This content may contain links to products and services. Please assume all such links are affiliate links which may result in me earning a commission (at no extra cost to you).
When you’re on the lookout for a baby high chair, you will undoubtedly look at the design and the dimensions, so you know it can fit comfortably around your kitchen table. You may also look at what features are available, such as whether it reclines and whether it can convert into a chair for older children.
However, many parents don’t consider the material itself. Virtually all high chairs are made from either wood or plastic. As an owner of the plastic Ikea Antilop high chair and the wooden Cosatto Waffle Strudel High Chair, I have some experience of both types.
Essentially the main differences boil down to how each product looks, as well as how easy they are to move around. Plastic high chairs tend to look a little cheaper than wooden ones, but they are lighter and more portable. In this article let’s look at the pros and cons of both options in more detail.
Pros and cons of plastic high chairs
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of plastic high chairs
- Cheaper. You should find plastic high chairs are cheaper to buy than their wooden counterparts.
- Lighter and more portable. Plastic is a lightweight material so if you plan on folding/unfolding your baby’s high chair regularly, a plastic one might be the way to go. Also, if you plan on travelling occasionally with your high chair in the trunk of your car, a lighter plastic high chair will certainly be easier on your back when you pack it away and lift it out!
- Aesthetic. Plastic chairs tend to look a little cheaper and lower quality than wooden ones. They also tend to age badly, especially once they pick up a few scratch marks.
- More difficult to repair. Once a piece of plastic breaks that’s it really. You can try gluing it together again but it will never be as strong as before.
Pros and cons of wooden high chairs
Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of wooden high chairs.
- Appearance. Wooden high chairs generally look better than plastic ones. They also tend to blend better with other items of furniture. There’s also something to be said for older wooden high chairs that are well used. They may have a few marks on them, but the rustic and warm feel gives them some real value, a bit like antique furniture.
- Resale value. You should be able to sell a second hand wooden chair at a reasonable price as they hold their value better than plastic ones.
- Stability. Wooden high chairs may weigh more than plastic ones, but with this stiffer frame comes more stability. You should find wooden high chairs a lot harder to tip over.
- Cost. Expect to pay a higher price if you want a wooden high chair. However, they should last longer than plastic ones.
- Material can expand and contract. Wood expands when it’s warmer and contracts when it’s cooler. This can make it a bit trickier to adjust the seat or footrest, especially in the summer months. But a lot depends on the design of the high chair. Our Cosatto high chair has little plastic clips attached to the seat and footrest so it’s very easy to remove and slot everything in place. However, if you look at some other wooden high chairs, you can see the seat and footrest is just a piece of wood which you need to slide out and slot in place. This will be tougher to shift if the wood has expanded a little.
- Heavy and less portable. Due to the nature of the material, wood is heavier than plastic. This makes it a little harder to move around, so wooden high chairs aren’t really that portable.
Detailed comparison – Plastic vs wooden high chairs
Let’s take a look at how plastic and wooden chairs stack up when you look at them side by side.
All high chairs have to pass stringent checks and meet JPMA and ASTM standards (or others if you’re not based in the USA). Therefore, you can feel at ease that both plastic and wooden high chairs are perfectly safe to use. Just make sure whatever high chair you choose it comes with a wide base, a harness (3 or 5 point) and soft edges.
That being said, the heavier weight of a wooden high chair means that it does require more force to tip over, which you could argue makes it a little safer than a plastic one.
Another safety issue is that some parents have concerns over splinters with wooden high chairs. However, as long as the wood has been treated, sanded down properly and has a smooth finish, this should never be an issue.
We’ve owned our Cosatto high chair for almost 6 years and the wooden frame, footrest and seat has never had a splinter.
To be frank, even if part of a wooden high chair shows signs of a splinter forming, or if there’s a few unsightly marks, you can always sand it all down yourself, and seal it afterwards with a top coat.
Both wooden and plastic types are just as easy to clean as each other. In fact it depends more on the design of the high chair. If the surface is smooth, it’s easy to wipe down and clean. It gets harder when there are more cracks, holes and crevices where bits of grease and food can enter and get stuck.
We had this issue with our wooden high chair because it came with a plastic high chair tray which was attached to a wooden frame. Bits of food were always getting stuck underneath and it was a pain to clean.
Basically the smoother the design of the high chair, with fewer corners, joints and raised areas, the easier it is to clean.
Everyone has their own opinion on what is aesthetically pleasing to look at when it comes to high chairs. However, I think most people would agree that wooden ones tend to look better than plastic high chairs. A wooden high chair will blend nicely with your furniture, especially if you have some wooden dining chairs and a table. It will look cosier, warmer and more inviting to use for your baby. A similar argument can be made for other items of baby furniture, such as comparing metal or wooden bunk beds.
Plastic high chairs win this category hands down. If you can find one that is easy to disassemble, a plastic high chair is a no brainer if you like to visit friends and family a lot and you need to pack it away in your car. Plastic is a lighter material than wood, so it’s lot easier to store and move around your home.
If you’re after a high chair that will last many years, then a wooden one is the way to go. If you look on any retail website, most of the high chairs which are designed to grow with the child are made from wood.
Even though wooden high chairs are little pricier than plastic ones, it’s not quite that simple when you factor in which option offers the best value. Wooden high chairs tend to last longer and there are some which last from 6 months all the way to adulthood, such as the Abiie Beyond Wooden High Chair.
Due to the nature of the material, you should find in most cases plastic high chairs are easier and quicker to assemble than wooden ones. With plastic high chairs you probably just need to click in a couple of components and it should be good to go. However with wood, you’ll likely have to screw in various nuts and bolts to assemble the frame and attach the tray, seat and footrest.
Are wooden or plastic chairs easier to fold?
Wooden high chairs have improved a lot in recent years and they are just as easy to fold now as their plastic counterparts.
Which type of high chair is easier to fix?
If a plastic high chair breaks, it’s very hard to fix and you may have to order a brand new one. Often gluing pieces together is your only solution, which is not ideal. With a wooden one, you can often replace parts easily. You may even be able to fix it yourself if you are pretty good at DIY and woodwork!
Do plastic or wooden high chairs have better resale value?
Wooden high chairs definitely stand the test of time better than plastic high chairs. A few marks here or there don’t seem to matter with a wooden high chair, just like an older piece of furniture. But a second hand plastic high chair can look pretty undesirable if it is scratched and stained in several places.
Conclusion – Is a wooden high chair better?
Your choice of whether to buy a wooden or plastic high chair really comes down to one thing; how you intend to use it. Of course some high chairs have more design features and some are more expensive than others, but crucially you need to ask yourself how you will use it. Will it always be in one fixed place, or do you need to fold it away regularly? Do you visit friends and family quite often who don’t have a high chair you can use? This will mean packing it away in the trunk of your car.
Essentially if you think you can just leave your high chair in a regular position around the dining table, you might want to choose a wooden one. However, if space is an issue in your home and you need to fold it up all the time and pack it away, then a lighter, plastic high chair is definitely a better option.
Once you’ve decided on this, then you can look at other aspects such as the design of the high chair, how long you intend to use it and how easy it is to clean.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.