What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks Like

What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks Like

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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.

This Is What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks LIke

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.

This Is What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks LIke

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.

This Is What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks LIke

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.

This Is What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks LIke

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?


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40 Comments on “What Rear Facing At Age Four Looks Like

  1. My 4 yr old is way too big to rear face now. Thanks for showing how your boy fits!

  2. My first turned at 3yrs 5 months after a vomit incident that actually caused me to throw her seat out… I considered a new convertible but she was nearing height limits on most and it didn’t make sense to buy in contrast to a forward facing/booster combo.

    Twins are still RF at 2 yrs in their Peg Perego convertibles and will be until they outgrow them 🙂

  3. Kudos for a great informative article and spreading the word about car riding safety!

  4. We kept our daughter rear facing till 2.5 when she reached the max for her seat.

  5. Thank you! As a former CPST this is really important to get out there to normalize rear facing past 1 or 2 years old. I have a 9 month old and a 27 month old still rear facing.

  6. my kids dont fit rear facing seats in canada.. being tall they stopped rf around 2.

  7. I plan on keeping our almost one year old twins rear facing as long as we can too!

  8. I love this article. My oldest we turned a week before his third birthday because my husband wanted to talk to him in the car. What a crappy excuse. My youngest is turning 2 and I’m hoping to rear face him past three. This is a great post to make ERF mainstream and that kids aren’t squished past the age of two.

  9. Thank you for sharing! My other kids are 6 years + so this will be our first time extended rear facing, it was really helpful reading about your experience. I am glad there are good car seats for this now!

  10. Love that you rear faced this long it’s exactly what I want to do and will push for ! The safety of my children is priority and anything can happen at any time.

  11. My daughter is 20 months and she has tons of room to continue rear-facing! I have no intentions of turning her before 4.

  12. Great informative post! I plan to rear face my now 6 month old as long as possible! She’s also always been in the lower weight/height percentiles, so I know she will fit in her Graco bucket car seat for some time. I hope to buy a convertible seat after that has decent weight/height limits so we can keep her rear facing for a long time! The seats you mentioned in this post would probably suit her well.

  13. I’m a big believer in extended rear facing! Love that you are advocating for it!

  14. We currently have a small car, but are hoping to have a larger vehicle at some point so we can rear face as long as possible!

  15. Great post. Hope to be able to do this with my little one for as long as possible 🙂

  16. Thank you SO much for being an advocate for extended rear facing.

  17. I did not think a 4 year old would look so comfortable rear facing. This gives me hope that I can still rear face my daughter until at least 3.

  18. We turned my son forward facing around 3 years. We hve a graco seat similar to yours above. Leg room wasn’t a huge problem, he sat cross legged, but he kept complaining that his butt was hurting. This seat had very little padding. I’m hoping to try the graco extend to fit next time around:)

  19. I didn’t know you could still put a four-year-old rear-facing. No I feel bad

    • Don’t feel bad! The whole point of this post is to educate! So many people don’t know that you CAN rear face beyond the legislated minimums to forward face. Every parent makes the choices that are right for their family with the information they have available. When you know better, you do better!

  20. This is such a great demonstration on how to fit an older child in a rear face position. Maybe it will encourage others to try!

  21. This is such a great demonstration on how to fit an older child in a rear face position. Maybe it will encourage others to try! Mahalo

  22. I’m glad he loves it because my kids hated rear facing and I tried toys and musical things and nothing worked

    • He definitely went through a stage of hating being in the car. I chalked it up to being a normal phase most kids go through and eventually he started to do better in the car again. He’d never forward faced before, so I had no reason to think that his frustration with the car was related to the direction of his car seat.

  23. My first two children rear-faced until they were 2 1/2. I planned on rearfacing my 2nd child longer, but when we had to rearrange carseats to add baby #3, we had issues making things work with three seats across. My 3rd is almost 2 now and still in his infant seat and will probably outgrow the height limit soon and move to rear-facing big boy seat. My almost-9 year old is currently in the Radian R100, harnessed and soon to outgrow the height limit, and my 4 year old is in the Harmony Defender harnessed. Soon, we’ll play musical carseats and put #3 in the Radian rearfacing and my oldest will go into a booster if he doesn’t fit just right with seatbelt-only. I hope to rear-face my youngest until age 3-4 like I’d hoped to do with my middle child.

  24. Thanks! This is good to know. I find it all so confusing, especially as we don’t actually own a car so we have to take seats in and out of whatever vehicle we might occasionally be riding in (cabs etc.).

  25. With our son we started Forward Facing at 1 year because were not educated about Extended Rear Facing and listened to his doctor that he was ready. (He is just turning 6) With our daughter I plan to ERF as long as possible! (She’s only 6 months old right now)

    Thanks for this post!

  26. Not sure how long we will continue rear facing. We need a new car seat and also looking for a car. Right now rear face in the middle of a pick up that doesn’t fit my family of four safely.
    My mother in law keeps buying yard sale car seats no matter what I say. I tried to explain its not a deal if you have to order replacement for broken straps pay shipping and the car seat expire in one year. Not even knowing if it was in an accident or not.

  27. Great to know! I always wondered what it was like for older kids. We are going to try to rear face as long as we can.

  28. We turned our daughter around at 3. She was taller than the max height requirement for rear facing. I confess that we turned our son around at 2 years old.

  29. My almost 3 year old is still rear facing and my 14 month old will be outgrowing his seat soon (Combi Coccoro). I could get the 3 year old a combination seat and move the younger to his but I just don’t want to turn him yet! He’s safer facing rear and if he fights getting in his seat he can’t slide down to the floor. It’s also way better for sleeping and since we do naptime in the car frequently that’s important. I think another convertible is in our future. Not that I hate getting to seat shop!

  30. Love love loooooove!! I am a huge fan of extended rear facing!!! WE actually took a road trip with my 4 year old and I felt bad that he had nowhere to rest his feet like he did rear facing lol!!! (Our car ran out of room 🙁 ) I mean besides the safety benefits who doesn’t like a comfier ride?!!?

  31. Thank you for showing how to keep a child rear facing as long as possible for safety. The pictures of how his legs fit comfortably was helpful.

  32. Thanks for this post! I could hardly find a thing about rear-facing post-four. Our daughter has been in Dionos and now after a small accident, a Clek Fllo. She can rear-face in the Clek til 5 based on her measurements (almost identical to your son at age 4). Our other car is what I was debating about. She rides in it maybe 2x per month and her cheap Safety 1st Guide 65 maxes out at 40″ for RF. We have a 3rd coming in December, so to make it work until then, she’d need to forward face quite soon. Then when the 3rd baby comes, we’d have to buy a Radian and a Defender (totaling $300) to get them all to fit. So we will probably give up on putting all of them in that car. I may get a backless booster with a shoulder belt positioner like the Harmony Youth for times we’re in a pinch.

  33. So awesome to see another Mom rear facing your child. My daughter is 3 years old and she is still rear facing. I’m planning to do that until she turned 4 or her height pass the line of the top car seat.

  34. Now after learning more about rear facing and how long it should happen I realize how dangerous it was for my step-mom to put my brother front facing at a year old. I really appreciate these reviews and knowledge!

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