what to do if your kids are in booster seats?

Jen recently flew with her 6.5yo and 9yo, the first time without any harnessed seats, and here are some words of wisdom from a seasoned traveler.

Decide if a booster seat is a good choice for your child(ren) at your destination. Some factors to consider:

  • Is your child a practiced booster rider? A vacation is probably not the best time to start teaching your mature (usually 5.5-6+) 40+lb child how to sit properly at all times. Not when your not-so-wee one is tired, perhaps in a different time zone, or excited about the trip and unable to sit still. If a booster is on your radar for future travels start teaching your child well in advance so you have plenty of time to assess.
  • Will your destination involve long drives? Is your child likely to fall asleep in the car? If so then a booster might not be a good choice, especially if your child is still new to boosters.
  • How confident and practiced are you at assessing seat belt fit, and/or installing car seats? Is your vehicle at your destination a known entity, or is it a rental car? How flexible will you (and any traveling companions) be if the first rental car you are offered isn’t a good fit with your seats, and you need to unload everyone and start over?

I flew in December and chose to take a harnessed seat on the plane for my 6yo, and a booster for my 9yo. Although the 6yo is in a booster most of the time at home I knew that we’d have some long days of driving at our destination, and combined with the lack of sleep that goes with holiday traveling, she would not do well in a booster. My prediction was proven correct after a wicked meltdown and then a car nap on the first day, both very unlike her. Had she been in a booster seat we wouldn’t have been able to keep driving safely. Everything is hard when you’re tired.

This more recent trip didn’t involve nearly as much driving at our destination, and the flight was shorter and only through one time zone. I decided a high back booster would be suitable, and my partner is very used to me being rather picky with rental cars, so I knew my decision would be supported if I needed to switch to a different car at the airport.

For this trip I chose to bring a Harmony Youth Booster for the 9yo, and a Harmony Dreamtime Elite for the 6yo. These seats are both excellent choices for travel and everyday use because they provide consistently excellent seat belt fit, are lightweight, fit well in most cars, and are easy for my kids to use. Extra bonus, they are inexpensive. The regular price of the backless is about $20, and the high back is $55.

Unlike harnessed seats that can be installed on an aircraft seat, booster seats aren’t used on the aircraft. So bringing them takes a bit of planning.

There are two stages to my planning here:

  1. How will I get the seats to my destination undamaged?
  2. How will I make sure that my seats will wind up at the same place I’m going to?

The back of the Dreamtime Elite detaches from the base and fits easily into a large suitcase. I packed my clothes under, around, and on top of it. I’ll spare you the sight of my knickers and delicates, but you get the idea. It adds very little weight to the suitcase, and I was confident that any damage at our destination would be visible. It is always possible that my suitcase could go missing though, which is why part 2 is important.

Booster seats can’t be used in flight, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come into the cabin with us. I popped the boosters into cloth bags with handles that my kids could carry themselves…or let’s be honest, that I could carry after they got tired. Even laden down with other things I could still slide the bag’s handle onto my arm.

Once through security and on board the aircraft they fit easily into the overhead bins. Single seats also fit easily under the seat in front of me. I didn’t put them in the sizer but they aren’t big. Here are two stacked together with room to spare. My kids are big enough to fit comfortably into the airplane seats, and the seat belt can be properly tightened on them, which is also a factor when deciding on harness vs booster.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t want my 6yo in a backless booster. Since it’s impractical to carry the booster back onto the airplane (if it would even be permitted, which I doubt), I was comfortable packing it well into my suitcase and hoping it showed up. I had the booster bottom with me, so if needed, could have used that until the suitcase showed up.

And that’s it! We had a successful trip, and hope your future travels are smooth…bon voyage!

Some folks like to buy seats that are well-suited for travel. If you are considering a travel-specific/back-up seat purchase there are a few great options in all categories. This is not an exhaustive list and chances are good that the seat you own will work with some planning. The ones here are listed because they are narrow, lightweight, and inexpensive.

Rear-facing only (infant) seats – most install fairly easily without the base, and fit well on many airplane seats. Check your manual for instructions about aircraft installation.

Convertible seats – go to options include the Evenflo Titan 65/SureRide or Evenflo Sonus (for use rear facing and forward facing), and the Cosco Scenera NEXT rear facing. Both are lightweight, and compatible with the vast majority of vehicles. The Sonus sits low enough that the tray table can come down and be used by a forward-facing child.

Combination seats – Harmony Defender, Evenflo Maestro, and Graco Tranzitions are great options to start with.

Dedicated booster seats – remember that these can’t be used on the plane! But great options that are easy to swap between vehicles, and are lightweight and easy to transport include the Graco Turbobooster, Graco TakeAlong, Graco RightGuide, Graco Affix, Harmony Dreamtime, Harmony Youth Booster, Evenflo Amp, and Diono backless boosters.

Jen is a mom of two, about to move across the country (again), and a Child Passenger Safety Technician – Instructor Trainer who recently attended a course in Charlotte, NC all about Safe Travel for All Children: Transporting Children with Special Healthcare Needs.


Updated December 2019.

A quick and dirty run through of how to make sure your boostered kids are as safe as can be! Want to read in more detail? Start here. Do you drive other kids? Send yours with others for a carpool? This might be handy.

Don’t Rush In. Don’t rush to get your child out of a 5-point harness and into a booster seat. It is not a milestone that you want to celebrate early. Prematurely moving to a booster is a very high-risk time for injuries. Boosters do much more than just enable a child to see out the window. They reduce fatalities by ensuring proper belt fit, and also reduce injuries for the same reason. Life-altering, debilitating injuries.

Maturity Matters. How’s your child’s impulse control? Do siblings squabble in the back seat? Is your child fidgety or wiggly (who can say no to that)? Once in a booster seat the child becomes responsible for their own safety. They must sit with their bum scooted back. They must not wiggle. They must not lean. They must not mess with the belt. They must remember to do this the entire ride and not get distracted and forget. Even when asleep. And that is really really hard to do until kids are at least 5 or 6, sometimes older. “Forgetting” at a crucial moment could have disastrous consequences.

AnielainboosterThink “B” – Boosters are for Bones and not Bellies. Feel for your hip bones (for real, right now); that is where the lap belt should make contact when properly seated in a well-fitting booster seat, and preferably low and under them. If the belt is riding up on the belly when you crash, you risk something nasty called seat belt syndrome. The seat belt has nothing hard (hip bones) to contact and instead causes major damage in the abdomen and through to the spinal cord. Not good. Shoulder belt fit matters too – BONES again. Collarbone to be precise. Not on the neck or face, and not off the shoulder. Centered nicely on the strong parts of the body and touching the chest.

Lap/Shoulder Belts ONLY. Never, ever, ever just a lap belt. If you need to rearrange who sits where to ensure the boostered child gets the lap/shoulder belt please do. Lap belts are handy to install car seats with but they’re nowhere near as safe as a lap/shoulder belt for anyone else to use. Avoid them.

Weight. No Canadian booster seat can be used with a child under 40 lbs (18 kg for you metric users). Some have a higher minimum weight limit and a max as high as 120 lbs! Kids must also be consistently 40 lbs to safely use a booster. Not 40 lbs dressed in heavy boots and all their clothes before using the bathroom and after a big meal. Nope, not enough of a buffer. Ensure that a child is holding that weight before moving to a booster.

Go Shopping Together. With your child and with your car. Try booster seats out to check for good belt fit. Does the booster sit properly in the vehicle? Is the belt able to be buckled properly? If your child leans a bit (not ideal, but we all do it) does the shoulder belt retract back without hanging up and causing slack? Have your child try. Most kids who are ready to ride in a booster are also ready to learn to buckle themselves. How’s the lap belt fit? How’s the shoulder belt fit? If at first you don’t find the perfect combination try and try again. Here are a few we often recommend.

manualsMisc Bits and Features. Your booster seat will come with a manual. Read it. Find out what those miscellaneous bits and pieces are that came with it. Find out how to use any special features on your seat like lower anchors or a belt guide. Find out how to wash the cover. And then store that manual somewhere handy (like the glove box) so you can easily double check if you forget something.

Head Support. This can come in the form of a high-back booster (that has the added benefit of often providing superior shoulder belt fit and a place to rest a sleeping head), or a vehicle head restraint (head rest). All boostered kids require head support up to at least the tops of their ears (adults too by the way). Some high-back booster seats require a vehicle head restraint in behind them too. How will you know? Read the manual of course!

belt routing diagramBelt Routing. Every booster seat comes with this nifty little picture on the side called a belt-routing diagram. Study it. Show it to your child. Teach your child proper belt routing, and practice, so that if they ever ride with someone else they will know how and not have to rely on an adult who doesn’t. Not all booster seats have arm rests, and not all seats route the belt the same way. If your child is riding in an unfamiliar booster they should look for this diagram and follow it. Tips for carpool drivers/riders here.

Don’t Rush Out. Don’t be in a hurry to move your child out of the booster seat and into the adult seat belt alone. Again a high risk of injury if done prematurely. Teach your child the Five Step Test. Teach them to advocate for their own safety and be able to evaluate if the adult seat belt fits them. Teach them why they might still need one through age 10-11+…that nasty seat belt syndrome again. Most provinces and territories have booster laws that end well before most kids will actually fit the adult seat belt but remember that bare minimum laws are just that. Provincial and territorial laws also require the adult seat belt to fit properly and that part is often glossed over or misunderstood. We advocate for way more than the minimums!

Update December 2019.

We developed this decision making tool (scroll down – the link is at the bottom!) with the help of a wonderful CPST and parent, after she experienced frustration and anxiety while wondering if her child would be safely seated in someone else’s vehicle for a school field trip.  We did some research and discovered there’s a wide range of policies regarding school transportation in BC and beyond, leaving kids potentially unsafe and parent drivers and school boards in a risky position from a liability perspective.

Sometimes the answer is a school bus, which eliminates much of the worry for older kids, but for those with tiny kindergarten kids even bus-riding can pose some challenges. Please be in touch if you have bus questions.

This tool is a yes/no decision-making tree and can be used for field trips where there are parent drivers, carpool situations, or any transportation scenario.  It’s quick and to the point, and easy to follow.  It focuses primarily on school-aged kids but doesn’t break down how to determine if a child ought to be rear- or forward-facing in a harness — that’s just too much to cover with this one simple tool.  Page 2 of the Tree shows examples of good and poor belt fit — thank you to M. Robertson for the artwork.

Please share and reproduce it. Please ask questions if you have a particular transportation scenario that is challenging — maybe we can find a seating solution you haven’t considered.  It’s very difficult to cover every possibility in a chart like this but DOES address booster or belt very well, from a best practice perspective.

Other helpful resources you can look at here are our list of favourite booster seats, a breakdown of the 5-step test for seat belt readiness, a descriptive article to guide you when deciding on a harness or a booster, and a visual of what a good booster fit looks like versus a poor one.


Click on the below link to open the Decision Making Tool as a pdf:

Decision Making Tool


Updated December 2019.

Want a quicker ‘Top Ten’ read? Click here.

When my oldest was meeting the so-called milestone of age four, and reaching the magical weight of 40 lbs, I started getting surprised looks and inquiring remarks about when she would be out of her ‘baby seat’ and into a booster. Yikes – I only just turned her forward facing a few months earlier! She wouldn’t be boostered for a while for our family — a year to a year and a half I thought — but with boostering on the horizon, I started to pay more attention to what boosters are out there and what the fit is like…and why fit matters so much.

The transition from a forward-facing harnessed seat to use of the adult seat belt is a period of surprisingly high misuse.  Many 40 lb kids are in poorly fitting backless boosters without adequate head support — putting them at tremendous risk for spinal injuries, head injuries, and internal injuries. I consider age five a minimum for boostering, with many kids not ready until age six or seven.  Four year olds — and certainly not three or two year olds — are simply not mature enough for a booster, and their little bodies aren’t ready for the added strain of only three contact points of a seat belt versus the five in a five-point harness.

I prefer to see kids start in a high-back booster and then move to a backless after a few years once the novelty of boostering has worn off. Read more about harnessed seats that convert to good boosters, and the different types of dedicated boosters.

What is the legal minimum?

In British Columbia (as in many other provinces and territories) a child may not ride in a booster until they are 40 lbs, the belt fits them properly while doing so, AND they wear it properly at all times.  A boostered child must use a lap/shoulder belt and never a lap belt only.  BC, just like every other region in Canada, is a ‘proper use’ province, meaning that not only does a child need to meet the minimum height and weight limits, they must USE the restraint properly at all times.  That means no leaning over, no belt behind the back or under the arm, no unbuckling, no slumping.  Ever.  We like to call it developmentally ready – some kids have it at five, many by six, most by seven.  If they’re not mature enough to remain in position at all times, even when sleeping, they should remain harnessed in a seat suitable for their height and weight.

It’s fairly easy to get a child’s proportions and know that they will fit in a harnessed seat, and for how long, both rear- and forward-facing.  How well a car seat might fit in the car is another matter entirely though, and it surprises many to learn that booster fit is even less predictable. It varies greatly from child to child, vehicle to vehicle, and even in different seating positions in the same vehicle.

How do booster seats work with the adult seat belt?

First – note the emphasis on adult here. Seat belts are designed to fit adult bodies, and children are not just mini adults. Boosters work by positioning the child so the adult seat belt fits properly over the strongest parts of the body.  The lap belt must be low across the pelvis/hips and the shoulder belt must lie across the collarbone, making contact with the chest.

The seat depth of a booster is shorter than a vehicle seat so the child’s knees will bend comfortably rather than slouching, which contributes to proper belt fit.  Slouching causes the shoulder belt to rub against the neck or lie over the face, and causes the lap belt to ride up onto the soft abdomen.

Some boosters do a poor job of positioning one or both of the lap and shoulder belts, and knowing what to look for when booster shopping is a very important part of injury prevention.  If you don’t want to have to re-buckle the booster seat back in when it’s not occupied (so it’s not a projectile for you), pick a booster that can be UAS-ed (latched) into the vehicle.

Are you a visual learner? This short movie shows the difference between a child in a booster versus just the seat belt (it’s informative, but not gory).


What matters for booster fit?

Booster fit is further complicated by quirks of vehicles – awkward buckle stalks, belt geometry that doesn’t work with a particular booster, head restraints that don’t adjust or angle forward, or no head restraint at all.

Booster riders MUST have head support up to at least the tops of their ears.  This is complicated by the fact that some BOOSTERS require in-vehicle head support up that far too, so if you have an older vehicle with a bench seat and no head restraints, or head restraints that interfere with the top of the booster, you’ll need to shop carefully for a booster that doesn’t need a head restraint behind it, AND fits your child well.

The reverse of having an underage 40 lb child in a booster is having an underweight seven year old in a booster. Legally that seven year old must still be harnessed, and despite the potential issues with peers, that child is not safe or legal at 38 or 39 lbs in a booster. There is an increased risk of submarining (sliding under the lap belt) and ejection; both result in poor outcomes.

Won’t a booster fit more easily in my car?

Parents with three kids in the back seat are often anxious to move one child to a booster to make the three-across situation more pleasant.  The reverse is usually true, as it’s extremely hard to buckle a booster seat in a tight situation.  In that scenario, keeping a child harnessed as long as possible usually results in far fewer scraped knuckles and frustrated kids.

How do I choose a booster seat?

When booster shopping, think carefully.  Is your child ready for the responsibility of a booster?  Then take them shopping with you and try them in your vehicle, in each position.  Make sure there’s a lap/shoulder belt where the child will be, and that there is a vehicle head restraint if the booster requires it.  If your child is on the younger side of booster readiness (five-six) aim for a high back.  If your vehicle doesn’t have a head restraint, get a high back that doesn’t need support.  If your child is older, and there’s a head restraint in the vehicle, a backless is probably fine but make sure the belt fits well either way.

When is a booster seat outgrown?

When a child reaches the stated height limit or weight limit, when the belt guide is no longer at or slightly above the shoulder in a high back booster, or when the tips of the ears reach the top of the shell in a combination seat or 3-in-1 seat converted to booster mode.  Read your manual carefully to know what steps need to be taken to convert a harnessed seat to booster mode, as all seats are different.

Don’t rush a child out of a booster either – in BC (other provinces vary) a child must remain in a booster until they are at least age nine or 4’9″ tall, but more importantly, make sure the adult seat belt fits them once they reach that stage.  Continuing to booster past that is preferred if the belt fits them better with the booster than without, so long as the child remains within the weight and height restrictions of their particular booster.  If the belt doesn’t fit properly, the child is not protected.

Too many choices. Where do I start?

And now, the shopping part.  To make that a bit easier, we’ve narrowed down the options, but it’s only a starting point. Conversely, a booster not on this list might work just fine for your child in your car, and if the belt fits well then go for it! We can’t guarantee that these boosters will fit your child and your car well, but they’re a great place to start. Read about our favourite dedicated booster seats here.