If your child is a toddler or preschooler, finding out what are the best car seats for toddlers has to be on your priority list.

Advice that can help comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics which says that all children age two years or older, or those younger than two years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat, should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. This should be up to the highest height or weight allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer.

The academy further recommends that the child ride in a seat with a harness for as long as possible – but at least to the age of four years. What happens if your child outgrows the current child car safety seat? Consider using a seat with a harness approved for higher weights and heights, says the academy.

Rear-facing Car Seats Best for Toddlers

The facts are clear. Children riding in rear-facing car seats are five times safer than those riding forward-facing. As long as children are within the height and weight limits for their convertible car seats, they can ride in those seats no matter what their age. But, most certainly, they should ride in rear-facing convertible seats if they’re infants or toddlers under two years old.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a rear-facing car seat is the best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness, and in a crash, it cradles and moves with the child to reduce the stress to the child’s neck and spinal cord, which are very fragile.

Convertible Seats

Use rear-facing convertible seats for infants and toddlers up to 30 or 35 pounds. Forward-facing convertible seats are for children up to 40 pounds or more.

Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, it’s time to transition your child into a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

How Car Seats Rank in Ease-of-Use Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains an Ease-of-Use Rating system that can help parents determine which car seats are best for their toddler child and vehicle. This is a five-star rating ease-of-use in four basic categories: evaluation of labels, evaluation of instructions, securing the child, and installation features.

Keep in mind that all car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards as well as strict crash performance standards. But not all are the same when it comes to how easy they are to use.

NHTSA’s Ease-of-Use Rating system for car seats shows manufacturer/model name, model number/manufacture date, harness type, weight/height, and how the seat ranks in the four basic categories. Reviewing the convertible seats rated by NHTSA, there is only one that earns a perfect five stars in all four categories: The First Years True Fit Recline (RF), model number C650-URL/manufactured Jan. 13, 2010, 5-point harness, and 23 pounds to 65 pounds/up to 50-inches in height.

Listing of Car Seats for Toddlers

Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics site for a product listing of car safety seats for 2011. The second section shows manufacturer and product names, harness type, rear-facing weight limits, height limits and price for convertible seats.

As your child grows, the listing is also helpful because it shows 3-in-1 seats, combination seats, forward-facing only toddler seats, and belt-positioning booster seats. The site also lists the manufacturer phone numbers and websites.

When you’re looking for the best car seats for toddlers, you want the best possible seats for your child. Do your research early, learn how to properly install the car seat, and you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’re doing what you can to protect your child.

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