My baby boy is growing up! With twins on the way, and with my son showing a lot of signs of booster readiness (I’ll get to that in a second) since starting kindergarten, it was time to transition Cub from his forward-facing harnessed seat to a high-backed booster.
Cub turned 5 in September, but on his birthday I would not have considered him ready to try a booster seat. Since starting kindergarten, I’ve see my little mama’s boy blossom: he’s more independent, more attentive and more mature overall than the first day I hugged him and put him on the school bus a mere three months ago. On his 5th birthday, maturity level notwithstanding, Cub would only have been barely tall enough to safely use the Spectrum.
- Weight range: 18–49.8 kg (40–110 lb)
- Height range: 112–145 cm (44–57 in)
- Age: minimum of 4 years old
Because I advocate starting a child in a booster later rather than sooner, I’m happy to note that it would be rare to find a 4-year-old who would be tall enough for this seat anyway. My son is taller than average, and at just over 5 years old he is only 113 cm (44.5 in) tall.
So let’s talk about this “booster readiness” I have been alluding to. Most boosters on the market state a minimum age for use of 4 years old. A 4-year-old who is mature enough to use a booster seat is a rare occurrence. I have never met one. This is why a parent’s common sense coupled with an evaluation of their child’s maturity is key to choosing whether to move to a booster seat once size requirements have been met.
My son at just over 5 might be ready, while your son who’s almost 6 might not be. It’s not a race! That being said, a booster seat is not inherently dangerous, or less safe than a harnessed seat. The best way to ensure your child is safe in their booster seat, aside from making sure they meet the size requirements and that the seat fits the child and your vehicle, is to ensure they have enough impulse control to sit properly in their booster:
Can your child …
- Sit up straight for the entire ride?
- Sit still for the entire ride?
- Avoid the temptation to unbuckle during the ride?
- Sit with the seat belt properly positioned (never tucking it behind their back or arm, for example)?
- Avoid the temptation to reach down to the floor for a dropped toy, or stretch over to the side to pester a sibling?
- Fall asleep without slumping? (Teach the child to look up as they fall asleep; this usually keeps their slumbering bodies properly positioned.)
Why do these things matter so much? Well, in a booster seat the child is in control of the fit of their seatbelt. If it isn’t fitting properly at the moment of collision, the risk of injury will increase. In a harnessed seat, the parent is in charge of correctly securing the harness, and (typically) the child is not able to unbuckle or wriggle out.
We have had to set very clear rules for my son. At first, I had to remind him to sit up straight. The Spectrum is an ergonomic, comfortable and very supportive booster, which makes it much easier for him to maintain a proper position. When he falls asleep, the cushioned head-wings help keep him upright.
When we are pulling into our garage, I’ve heard him unbuckle before I’ve parked. We have set out a very clear rule: unbuckle yourself before mommy is parked, and you’ll have to go back into your harnessed seat. Since I set this consequence, he waits until he hears me engage the parking brake before he unbuckles.
In all honesty, were it not for the impending twins, I wouldn’t mind leaving Cub in his harnessed seat for another year. But the fact that he can take on the responsibility of getting into and out of his booster will make packing all four kids into the (not-yet-purchased) minivan that little bit easier.
Whether or not your child can properly buckle themselves may depend on the placement of the buckle stalk in your car. Ours is almost flush with the seat, so it’s tricky for Cub to access. For now, I still do the buckling. I make sure to stretch the lap belt flat over his thighs, and tuck the lap belt under the belt guide near the buckle stalk. Then I pull the slack out at the shoulder belt and make sure it isn’t twisted as it passes through the shoulder belt guide at his neck.
The headrest on the Spectrum is adjustable: it should be placed so that the shoulder belt guides are level with the top of the child’s shoulders. You want to make sure the shoulder belt sits midway between the neck and the shoulder: not falling off the shoulder or cutting into the neck. Remember to adjust as your child grows!
Although it may seem like fitting a booster seat into your vehicle is easier than a harnessed seat, it is still important to try before you buy. Depending on the position of your vehicle’s shoulder belt, it may not work well with the shoulder belt guide of your chosen booster seat. (The seat belt may not retract properly, or may lock itself, for example.) Note that you have the option of tucking the shoulder belt under the belt guide or not: this will depend on your individual vehicle. If you get the best shoulder belt fit with the shoulder portion tucked under the guide (which is the case for us), tuck it under. Otherwise, it can go on top.
The Spectrum can be transformed into a backless booster when you and your child are ready. For the child’s comfort, I recommend leaving the back on for as long as possible. For many kids who start getting antsy about being “too old” for their booster, the simple act of turning their high-backed booster into a low-backed booster (which is more subtle and less likely to be remarked on by passing classmates) can assuage their worries … so keep this as a bargaining chip! For kids prone to falling asleep in the car, the backrest and head supports make for a much more comfortable and safe ride.
The Evenflo Spectrum does not attach to your vehicle in any way, which is like most booster seats. Some on the market can be secured used your vehicle’s Universal Anchorage System (UAS), but this serves only to keep an unoccupied booster from moving around your vehicle. Always buckle your Spectrum in when it is unoccupied, otherwise it could become a dangerous projectile in a collision.
Our favourite things about the Evenflo Spectrum:
- Super comfortable memory foam padding.
- Cup holders on either side for snacks, drinks and toys.
- Easy set up.
- Head-wings prevent slumping during naps.
- A very spacious seat, so wider bums are accommodated!
- Affordable seat that can be used in both high-back and no-back modes.
Things we like less:
- It’s a fairly wide and bulky seat, so may not be a good option if space is an issue or if you are trying to achieve three-across in your back seat.
- Doesn’t secure to the vehicle seat with UAS.
If you’re not sure if this booster is a good fit for your vehicle or child, contact a CPST near you!