Feeding a baby can be messy! Feeding a baby can be fun! High chairs take the mess out of the feed while maximizing the fun!
High chairs are an essential piece of baby gear—one that will be used multiple times a day for years. From his first pureed peas to a hearty helping of Mom’s meatloaf, he’ll spend a lot of quality time in the high chair. So it’s a good idea to pick a high chair that’s not only safe and functions well, but one that fits into your lifestyle and the design of your home.
Where do I start when picking out a high chair?
As with everything else, start with what you like. Baby high chairs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made of different materials.
If you’re looking for a high chair that complements your dining room set, select a high wooden chair in the same finish as your set. Many parents find these classsic chairs more aesthetically appealing than other options.
If you want a high chair that will grow with your child, look into the benefits of a convertible chair. These chairs convert from a traditional high chair to a youth chair or to a study or office chair.
A plastic or metal high chair is a good option for parents who want a foldable, portable model.
First, look for a chair with a removable tray, preferably one that uses a one-handed release. You don’t want to have to get your child in and out of the chair—or try to clean the chair—with an attached tray to work around.
Make sure that the tray has a raised lip at the edge to catch the inevitable spills.
While wooden high chair trays can be wiped with a damp cloth, it’s especially convenient to purchase a plastic tray protector to safeguard the wood finish and also to make clean up a snap. Select one that’s dishwasher safe for the ultimate in convenience.
If you’re going to be moving your high chair a lot—between rooms, for example—select one that’s lightweight or has wheels. If it does have wheels, make sure that you can lock them into place.
Check the overall height of the chair and the seat height to ensure that your child will be able to sit at a similar level as the rest of the family. Your best bet is a chair that offers adjustable heights that you can change as she gets older or depending on where she’s eating.
If your child doesn’t like sitting still, consider a high chair with removable toys that can keep your little one entertained while you cook.
I like the style of high wooden chairs, but are they comfortable?
Parents use high wooden chairs all the time—that’s the kind most restaurants provide—and babies don’t seem to find them uncomfortable. But if you don’t relish the idea of hardwood pressed against your baby at mealtimes, consider purchasing a high chair cover.
Look for baby highchair cushions that come in colors and prints that coordinate with your kitchen or dining decor—or that catch your eye.
Make sure the cushion is easy to wipe off, machine washable, and comes with easy-to-fit ties that secure the pad to the high chair.
Check that the high chair pads accommodate your safety straps.
What do I need to know about high chair safety?
The first line of defense is to purchase a solidly constructed, sturdy high chair. Select one that meets or exceeds U.S. safety standards and/or is JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) certified.
Look for a base that’s wide enough to prevent tipping.
Your high chair should have an easy-to-use safety strap, which will encourage you actually to use it. Safety straps are important for keeping the baby from slipping under the tray or from climbing up and potentially falling out of his high chair the moment your back is turned.
If your high chair doesn’t have a safety strap or you need to replace an old strap, you can purchase a safety harness separately. Choose a harness made of durable material with an adjustable strap.
Checking the weight limit of the high chair is something many parents overlook. Remember that your six-month-old lightweight will still need to use her chair when she’s a toddler. And if you select a chair that grows with your child, it’s especially important to look for a realistic weight limit.
Because it serves as your child’s eating surface, a non-toxic finish on your high chair is a must.
Make sure there’s no exposed hardware or rough wooden edges on your high chair.
The benefits of a booster seat
Though you’ll undoubtedly use your high chair for years, there will come a time when your child is too big for it—but not yet big enough to sit at the table. For this transitional time, a booster seat is a big help. When selecting your booster seat, look for a thickly cushioned seat, both for comfort and height, one that’s made of easy-to-clean material, safety straps to hold your child securely in place, and the second set of straps that attach the seat firmly to the chair.
The Bottom Line
Your child will use a high chair for a long time, so select one that meets safety standards, has a style and functionality that you like, and has a cushion to keep your child comfortable during mealtime. Booster seats are a great way to transition your child from high chair to a dining room chair.
Our Mom Expert
Caron Webber, 37, is the mother of five children, ages 2 to 12.
“I loved the look of a wooden highchair, but my husband thought a plastic-framed model seemed more convenient, so that’s what we bought. Unfortunately, the vinyl cushion ripped when my second child was using it, so when baby number three was ready for a highchair, I convinced my husband that we should get a gorgeous cherry highchair (which has lasted through the rest of the five kids, by the way). He came around when he discovered that the high wooden chair was a lot easier to clean; food didn’t get caught in the vinyl creases of the non-removable padding. Through the years, I’ve tried not to say ‘I told you so!’”