High Chairs vs Booster Seats

Kids grow up fast. Before you know it your little one will outgrow their high chair and need something else. Many parents choose convertible high chairs which you can adjust to cater for your growing your child. But if you only have a basic high chair, what options do you have?

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One of the most popular options is to use a booster seat. You simply place it on a chair and your toddler sits on it, elevating them up to a convenient height to eat at the table. In this article let’s take an in depth look at boosters seats and high chairs and see which is best for your needs, or whether you need both.

What is a booster seat?

We first need to clear up that there are booster seats for the car as well as for eating! And for the purposes of this article, obviously it’s the latter option we’re interested in.

A booster seat is for toddlers and older babies who can sit up comfortably and don’t need the security of a 5 or 3 point harness any more. They usually come with a simple strap to keep your toddler safe and secure, as well as a tray (which is often removable so your baby can eat at the table)

Why do you need one?

Some parents skip a booster seat altogether and go straight from a high chair to using a normal dining chair (with or without a cushion). However, this is really for parents who’ve invested in a high chair that can be used until a child is at least 3 years old. However, a booster seat might be a necessary purchase if you have another baby on the horizon who will need to use their older sibling’s high chair. If you don’t have space for two high chairs around the kitchen or dining table, a booster seat becomes an essential purchase as the older sibling might not be ready to sit in an ordinary chair by themselves.

How do you use it?

You need to ensure you have the right setup to use a booster seat safely. When it’s dinner time, make sure you place it on a heavy, sturdy dining chair which has a strong back. If you use one on a lightweight chair, then your toddler can wiggle around and move the chair, which becomes a safety risk as they can tip over. Make sure you don’t leave your toddler unattended when they’re using a booster seat, as they could try to get out when you’re not looking! Overall, booster seats aren’t as safe as high chairs.

What is a high chair?

A high chair is basically a piece of furniture that you can use to feed babies and toddlers. As the name suggests, your child sits in high position making it easier for an adult to spoon feed them from a standing height. High chairs come with a tray which your baby can eat from, as well as a harness to keep them strapped in safely.

Your baby is ready to use a high chair once they can sit up by themselves, but you can use some before this if they have a reclining feature. High chairs will usually have legs which extend downwards and outwards a little to create a wide base at the bottom. However, you can buy high chairs which can hook on to the edge of a dining table, which have no legs at all.

How much should you expect to pay for a high chair or booster seat?

High chairs can cost anywhere between $40 for a basic model, to $400 or more for ones with more advanced design specs. Booster seats are considerably cheaper, costing anywhere between $20 to $100.

When do you switch from a high chair to a booster seat?

It depends on your child’s development and how comfortable they are sitting up by themselves and eating independently. It’s imperative that you don’t rush this step though and put your baby in a booster seat too early. One of the early signs they are ready to switch is when they are trying to climb out of their high chair. In the main, children are ready to use a booster seat when they are around 18 months old, but many will be younger than this.

Should you use a high chair or a booster seat for a 2 year old?

Again it depends on your child. If they are quite content sitting in their high chair during dinner time, you can still use it for a while longer. But if they are starting to cut a frustrated figure being strapped in and feeling restricted in a high chair, while mummy and daddy are sat around the table, a booster seat might be a good idea. By the age of 2, your child should be able to use a booster seat comfortably.

Pros and cons of high chairs

Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of high chairs for babies.

Pros

  • Adjustable. Depending on the design of your high chair, you can easily adjust the height of the footrest and seat position.
  • Safety and security. High chairs are designed with safety in mind, with a sturdy frame, wide base to stop them tipping over and a 3 or 5-point harness to stop them getting out.
  • You can use a high chair a lot earlier than a booster. In fact, some high chairs can recline which means you can use them for newborn babies.
  • High chairs are more comfortable. They usually have padding which makes it a bit softer for your baby to sit in, and head support.

Cons

  • Depending on the design of your high chair (and the character of your baby!), your child can outgrow it fairly quickly.
  • High chairs take up a lot of space around the kitchen table. Not to mention the wide base and legs which I’ve clattered into on numerous occasions!
  • Not portable. You can’t easily take a high chair with you if you’re eating out or visiting friends or family.
  • Difficult to clean. While it’s easy to wipe down all the smooth surfaces of a high chair, trying to do a deeper clean in all the nooks and crannies, as well as cleaning the cover and straps can be time consuming.

Pros and cons of booster seats

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of booster seats by themselves, and when you compare them to high chairs.

Pros

  • They don’t take up much space, if storage is an issue in your home.
  • Usually cheaper than high chairs.
  • Easier to clean. They are smaller and quicker to clean than high chairs.
  • Gives toddlers a greater sense of independence and freedom.
  • Booster seats are portable. You can easily take them with you on holiday, to visit family and friends, or to restaurants.

Cons

  • You can’t adjust them so you’re limited by the chair height, which may not be convenient for your child.
  • Although they don’t take up as much space as high chairs overall, you can’t fold them up and they are a bit bulky.
  • They aren’t usually as comfortable as high chairs.
  • Safety. High chairs provide more safety and security for your child.
high chairs vs booster seats

Conclusion – Do you need a booster seat and high chair?

It depends on your circumstances. My daughter is 5 years old, and my son is 16 months so the age gap is big enough that we never felt the need to buy a booster seat. My daughter just went straight from using her high chair to sitting on a normal chair around the kitchen table. We just kept her high chair in the garage temporarily until her baby brother arrived on the scene. Admittedly we do have a Cosatto high chair which you can convert and use for older children.

But if you have siblings who are a lot closer in age, a booster seat seems like a more worthwhile purchase as the older one might not be ready to move from a high chair straight to an ordinary dining chair.

Also if you travel or eat out a lot, you need to think about the arrangements of  the place you’re visiting. Visiting friends and family who don’t have a spare high chair can be problematic, along with restaurants who may not have suitable seating arrangements for babies and toddlers. Therefore, putting a portable booster seat in the trunk of your car is fairly straightforward, and certainly a lot easier than a bulky high chair!

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