Rear facing is safest for children until at least 2 years of age.
There is no reason to turn them after this age unless of course they either, exceed the weight limit of the car seat (as stated by the manufacturer and varies between each), or the top of their head is within 2.5cm or 1 inch the top of the seat shell, this means hard shell above their head.
Some seats however allow the child to use the seat rear facing until their head is level with the top sides, or their shoulders are 2.5cm over the top most slot, again this depends on the manufacturer and it pays to read your manual carefully, and if you’re still not sure check with a registered child restraint technician. It’s best to check with the store members too, as not all staff members are qualified to give this information and may be urged to up-sell the most expensive seat, this may not allow your child as long in the seat rear facing.
In New Zealand you can have seat seats that allow your child to remain rear facing until up to 25kgs, and a standing height around 112cm. After which time you can turn the seat to a forward facing position in a seat with a harness they can use until a weight range between 18-36kg, again depending on the manufacturer and the standards that seat is tested under.
The Australian seats now have height only markers where the child’s shoulder must be under a line for rear facing, under another for harness mode and over another when they’re tall enough to use a booster seat. It is important to note that these seats are still tested to 12kg rear facing, 22kg forward facing and 32kg as a booster seat.
Reasons people are often lead to believing that they need to turn their child incorrectly are mentioned below:
- Rear facing child’s feet touching the back of the vehicle seat. This is not a safety issue at all, the important thing to remember here is that children under three years old tend to have more bones that are forming together and in the gaps is soft cartilage that is capable of flexing without injury, unlike adults who would see broken bones and tissue damage. Also young children have a sense of security in feeling support beneath their feet, this is referred to as “grounding” and why some children become unsettled when placed in strollers and chairs where their feet cannot reach the foot rest.
- They look uncomfortable and cannot see. Most children can see and have a great view out the side windows when they’re smaller, and once they’re bigger they can see out the back window as well. If they are uncomfortable check their seat does not have any protrusions and talk and sing to your child, knowing you are near is soothing.
- It’s easier to get them in and out of a forward facing seat. As they get bigger they can climb in to the seat themselves and older children even like being able to help do up their own belts.
It’s ok to rear face beyond 2 years of age, and there are ways to make it fun and enjoyable for everyone.