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When you purchase a high chair there are a number of important things to consider. How long do you want to use it for? Is it easy to clean? Does it fold up? While these are just a few important factors to think about, you also need to consider what type of high chair you think is right for your baby.
The main types of high chair include standard high chairs, space saver high chair, hook-on high chairs, multifunctional high chairs, travel high chairs and convertible high chairs.
In this article let’s take a look at all of these types in more detail, as well as what to consider when buying one.
What is a high chair?
High chairs have been around for probably longer than you realise, dating back to the 1600s. But the first high chairs which look similar to what we have today can be traced back to the 1820s. In a high chair, your baby can usually eat from a tray and they sit in a raised position to make it easier for you to feed them. Of course these days, high chairs come with a lot more features to make things more comfortable for your baby and to ensure they are safe and secure.
Type of high chairs
Here is an in depth look at all the different types of high chair available on the market, looking at the pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision on what you should buy.
Standard high chairs
These are the most common type of high chairs. They are usually made from plastic, but some will be made from wood. Standard high chairs will consist of a very simple design, which will have very few features, but this does make them cheaper to buy.
Pros of standard high chairs
- A good choice if you’re on a budget.
- Usually feature a basic plastic mould for the seat and tray which makes them easier to clean.
- Lightweight, but only if they are made from plastic. A standard wooden high chair will be more expensive and heavier.
Cons of standard high chairs
- Some are foldable, but most won’t be, making them difficult to store.
- Lack certain features. Many won’t have a footrest, or seat padding for your baby’s comfort. Some high chairs might not even come with a tray.
- You probably won’t be able to adjust the seat height which limits how long you can use the high chair for.
- If the high chair comes with a tray, it probably won’t be adjustable. This means that food can fall down in between your baby and the tray which makes the after dinner clean up more difficult! This is more of a problem especially when your baby is smaller.
High chairs for small spaces
These are a great choice if you don’t have much space in your kitchen or around your dining table. This type of high chair is basically very similar to a booster seat, which many babies transition to after a normal high chair. However, these space saver high chairs usually elevate your baby a little higher than a booster. Also, you can usually use one of these straight away (as long as they can sit up unaided). You just place it on top of a normal chair. Standard booster seats for high chairs are usually something you use a little later on.
- Easy to store. You can either leave it on the chair, or put it away in a cupboard. No folding required.
- Doesn’t take up much space. If you don’t have space for a high chair, using a space saver high chair is very useful as you will find it easier to move around your kitchen or dining room where every inch of space counts. No long legs of a high chair to clatter into all the time. (something I know too well…unfortunately!)
- Easy to use. You just place it on top of an ordinary chair.
- Portable. You can take it with you when you’re visiting friends, family or going out to a cafe or restaurant.
- Cheaper than a regular high chair. They’re smaller, use less materials which will benefit your wallet.
- Your chair will get messy. Due to the smaller size of this style of high chair, unfortunately your chair will be exposed to all the mess and bits of food that go everywhere during mealtimes. Make sure the chair you use is easy to wipe down and clean.
- Takes time to install every time. While you can just pick up and place your child in a regular high chair fairly easily, unfortunately with a space saver, you’re going to have to set it up properly every time before your child can safely use it. This can be frustrating when you’re in a rush.
Multifunctional high chairs
As the name suggests multifunctional high chairs provide you with a few more options and features so you can use them for a little longer. The main advantage of these over standard high chairs is that they are adjustable. You can probably adjust the seat position and footrest to make it more comfortable and cater for your growing baby. They may also recline so you can use it for newborn babies who can’t sit up by themselves yet. Finally, they should be able to fold away which makes it easier to store them.
Pros of multifunctional high chairs
- You can adjust the height of the high chair which makes it easier to feed your baby, and for toddlers who are learning to self-feed.
- Foldable. This makes it convenient to put the high chair away in a cupboard somewhere and out of the way.
- Extra padding for your baby’s comfort. Although standard high chairs may have seat padding, multifunctional ones should certainly have it.
Cons of multifunctional high chairs
- Assembly. Multifunctional high chairs will have more parts to put together compared to standard ones. This will make it more time consuming to assemble the whole thing.
- Heavy and bulky. Due to the extra parts, the high chair will be heavier to move around.
- Harder to clean. Although the tray and seat padding should detach, overall these types of high chairs are harder to clean as there are more nook and crannies and harder to reach places to wipe down.
- More expensive. Multifunctional high chairs will cost more than traditional ones, but they do make feeding easier and you may be able to use them for slightly longer.
Convertible high chairs
One popular trend these days is to purchase a high chair which can convert into a regular chair as your child grows. This means you can use them for many years, rather than just the first couple of years, which you get with an ordinary high chair. They also tend to look better than multifunctional and standard high chairs as they are made from wood, which makes them more likely to blend in with other items of furniture in your home. Children love these chair types as they feel more grown up when they use them.
Pros of convertible high chairs
- Longevity. Many of these high chairs can last for many years and even into adolescence, which can save you money on buying other items of furniture.
- Appearance. This type of high chair is typically made from wood which will look great in most homes.
- More content children. Kids usually love using convertible high chairs as they feel more grown up. As children move from phase to another, the chair can change to accommodate them as they get bigger.
- Better for the environment. By purchasing one product which can last many years, you don’t need to buy other items of wooden furniture.
Cons of convertible high chairs
- Bulky and heavy. One drawback is their size. Convertible high chairs tend to be heavy to move around and rather large which makes storing them a challenge.
- Expensive. You’d expect a product which lasts many years to be more expensive than something for the short term, and you’d be right. However, providing you look after a convertible high chair really well, it may be cheaper in the long run as you save money not buying other chairs for your children.
- Assembly. These high chairs can be more challenging to put together as they have more parts. Also, it can be tricky to change between different modes. One possible issue with wood is that it expands in the summer and contracts in the winter months. If you’re trying to move parts around in the height of the summer, it may be difficult due to expansion of the wood.
Travel high chairs
If you’re a family on the go then a travel high chair can be a wise investment. They tend to be light, small, and easy to fold to make it easier to put in your car and carry with you. Travel high chairs are usually made from fabric and feature a very simple design. A great choice if you’re going to a restaurant or visiting family and friends.
Pros of travel high chairs
- Light, small and portable. You can easily carry travel high chairs with you and put them in the trunk of your car.
- Easy to fold and unfold. You can set up this type of high chair very quickly and easily.
Cons of travel high chairs
- Not as sturdy as normal high chairs. The lightweight design of a travel high chair means they are not as tough and sturdy as regular high chairs.
- Very basic design. You probably won’t get some of the features you can find with ordinary high chairs such as a footrest, removable tray and the ability to recline.
- Comfort. Your baby won’t feel as comfortable sitting in a fabric or canvas travel high chair.
- Messy. Bits of food will stick on and stain the fabric which makes it harder to wipe down and clean properly.
Hook on high chairs
If you want another space-saving option, then a hook-on high chair might be for you. These have no legs, no tray and just clamp on to your kitchen or dining table. In fact it’s more of a seat than a chair. Hook-on high chairs are suitable for small babies who have just started sitting up by themselves.
Pros of hook-on high chairs
- Portable. You can take these high chairs with you if you’re visiting relatives or going out to a cafe or restaurant.
- Inexpensive option. Hook-on high chairs are cheaper than ordinary high chairs.
Cons of hook-on high chairs
- Usability outside the home. While it’s great you can take them with you, you don’t really know if your hook-on high chair will attach properly to another table at a friend’s house or in a cafe.
- Damage tables. Although it may work on your kitchen table, there’s a risk of scratching and damaging other table tops if you try it at your parent’s house or if you’re out and about in town.
- Longevity. As there are no legs to support hook-on high chairs, you can only use it for smaller babies. Once your baby reaches a certain weight, it’s no longer safe to use.
Are hook-on high chairs safe?
Hook-on high chairs are perfectly safe if you attach them correctly to a strong table top.
What are some of the main brands?
There are many high chair manufacturers on the market for you to choose from. Graco are one of most well known companies and have a number of high chairs for you to choose from. Chicco also have a reasonable collection. Stokke produce wooden high chairs that are towards the top end of the market and Cosco specialise in offering budget high chairs for families.
How much does a high chair cost?
Most basic high chairs aren’t that expensive, and you should be able to find one under $70. But the price goes up when you start adding more features, and if you purchase a wooden high chair instead of plastic one. High chairs at the top end of the market can cost over $150-200.
What should you look for when buying a high chair?
Although you probably don’t need to spend as long choosing a high chair compared to a crib or stroller, you still need to take your time to consider a number of factors. Here are a few to bear in mind.
Space and portability
High chairs take up space, usually more than regular kitchen or dining chairs. This is partly due to their wide base but they also extend upwards to make it easier for you to feed your baby. Consider carefully where you want your baby’s high chair to go. If space is an issue, you may wish to fold the high chair regularly so choose something which is compact with a small footprint for easy storage. If you have a sizable kitchen or dining table, you might find it easier to just leave the high chair as it is, so having one which folds up might not be such an essential option.
Furthermore, if you think you may need a high chair if you’re visiting friends or family, not only do you need something which folds up easily to put in your car, you also need it to be light. You may be tempted by a plastic high chair compared to a wooden one as they are lighter and easy to carry.
Easy to clean
Babies and toddlers are messy creatures when it’s feeding time! Even if your baby has a bib, bits of food will still fall onto the seat, tray, footrest and unfortunately into all the nooks and crannies which are a lot harder to clean. It’s essential you choose a high chair that is generally easy to wipe down, so look for one which has smooth surfaces with only a few bumps and indentations. However, even if it’s easy to do a basic clean, you’ll need to give the high chair a more thorough clean occasionally. This will involve cleaning the cover, straps, and placing the tray in the dishwasher (if it’s safe to do so). If you can, try to avoid seating pads made from fabric as they will be harder to spot clean, but they should be machine washable. Also, look for a high chair where you can definitely remove the cover and straps, as this will make it a lot easier to clean.
Think about your budget for a high chair. Although cheaper ones will do the job as they still have to pass stringent safety checks and standards, the quality of the high chair may be worse. It may have a cover or straps that can’t be removed, or it might be harder to clean. More likely though, it won’t last as long. Some parents opt for multifunctional high chairs which your child can use for a few years, and some even longer into adolescence. Also, in general plastic high chairs tend to be cheaper than wooden ones.
What features do you want your high chair to have? While the majority of high chairs will have a tray and a safety harness, there are extra features which can make things more comfortable for your baby. For example, not all high chairs come with footrests, especially the cheaper models, but this can give your baby more support and make it easier for them to sit up in an upright position. Ideally, look for a high chair with an adjustable footrest. You also want a few height options for your high chair to cater for your growing baby.
Furthermore, you might want your high chair to have a recline feature. While most models don’t have this option, some of the more premium high chairs do (such as the Graco Blossom 6 in 1 high chair). This allows your baby to use the high chair from an earlier age, before they can sit upright themselves (which is around 6 months for most infants).
Make sure you choose a high chair that is well designed to make it easier for your baby to get in and out. You don’t want to be dealing with some awful straps and safety harnesses that take 5 minutes to attach your baby every time!
Finally, think about how long you want your child to use the high chair for. If you want to transition from a simple high chair, to a booster seat and then an ordinary kitchen or dining chair, then there’s probably no need to spend a lot on one. However, if you like the idea of your child having a high chair that they can use for many years, then look for a multifunctional high chair. These will cost more, but as they last longer you may actually save money in the long term.
Easy to assemble
Most high chairs are fairly straight forward to put together. Some may come preassembled, or just require you to click a few pieces in place. This is more likely for plastic high chairs. However, for some wooden high chairs you may have to attach a few screws to keep everything in place, which might be a little more time consuming. Check some customer reviews online to see how easy people found putting their particular high chair together.
High chairs are designed with safety in mind, minimizing any risk of one tipping over. A wide base ensures the centre of gravity is lower so it makes it harder for a baby to fall out. Also, most high chairs come with either a 3 or 5 point harness so your baby can’t pull themselves up and try to get out. Whatever high chair you choose, make sure it meets JPMA and ATSM safety standards.
Finally think about what material you want for your high chair. Plastic and wood are the main 2 choices. Plastic high chairs tend to be a little cheaper and lighter, but wooden ones will usually blend in easier with your other pieces of furniture e.g wooden table and chairs. Wooden high chairs also seem to stand the test of time a bit better and they are easier to fix.
Buying a high chair – Checklist
Here’s a summary of the key points from above.
- Space – What are the dimensions? Will it fit conveniently in your home?
- Portability – Is it light, easy to fold and put away?
- Cleaning – Is it easy to clean? Can you put the tray in the dishwasher and the seat padding in the washing machine?
- Features & Comfort– Does it have adjustable seat and footrest positions? Does it recline? Can it convert so you can use it for older children? Does it come with some seat padding?
- Assembly – Is it easy put together?
- Safety – Does it pass all the necessary safety checks? Does it come with a safety harness?
- Material – Is it made from plastic or wood?
Is a high chair really necessary?
While the majority of families will purchase a high chair for their baby, it doesn’t mean you have to. As long as you provide a safe and secure space for your baby to eat then that’s fine. Just make sure you supervise them at all times. If space is an issue in your home and you don’t have the budget for yet another baby product, then by all means look at some other options. Here are some alternatives to consider if you feel a standard high chair is not right for you.
What age is a high chair for?
A high chair is usually for babies aged around 6 months plus (or when they can sit up by themselves), until they are between 2 and 3 years old. Some high chair models that can recline allow babies to use them from a younger age, and some can be used after the age of 3 if they are convertible or multifunctional types which cater for your growing child.
What high chairs will you find in restaurants?
Not all restaurants will have high chairs you can use, as there is no legal requirement for them to stock them. Furthermore, for restaurants which do have high chairs, they might not be in the best condition (old straps, dirty tray etc) and they’ll probably be very basic with only a few features. If you’re planning a meal out somewhere, you should probably call the restaurant in advance.
So what do you do if your favourite restaurant doesn’t have a high chair? You can bring your own high chair, but that’s a bit over the top and impractical. However, if your child can use a booster seat, this can be a good solution as they are smaller and easier to take with you.
When should you stop using a high chair?
All children are different and some will be ready earlier than others to stop using their high chair. Some will switch to a booster seat and others will convert their existing high chair so it’s more comfortable for older children. This will likely mean removing the high chair tray. Here’s some data from a poll of 52 mums and dads who were asked when they stopped using their high chair.
Obviously it would be more ideal if there were a greater number of respondents in this poll, but it does show from this data that 74% of toddlers stop using their high chair before the age of 2.
You can use a bumbo seat as a booster seat, providing you use a belt and keep an eye on your child at all times. However, you are probably better off using a highchair and then transitioning to a regular seat.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.