By Aubrey Everett
When it is time to introduce solid foods to your baby, you will need a place for him to sit and eat. Options abound. Second to strollers, I found highchairs – and highchair alternatives – to be the most difficult to select because of the range of possibilities.
There are several things you should take into account when choosing a highchair. Do you eat at a dining room table? Kitchen island? How much space is available? Is the ability to clean the chair easily a priority? Do you have more than one child eating at the same time? How happy is your child sitting for lengths of time? Do you want something that blends in with your other furniture? What is your budget?
When I first looked at highchair options for my son, I did not initially realize that his needs would change significantly over time and even day to day. Some kids will happily use one chair for a long stretch, but I found that we often needed a few rotating options. Sometimes he was content to sit in a traditional highchair for a long meal, and other times his squirmy toddler body did not want to be strapped in, so it was a learning tower day.
When I first looked at highchair options for my son, I did not initially realize that his needs would change significantly over time and even day to day.
All said and done, between his first bite of solids and into a regular adult dining chair, these are the devices we used: clip-on counter chair, traditional highchair, booster seat (also handy for travel), and a learning tower. That may seem like a lot, and at times it felt excessive, but as he grew and developed, we needed to adapt alongside him.
6 – 12 months
We started with a chair that clipped onto our counter and used that several times a day for many months. It was compact, cozy, and put our baby right with us as we prepared meals and served him his first bites of solid food. He was able to sit upright and was in no danger of falling out, and he would happily sit while experimenting with mashed bananas and peanut butter. The chair folded down into a carrying case, which made it convenient for restaurants and travel. The chair is made of a soft fabric, which cushioned the baby but made it difficult to clean.
Consider: Inglesina Fast Table Chair (tray sold separately), it’s easy to clean, light, and portable.
12 – 18 months
These were our prime highchair months. We had a traditional highchair that folded down and tucked away while not in use. Our eating area is not large, so having the folding feature was important to us. As a stronger and more mobile young toddler, he grew to enjoy his chair and took advantage of a larger eating space to reach and grab. The material and structure were wiped down easily with a damp cloth, and the chair stayed looking clean despite constant use.
Consider: Oxo Tot Sprout High Chair, it’s durable, easy to clean, nice looking, and grows with your child up to 5 years.
18 months – 2+ years
We still went back and forth to the highchair, but some days he just did not want to sit still. Enter the learning tower. My son found that he loved being at the counter and to eat his meals standing. It allowed him autonomy to climb up and down when he started and finished his meals or grab something in between. He had room to reach for different utensils or his water bottle, and he could watch me prepare food or whatever else I may have been doing in the kitchen.
Consider: SDADI Adjustable Height Kitchen Step Stool, it’s sturdy and easy for toddlers to use themselves.
Our travel booster seat came in very handy when going out of town for any length of time. It straps securely to a regular dining chair and can even be plopped right on the floor for a quick meal or snack. The entire chair folds down into a small carrying case and is easy to put together upon arrival. During the warmer months, I often used it on our deck so our son could join us in an alfresco meal.
Consider: Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat, it’s plastic and super easy to clean, set up, and brake down, with a strap for carrying.
Take a look at your space and think about your specific needs when selecting a highchair – or chairs. For us, the kitchen is the center of our home and where we spend a lot of time, so eating at our breakfast bar makes sense. One day I hope to eat family meals at our dining room table, but with busy schedules and different mealtimes, this works for us. Don’t be intimidated by the options – know that you will be able to find the right item for your family.
About the author: Aubrey works in higher education and is the mother to an active and inquisitive son. She lives in the Boston area where she enjoys taking family walks along the beach, reading books, and introducing new foods to her son. Writing about motherhood allows her to connect to other parents and give voice to a challenging yet exciting time.
Photo credit: iStock.com/Poravute