Updated on August 22, 2016
What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks Like
This post contains affiliate links.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that car seat safety is something I’m pretty passionate about. I’ve talked before about the importance of using a car seat correctly in the winter, I’ve covered the hazards of used and expired car seats, and I’ve had a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) share her tips for purchasing and installing car seats. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen that I practice extended rear facing (ERF) with both my boys. When The Heir first graduated from his infant bucket seat to his convertible car seat around 11 months old, I knew I wanted to keep him rear facing as long as possible. Back in those days, I didn’t really know how long that would be. I was hopeful that he’d be able to remain rear facing until age three. I was pretty confident that his convertible car seat would get him there based on his growth chart and the listed weight and height limits of the seat. When The Heir turned three, he still fit quite comfortably rear facing in his convertible car seat. I figured he’d rear face until he maxed out the limits of the seat or he turned four years old, whichever came first. And yet, The Heir turned four a couple of weeks ago, and he’s still rear facing. Why? Because he hasn’t hit the weight or height limit of his seat, he’s still comfortable that way, and it is still safer than forward facing. Let me show you what it really looks like to have a four year old rear facing. It just might surprise you!
I’m not really going to get into all the reasons that The Heir is still rear facing here. That’s something that I’ve already done, so there’s no need to rehash it here. What I want to do in this post is show you what The Heir looks like rear facing in the two convertible car seats that we have at age four. The first is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, and the second is the Graco Dimensions 65. For reference, The Heir weighed 33lbs and measured 39.5″ tall at his four year check up.
I’m going to start with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible car seat. According to the manual that came with this seat, it can be used rear facing to 45 lbs or 47″ standing height or when there is less than 1″ between the top of the child’s head and the top of the head rest. It should also be noted that although the head rest has ten positions, only the first SEVEN of those positions can be used when rear facing.
Given The Heir’s weight and height, he should have lots of room to continue rear facing in the Peg Perego convertible seat for a while. He just fits in this seat with with head rest on the sixth of seven rear facing positions. Just. By that I mean that there is exactly 1″ between the top of his head and the top of the head rest. To determine this, I used a trick my CPST friend taught me. I grabbed a hard cover book that is exactly 1″ thick, and I held it on top of The Heir’s head when he was buckled into the seat. It just so happens that my favourite cookbook fit that bill (it’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, in case you’re wondering). Since he just has that 1″ left on position six, I prefer him to be on position seven. That gives him 1.5-1.75″ between the top of his head and the top of the head rest. Position seven puts the harness AT The Heir’s shoulders. When rear facing, the harness must come out of the seat back AT or BELOW the child’s shoulders. From previous experience of moving the head rest position up periodically, I tend to get about six months out of a head rest position before I have to move it up again.
What about his legs in the Peg Perego convertible seat? He’s got quite a good amount of leg room in this seat, even at four years old! It’s important to keep in mind that leg room is not a safety concern with ERF at all, but it can be an issue of comfort. A four year old will have no problem telling you if their legs are uncomfortable, and I’ve asked The Heir that very question. He says he’s very comfy in the Peg Perego convertible. He does a variety of things with his legs when chilling out in his seat and he swears it’s comfortable for him. I’m inclined to believe him.
I’m going to move now to the Graco Dimensions 65. This is the seat that The Heir is currently riding in on a day to day basis (Petit Prince is usually in the Peg Perego). According to the manual, the Graco Dimensions 65 rear faces to 35 lbs or 43″ standing height or when there is less than 1″ between the top of the child’s head and the bottom of the red handle. This seat has eight head rest settings, and all eight can be used when rear facing.
I will freely admit that the majority of four year olds would be too heavy to rear face in this seat. Lucky for me, The Heir is a light weight (I feed him, I swear), so he has two pounds to go before he has outgrown the weight limit of this seat. If he stays on his growth curve, he’d be five years old before he hits 35 lbs and between five and five and a half before he’s 43″ tall. The Heir rides in the Graco Dimensions with the head rest in position four of eight. At that position, there’s easily 2″ between the top of his head and the bottom of the red handle. At position four, the harness comes out BELOW his shoulders. He’s been at position four since we moved him into this seat in April 2016.
What about his legs in the Graco Dimensions 65? There’s definitely less leg room in this seat than there is in the Peg Perego convertible, but again, The Heir doesn’t mind. He has a few different things he does with his legs and has never complained about being uncomfortable in the Graco Dimensions.
What about getting him in and out of a rear facing seat? Easy! He does it himself. He’s been able to climb in and out of his car seat since around age two. I’m not having to lift him in and out of the seat, so there’s no extra work for me. Yes, sometimes he likes to be silly and jump all over the place and sit on the floor of the car while I buckle in his brother. I have absolutely no doubt that he’d get up to the exact same shenanigans if his seat was installed forward facing. The Heir has spent the majority of his life with me telling him about how important it is to be buckled into his seat correctly. He will remind me to remove his coat in the winter (not that I need reminding), and he will tell me where his chest clip is supposed to go (it’s armpit level, by the way). It’s kind of nice because I know that if he’s riding with someone else (the grandparents, for example) he won’t hesitate to tell them if he isn’t buckled in just right!
And that’s what rear facing looks like at age four! Turning him forward facing isn’t what I would consider a “milestone” to be reached. It’s something I will do when I have to because he’s outgrown the two convertible seats that we have. Here in Alberta, the minimum requirements to forward face are 22 lbs, one year old, AND walking unassisted. Obviously, The Heir hit all those ages and ages ago now (somewhere around 17 months old), but he remains rear facing because he hasn’t outgrown the rear facing limits of our convertible seats yet. I don’t expect everyone who reads this to join me in rear facing their children to age four and beyond, but I hope that it has provided a little food for thought!
How long did you keep your children rear facing or how long do you plan to keep them rear facing?