In the state we live, babies must be in rear facing car seats until they are 1 year old and 20 pounds. This is the minimum. The national recommendation is 2 years and 20 pounds, whichever comes second. The reason to keep a child rear-facing is because it is much safer. It is five times safer for anyone (even adults) to ride rear facing, than forward facing.
She loves the cold weather. He thinks we are nuts for leaving the warm house.
Our car seats (convertible car seats) allow a child to remain rear facing until they are 35-40 pounds and they will stay rear facing for that long. Yes, they will probably be elementary aged by that time (my kids are tiny after all). This is not as unusual as you might expect. We have friends with older kids rear facing. My kids can see and talk to each other, they can see out the side and back windows, they are (reasonably) happy. Honestly, even if they weren't happy, I'm the parent and it's my job to enforce what is safest. They put their feet on the back of the seats, hang them off the side of the chairs, or cross them. They look very comfortable. In fact, many children who are rear facing for longer complain once they are turned because they have no where to put their feet.
We color a lot.
Once our kids are forward facing, they will remain in a 5 point harness as long as possible. They have seats that go to over 100 pounds. While technically those would have fit me past college, we won't use them quite that long! I'm not sure how old they will be when we move to boosters, but it will be based on maturity as well as size. There is a simple 5 point test to determine when your child is ready to be finished with their car seat.
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
You must be able to answer yes to all of these before you move your child out of a car seat. To be honest, I don't pass this test. I will never pass #2 because I'm simply too short. I can sit all the way back or bend at the knees, but not both at the same time. So, while I hope my children are at least of average height and can pass this test, I will not have my 16 year old kids in boosters just because they are short.
He's too cute to take any chances with his safety!
Here is a great video that simply explains the standards.
Car Seat Lady