Most children are ready to start using a 'toddler' car seat at about six months of age, until they transition into a 'booster' car seat at approximately 2 years of age. Toddler car seats are forward facing, and typically use a combination of the car's seat belts or a special anchoring system, and a separate harness, to secure the car seat and the child. Many toddler car seats allow the child to ride in either an upright or a reclined position, and some models raise the child up sufficiently to be able to easily see out of the vehicle's windows while in the upright position.
Toddler car seats come in three basic varieties: (1) those that can be used only as a toddler car seat, (2) those that can be used both as an infant car seat and a toddler car seat, and (3) those that can be used both as a toddler car seat and a booster car seat. Seats that are designed to be used in two different modes are called 'convertible' car seats.
Convertible infant/toddler car seats can be used for children from infancy (with the car seat in the rear facing position), into their toddler years (with the car seat turned around and used in the forward facing position), until they are ready for a booster car seat. In the rear facing mode, these types of car seats can typically be used with a child up to about 25 lbs, and then used in the forward facing position until the child reaches about 40 lbs. These types of car seats have a larger seat than an infant only car seat, and many come with padded inserts for use when the child is still small.
Convertible toddler/booster car seats are forward facing, and typically use both the car's seat belts and a separate harness during the 'toddler' stage, and just the car's seat belts during the 'booster' stage.
Quality car seats can be purchased over the Internet. You should make sure that you choose one that is correct for both your child, and for all of the vehicles that it will be used in. The Internet is a good place to look for information about car seats. You can find car seat reviews, recall information, and safety ratings, as well as manufacturers' recommendations, which can help you decide upon which car seats to consider. Car seat manufacturers have to meet very stringent guidelines, and you may find that more expensive seats do not provide any better level of protection than do less expensive seats. (Your should ensure that all car seats you may be considering have passed the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) test.)
Two other good sources for information about car seats are Consumer Reports magazine, and parent comments that are often posted on the Web sites of online retailers. These comments give information from actual car seat users and you can learn a great deal about things like how comfortable various seats are, and how easy they are to install and use.
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