What kind of high chair do you need? Almost as varied as the foods your baby will be eating, high chairs come in a wide range of styles, materials, and optional features. Here’s what you should consider before buying or registering for one:
Types of High Chairs
Standard high chair: An everyday highchair with a tray that can be used as soon as baby can sit up (around six months)—or even sooner, if the model reclines. A tray attaches to serve as a table for baby.
European-style high chair: A (usually) tray-less high chair that you can pull right up to the table so your babe can eat with the rest of the family. Generally accommodates kids through the toddler years (and sometimes well beyond, depending on weight limit), since they feature adjustable seat and footrest positions.
Portable or hook-on high chair: Great for travel or even for families with limited space, this kind of compact seat clips onto your table or dining chair. Note: especially with chairs that hook onto a table, it’s important to adhere to weight limits—and to confirm that your table is sturdy enough to support the weight of a chair. Also, hook-on arms made of metal may damage a softer wooden dining table. Chairs that attach to a dining chair may offer all the features of a standard high chair, including a tray, but without its corresponding footprint.
Booster seat: Good for toddlers who have grown out of a high chair (somewhere between 18 to 24 months) but still need help reaching the table or the additional security of a seat belt (often a three-point harness instead of the five-point harness on many standard high chairs).
Chair harness: A fabric seat cover that attaches to the back of a chair and has safety straps to keep your child in place—not as secure as a booster seat (and doesn’t provide the lift of one either), but can be super convenient for traveling with an older infant or toddler.
Factors to Consider
Size: How much space do you have? How much room would your high chair of choice require?
Stability: Generally speaking, the wider the base of the high chair, the greater its stability. If you have an older child, make sure the chair can withstand any older sibling antics, like shaking or pushing the chair.
Ease of cleaning: High chairs get messy—especially once baby starts self-feeding. Consider how easy the primary material (generally wood or plastic) is to wipe clean (be sure to check for little grooves and crevices that will trap food), whether is can be thrown in the dishwasher, and whether any seat cushions can be sponged off or require machine washing.
Adjustability: The ability to adjust a high chair’s height (some chairs even feature a pneumatic lift, like at a beauty parlor!) as well as the positioning of its harness and footrest can help to extend its usefulness by months or even years. Consider both the size of your baby and how long you’d like to use the high chair, as well as where you’ll be feeding baby (at the dining table, at a kitchen counter, etc.).
Collapsibility: Do you have space to leave the high chair out all the time, or do you need one that can be folded up and tucked away between meals?
Recline: A reclining high chair can be used earlier in baby’s life—even if it’s just to feed baby a bottle at the table while everyone else is eating. It’s also ideal for babies who’ve started solids but might still be shaky sitting up for an entire meal.
Safety belt: Of particular importance in the early months and years, a harness is optional (but still safer!) in the booster seat stage of toddlerhood. Many chairs come with a three-point harness, but a five-point harness is even safer.
One-handed maneuverability: It’s impressive how much parents can—and need to—do with just one hand! Accessing high chairs is no exception, so be sure to check out if you can release or lock the tray and harness single-handedly.
Trays: Would you prefer a dishwasher-safe tray, or are you happy to clean it by hand? Some trays also come with a removable feeding tray that can be used in lieu of plates (which are sometime subject to happy tossing by toddlers!).
Wheels: Will you need to wheel the high chair around? If so, be sure that the wheels can be locked in place—especially if you have an older child who might be tempted to push his little sister into the next room while you’re in the kitchen.
Style: What is most aesthetically pleasing to you? Are you looking for something that will fit your home’s décor, or have you given into an explosion of brightly-colored plastic? If you have a great room-style open space, it might be important that the high chair fits the décor.
Extra bells and whistles: Some high chairs do double-duty as swings, bouncy seats, or rocking chairs. Would this save you money in the end, allowing you to avoid an additional purchase, or are these kinds of features redundant for your family?
Portability: Does your family travel a lot? Do you need something you can collapse and toss in your car or a mini high chair that can be strapped to a chair and left in Grandma’s closet? Many families purchase a home high chair, and then keep a portable version in the car.
Safety certification: Check for the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association) logo. The JPMA along with the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) all work together to develop safety standards for baby and children’s products. For example, in order to comply with the voluntary ASTM safety standard, high chairs must have a fixed center crotch post.
Price: High chairs can range from $20 to more than $400. You’ll pay more for bells and whistles, and a more modern look.