With the end of the summer and the arrival of September, preparations for the return to school get underway in most homes: new textbooks, school material, backpacks, uniforms… Everything is new and there doesn't seen to be enough time, and many parents are faced with the decision of whether to change their child restraint system: children grow so quickly and it's possible that the regular seat may have become a bit tight.
Nevertheless, as a general rule a new school year doesn't necessarily mean you have to change your current CRS. This is only determined by your child's physical development. Basically, it's just the same as a pair of sneakers: while they're still in a good condition your child can use them until their feet have grown enough to buy a new pair in a bigger size. While your child restraint system is in the optimum condition and there are no other problems that might make a change advisable, there is no need to get a new one just yet.
Continuing the analogy with a pair of sneakers for school, it's possible that your child stopped using them over the summer in favor of a different type of shoe, and the surprise comes when they come to put them back on for the new term: their feet have grown so much that they have become completely unserviceable. This won't happen with the CRS as presumably your child has been using it throughout the summer. Consequently, it's unlikely for there to be a last-minute surprise in relation to child seats.
These are the main indicators for changing your CRS:
The CSR is perfectly able to accommodate your child safely provided that certain parameters are not exceeded, such as weight (the seat will give the maximum recommended weight) and height. Age is not a determining factor for changing a child restraint system, simply a guideline: only the weight and height of the child are important when it comes to considering a change.
It is true that with age certain physical dimensions of the child increase, but not every child grows in the same way. Some have early spurts, others grow later; some children's weight increases in proportion to their height: every child is different and grows in a different way.
Consequently if a child exceeds the maximum recommended weight for the child seat, you need to look at getting a bigger one more suitable for that weight range. If, however, your child is still within the permitted weight range but their head now sits above the headrest, it's definitely time for a change. Furthermore, sooner or later they will end up exceeding the maximum weight limit, so whatever the case either weight or height are the indicators that it is time to buy a new CRS.
How to choose the best child seat for your car
But which one to choose? There is a wide variety of child restraint systems on the market and it can be quite a challenge deciding which brand to choose.
This tool provides a simple way of finding the most suitable brand and model for your child, although it is always a good idea to do a test "in situ" before buying, putting the child in the seat and checking that it adjusts properly to their body type. In this case, it is essential to get the advice of an expert in Child Restraint Systems.