Your little one grows up fast – one minute they’re barely able to hold their own head up, and the next it’s time to start them on the road to solid food. When that time comes (usually when they’re about six months old), a high chair is a valuable investment, making it far easier to feed baby at the table with you and clean up the inevitable mess when they’re full.
As with many baby products, there are all sort of high chairs out there, ranging from the basic models to fancy numbers with all kinds of bells and whistles on them. In the end, the choice is yours, but there are a number of factors to keep in mind when choosing the best high chair for your family’s needs.
Even if you only plan on raising the one little one, your baby will likely use their high chair until they’re 2 to 3 years old; if you buy a high chair at six months, that’s a two-and-a-half year investment. A basic high chair might seem like a good idea at first, but if it falls apart easily, you could find yourself spending more money replacing it than a better model would have cost. If your family plan includes more than one child, a sturdy high chair becomes an even better investment, as you can use it for the next and next baby.
As always when shopping for baby, put safety first on your list! High chairs with a wide base and a sturdy harness work best; look for a bar between baby’s legs so they don’t slide out the bottom during meals. Harnesses should come with adjustable straps for maximum usefulness, and have three or five points of contact (avoid simple loop belts) and buckles that little hands can’t undo themselves. Removable trays should be easy enough for you to maneuver, but not so easy to remove that baby can do it alone. High chairs with wheels should include a lock feature to prevent rolling accidents. And of course, once you have your high chair of choice, never leave baby in it unattended!
If a secondhand high chair best suits your budget, do some research before you shell out for one. There have been a number of high chair recalls in recent years, so make sure you’re not buying something that could easily injure your little one. Vintage wooden high chairs are also not recommended for use these days, as they rarely meet modern safety standards.
At first, you might not think much of how easy a high chair is to clean, but after baby’s first meal in it, you’ll no doubt be reconsidering. Infants are still getting to know the world around them; they’re going to touch their food, and then everything else around them, and that’s when they don’t decide to throw their mushy peas everywhere!
Look for wipable seat covers, or ones that can be removed and tossed in the washer, and be sure to check for nooks and crannies that food could easily get stuck in. Removable trays will also make your cleaning life much easier – though some models attach the safety post to the bottom of the high chair tray, which can get inconvenient if you need to remove it. In addition, while a number of modern high chairs come with dishwasher-safe trays, that’s no guarantee the tray will actually fit in your dishwasher; you may find yourself cleaning it by hand either way.
Portability and Storage
Rather than buying a stand-alone high chair, you might decide a portable or strap-on high chair, such as the Yochi Yochi, suits your space and travel needs better. Portable high chairs can turn any available ‘big-kid’ chair into a safe seat for baby; however, they often don’t have trays.
Stand-alone high chairs do sometimes come with wheels, which can be handy if you need a safe place for your little one to sit while you’re working somewhere other than the kitchen, or in foldable models to allow for more convenient storage when not in use. Before buying, always check whether folding models are easy to accidentally collapse while in use – and again, make sure the wheels come with a lock mechanism!
The harness isn’t the only part of the chair that may need to be adjustable. High chairs that can be raised or lowered to match your dining table’s height can make your mealtime experience a lot easier, saving you the trouble of stooping or reaching in order to feed your little one. Some high chairs also come with reclining seats, which makes them a convenient nap space after meals. There are even models that you can convert into a booster seat as baby outgrows the need for the specialized chair.
Baby’s comfort is another important consideration. Padded seats are a lot easier on your little one during meal times, but make sure the seam isn’t scratchy along the front edges so it doesn’t irritate their legs. Some high chairs have footrests, which can be a great feature for older children. Don’t forget to make sure the underside of the tray won’t poke your baby, too, and check for holes or sharp edges that could easily hurt inquisitive little hands.
While you might start your high chair shopping expedition thinking ‘it doesn’t matter what the chair looks like, we’ll just fold it up when we’re not using it,’ daily life might end up proving you wrong! Even if you do manage to fold and unfold the chair for every meal, it’s still going to take up some space in your kitchen for at least two years; it’s important to keep that in mind so you don’t come to regret your choice.
Plastic high chairs are generally less expensive and more portable, but basic models aren’t terribly comfortable, and they may not really protect you, your table, your floors, or your baby from the mess of mealtime. Wooden chairs may match your aesthetic better, but they can be difficult to clean and, again, pretty uncomfortable. Full-featured high chairs are the most expensive of the lot (sometimes upwards of $500!), but give baby the most comfort and you the most versatility. Portable and hook-on high chairs are easy to store when you’re not using them and affect your kitchen space the least dramatically.