There’s no getting around it: starting a family and raising little humans is a costly commitment but some items, quite simply, you cannot do without and a good-quality highchair is one of them. Feeding babies and toddlers is a messy business. You won’t hear any arguments on that from any parent, however investing in a highchair that is safe, sturdy and simple to clean can help make manic mealtimes a thing of the past.
A highchair, purchased around the time of weaning, can transform mealtimes from chaos to calm: your little loved one is secure; you’re enjoying eating a nice meal – no bouncing baby on your knee or reassuring hand needed to ensure your toddler doesn’t slip off their chair; you’re free to chat with the rest of your family.
Your table doesn’t resemble a battlefield, and your floor remains clean. Your satisfied baby or toddler, having eaten what’s in front of them, is content – observing, listening and feeling fully involved in precious family time around the dinner table.
Only got 5 minutes
Safety, comfort, age-suitability and how easy a highchair is to clean and store are typically the five main features parents look for when it comes to picking a highchair to suit their child. Find a highchair that ticks all these boxes and you’re well on your way to making mealtimes simpler and hopefully, stress-free!
The most important decision you need to make is what you want out of your highchair purchase – are you looking for one chair that can be adjusted and will stay with your child until they’re through their toddler years? Or, would you prefer a highchair that meets the needs, and offers support to your baby, based on their size and stage of development, meaning you may well go through several highchairs during your child’s early years, investing in a new chair each time your child outgrows their previous one?
Once you’ve made that initial decision, it’s then worthwhile exploring the other features – that the highchair you’re considering meets the British safety standard BS 14988, and that it’s easy to clean and is of an appropriate size for your home (both when in use and when stored). You’re then left with deciding on any additional extras you think would benefit you and your baby during mealtimes: from a reclining seat to a removable footrest, some highchair designers have thought of everything.
There’s no getting away from it, there’s a lot to consider but if a bit of research and shopping around means you find a highchair that ultimately meets your needs, your baby’s needs and your family’s needs, the time taken will be worth it. Be sure to get hands-on with the highchair you’re considering – ask to see how it feels before you buy as you’ll be using it several times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Have a go at adjusting or removing the tray, undoing the buckles on the harness and folding up the seat, before carrying it to check the weight. You’ll be repeating these actions at home but with a squirming child to contend with so it’s important to pick a highchair you find easy to use and that won’t add to your stress levels rather than lower them. The only way of knowing this for sure is to try before you buy or ask to see a video demonstration if buying online.
What should I consider when choosing a highchair?
Ease of cleaning
Highchairs certainly take a battering: being beaten daily with banging cutlery by impatient, demanding toddlers; having mash potato smeared into every nook and cranny; little jam-covered hands leaving prints on/under/behind the chair in places you didn’t even think they could reach; as well as being a safety net for little upset-tummy “accidents” means one of the most important factors when choosing a highchair is how easy it is to clean. Are there any awkward gaps or crevices where crumbs and unwanted vegetables can collect? Is the chair quick and easy to wipe down? Is the tray easy to detach for washing? What about cushions – are they detachable? Is it machine-washable? Cushions and padding may offer added comfort, but they complicate the cleaning process, potentially involving a washing machine and consequently additional drying time.
By the end of dinnertime on any given day, you’ll have already cleaned the kitchen repeatedly in the aftermath of breakfast, lunch and snack time so then ask yourself this: how much more work do you want to create for yourself? In the end, it does come down to personal preference but if quick-cleaning and low-maintenance are what you’re after, go for a model which can be easily wiped down after use. Inlays which are covered in a water repellent fabric or zip off covers all make the cleaning process that little bit easier.
Folding and storage are important factors to keep in mind when choosing a highchair, particularly if you’re short on space. Not all high chairs fold up for easier storage, which is fine if you’re happy to have a highchair that’s out all the time, but, if like many of us, you don’t have space on your side, it’s worth choosing a high chair that folds down easily, with minimal effort and is compact. Depending on where you are planning to store the highchair, ask yourself if you need a model which stands independently when folded or one which needs to be propped against a surface. If a folding highchair is what you’re going for, check whether the tray needs to be removed before folding (as is often the case) although some models have handy points on the frame where you can store the tray when it’s not in use.
Highchairs provide your baby with a safe and stable place to eat. Though it may be tempting to use a swing, bouncy chair or bumbo seat during mealtimes, the risks far outweigh the benefits. In short, do not rely on a seat not designed for feeding and compromise on safety.
Highchairs have to meet numerous British Standards before they can be sold on the UK market. This includes testing the stability of the highchair – making sure boisterous toddlers aren’t going to topple over backwards, and testing the robustness of the chair to ensure its longevity.
When choosing which highchair to buy, the checklist below will help you in choosing a model that will seat your baby safely and securely:
- The highchair should conform to British safety standard BS 14988.
- Make sure the chair has a good, wide base for full stability.
- Check that an adjustable harness is included (three or five-point harness ideally) to keep your baby seated securely in his highchair. If not, you can buy one that can be attached to the D-rings, but it must comply with safety standard BS 6684.
- A crotch post (also known as a pommel) to ensure your baby doesn’t slip forward and is supported in an upright position.
- No rough edges or exposed hinges.
- Wide, stable base for stability.
- Wheel locks (if purchasing a high chair with wheels).
The cost of a highchair can vary considerably – parents can spend as little as £12 for a basic model, going up to hundreds of pounds depending on the brand, quality and additional extras. When deciding on your budget, one of the most important factors to consider is whether: you plan on changing your baby’s chair as they develop and grow, and therefore you intend on changing the highchair fairly regularly OR whether you’d prefer to make a one-off purchase, choosing a high chair that can be adjusted and adapted as your baby grows – in some cases from your baby’s first high chair meal, to a low chair and table set for their toddler years, right up to their first day at school. Some models go even further and become an armchair or even a rocking horse! If a one-off purchase is what you’re leaning towards, then a convertible high chair is your best bet but its versatility and longevity will be reflected in the price.
The highchair tray
You need to decide whether you’d like your child to eat from the main table, or from their own tray. Some highchairs include a tray – which can be removable – while others sell one as an additional extra. Some trays come with cup or cutlery holders, while others come with removable tray inserts, which makes cleaning easier as just the upper layer of the tray is removed rather than the whole tray assembly. A tray that’s adjustable and detachable is a useful feature to look out for, as it will allow your baby plenty of extra space through their toddler years. A removable tray can also be handy because you have the option of table OR tray – without the tray in place, the highchair can be pushed up and under your table or breakfast bar: a useful feature to consider if you and your family enjoy post-dinner chats around the dining room table – once dishes and leftovers have been transferred to the kitchen, you savour enjoying each other’s company for a short while before the clean up operation begins!
Design & additional extras
Depending on the model of highchair you decide on, most models come in a variety of colours and designs that babies will love, however, your personal taste is also important to consider – are you happy to have something bright and colourful? Bright seat pads are the perfect way to customise a highchair and have it in keeping with the colour theme or design of your home or kitchen. Or maybe you’re more traditional and prefer the more neutral colour of wood? Is design more important to you than ease of use? If so, it may be that you’d prefer a high chair that doesn’t fold away but is sleek and stylish? Having an idea of design and colour will help you narrow down your search, as will deciding upon any additional extras you may need:
Optional additional extras:
- A multi-function option meaning the chair can be adjusted according to age and development
- Extra padding on the seats.
- Reclining seats.
- Adjustable seat heights.
- Adjustable foot-rest.
- Removable and easy-to-clean seat cover.
- Removable tray for easy cleaning.
- Compact when folded.
Frequently asked questions
Most high chairs are made for children aged around six months plus, which tends to be around the time of weaning. A general rule of thumb is that once babies are able to sit up unassisted, holding their head and neck up unaided, they’re ready for a highchair and this can then be used through the toddler stage, which is usually around 2-3 years of age.
Unless you have a multifunction high chair which comes with a newborn attachment, the answer is no. Although it may seem tempting to pop your month-old child in the highchair you’ve already researched and bought, in turn allowing you, as new parents, time to finish more of your own meal in the early months, avoid doing so. The risks far outweigh the benefits.
Make sure your child is properly strapped in with the highchair harness when sitting in the highchair.
Supervise your baby at all times while they are in the highchair. Don’t ever leave your baby alone in the chair without adult supervision.
Don’t use a high chair on a raised or slippery surface as this reduces stability.
Check that the chair is locked into place – before you place your child in a highchair that was just unfolded, give it a good shake to make sure it’s fully opened, has retained its structure and is stable.
When your baby’s in their highchair, don’t let older siblings or relatives climb on it. That extra weight may be enough to knock it over.
Keep hot, breakable, and sharp utensils far out of your baby’s reach.