Eating is an adventure for little ones, and a high chair is the perfect setting for such a milestone experience. You can start using this essential piece of baby gear in the first months of life, providing it reclines enough, and offers sufficient support for a newborn baby. As your little one gets older and starts on solid foods, a high chair becomes all the more essential to mealtimes. It also brings baby closer to the table when the rest of the family is enjoying a meal, and baby becomes part of the scene.
The type of high chair you choose will depend on your personal style, needs and preferences. Remember that your child's eating habits, age and weight will also determine your final choice. As a guideline: children generally begin to sit in a high chair on a regular basis when they start on solid foods — typically between 4 and 6 months. The duration of usage varies with yours and your child's needs. If the seat fits, it can last through the toddler years. But you may prefer the convenience of a booster seat as time goes by. To simplify your high-chair shopping, we've put together some guidelines to follow.
adjustable: This is the most popular choice for today's parents. These high chairs feature seats and trays to accommodate your growing baby and different-sized dining tables, as well as adjustable heights to bring baby down to your seated level for easier feeding. Some other convenient features include wide, removable plastic trays for messy eaters, and rolling caster wheels so you can easily move the chair around the kitchen, and lock into place when needed. Padded and cushioned seats make it easy for your little one to enjoy his meal in comfort. For small or narrow kitchens, many designs fold easily for storage and portability.
booster: If your baby outgrows his high chair, you'll need a booster seat. A booster seat is usually a plastic chair that can be strapped to a kitchen chair. It gives your child a lift so he can eat comfortably at level with the kitchen table and be part of the grown-up scene. Many boosters feature adjustable heights and built-in trays with locks; some even fold up for easy portability and travel.
wooden: Many parents like the traditional style of a wooden high chair because its design complements the look of their kitchens. Models include either a plastic or wooden tray. A wooden tray is harder to clean and may show stains. A padded cushion may have to be purchased separately as the hard wood will not be comfortable for your baby. Wooden highchairs are harder to sanitize, and will show wear more quickly.
portable hook-on chair: These allow your child to be a part of family dining. However, with a hook-on chair, children are within hand's reach of everything on your dinner table. For occasional use, it's a good option. Like high chairs, portable hook-on chairs have safety straps to keep your child secure and to prevent them from standing up. They're recommended for toddlers up to approx. 37 lbs. Discontinue use when your child starts trying to stand up or begins to push himself away from the table, actions usually exhibited by 3- to 4-year olds.
adjustable tray: A tray that adjusts to one or more positions will make it easier to make your child comfortable as he grows, while a wide tray that covers the entire area will catch most spills. One-hand operation for removing and attaching the tray is key when feeding time comes around.
locking mechanism: A foldable high chair should feature a secure locking mechanism to prevent it from collapsing while your child is seated inside.
maintenance: Removable and washable seat padding makes it easier for parents to keep their high chair sparkling clean. The vinyl seat padding should resist staining and tears. Your high chair should not feature many small crevices or areas that can trap food and make it difficult to clean.
restraint: A good quality high chair should include a three-point harness safety strap that passes in between your baby's legs to prevent him from slipping under the tray. Many new models feature a plastic restraint and five-point safety harness for optimum security.
rolling casters: Rolling wheels that lock make it easy to keep the chair steadily in place; unlock wheels to move the high chair around the kitchen or to the dining room.
toys: Attachable toys can be placed on and attached to the high chair to distract baby while you feed him. Some toys attach by way of suction cups, while others fit into the high chair tray.
mats: Messy mats are large plastic mats placed under your child's high chair to catch bits of food that fall.
Fully-reclining high chairs can be used for bottle-feeding your baby as soon as the baby is born. If you don't purchase a high chair that fully reclines, you won't need one until your baby can sit up unassisted (around 4 to 6 months of age), or begins solid food. You'll be using it until baby can sit at the table and feed himself. When your child has outgrown the high chair and begins sitting at the table, it's time to invest in a booster seat.
Do not rely on the feeding tray to secure your baby, use a safety strap.
Your high chair should be located away from the table, counter or wall.
Never allow your baby to stand up in the chair, as it may tip and fall over.
There should be no exposed hardware or sharp edges to pinch your child's legs.
Read the manufacturer's instructions for proper use of your high chair.
Keep your eye out for product recalls. If possible, register your high chair with the manufacturer to receive safety updates.
Your high chair's base should be wide enough to provide support and prevent tipping.
Secure any locking mechanisms before you place baby in the chair to prevent accidental buckling.
The safety tray should be able to withstand your baby's weight should he ever lean on it.