A reader asked through our Features page whether the HDYDI moms have any recommendations for high chairs. Well, of course we do! But there’s no single “best” option. It depends on your space and other needs. We’ll review the two main types: standard high chairs and the ones that strap onto other chairs, as well as give you some tips on what to look for when making your selection.
Standard High Chairs
Certainly the most commonly-seen and with the most available options, the standalone high chairs are what most of us initially think of when it comes to feeding babies and toddlers their “solid” foods. A quick peek at the Babies R Us website shows over 60 chairs by 14 different brands, ranging in price from $45 to $300! You can go from vinyl upholstery to sleek Scandinavian styling, full-sized with bells and whistles to compact and minimal. That’s one of the main upsides to the traditional high chair: lots of styles and options to choose from. Many have an extra layer to the tray that snaps off and is dishwasher safe for easy clean-up, and they are often cushy and comfy for the kids. Many also have height adjustments if you want the kids to be sitting higher or lower for easier reach with the spoonful of pureed sweet potatoes.
The downside is space and portability. Even with the slimmest of models, two traditional high chairs are going to take up a substantial footprint in your kitchen. While some fold up more easily and compactly than others, the likelihood of you folding and storing both high chairs 3-5 times a day? Questionable, at best. For the same reason, they are not especially portable. Sure, you can fold them up and throw them in the back of the van, but are you really going to want to do that for every little trip over to grandma’s house?
The alternative is a wide variety of shapes and styles that are meant to attach to a chair or the table. For today’s purposes, we’re going to stick with those appropriate for babies and young toddlers. While there’s arguably wider variation in style than the traditional high chairs, there are overall significantly fewer options. Some of the models strap onto a dining room or kitchen chair, usually with one strap that goes underneath and one that goes around the back of the chair. They have smaller trays than regular high chairs, and often the tray can be removed when you’re ready for the kids to join you at the table. Some are hard plastic and some are padded, some recline. The Fisher-Price brand boosters are a big hit among the HDYDI moms.
The second main category are those that hook onto tables. Definitely consider the sturdiness of your table in relation to the weight of your child when choosing one of these, and know that they don’t work on all tables (like those with a bit of a “lip” underneath). Also consider whether food will be placed directly onto your kitchen table, in bowls, or on some kind of placemat. The likelihood being, we assume, that your kitchen table is not dishwasher-safe. But two of the HDYDI moms have the Chicco brand hook-on chairs and love how much space they save, even if there are phases (say, the early days of finger foods) when everything manages to get spilled in the cracks. But hey, that will happen with any of them.
While they don’t work in all circumstances, booster and hook-on chairs are a popular choice in twin families for the very obvious reason that they take up much less space. They just work with furniture you already have and adapt it to your kids. How handy! Many of them are also very easy to clean, and fold up compactly for easy travel.
Features to look for
Once you’ve determined what your space constraints and aesthetic preferences are, there are a few other practical matters to consider. First and foremost is ease of cleaning. At my house, we have two standard high chairs that are essentially the same, except one has cloth upholstery and one has some kind of plastic/vinyl. When we were setting them up, my husband remarked that he wished we had gotten both in the cloth, since the vinyl just didn’t seem an appealing surface to sit on for our delicate children. Then those delicate children began spilling sweet potatoes and banana everywhere. And everything they ate got mushed into the seats of their chairs. They got quickly nasty, and it was then that I learned the cloth chair came with instructions to… wait for it… dry clean only. You must be joking. I threw caution to the wind and put it in the wash, and it came out just fine. But still, that cloth one is an enormous pain in the butt to clean. Even the vinyl one, though it wipes clean more easily, still has a lot of nooks and crannies where things get a little stuck. Anyways, have messy babies in mind when selecting your chairs.
Then, consider any particular features you think you’ll want. For instance, some people find that it helps to slightly recline babies as they first get the hang of slurping off of the spoon. Not all chairs recline, but many standard ones do, as do some of the booster variety. Also test the way the tray comes on and off, and consider how you’d get a wiggly baby into the seat safely. Check belts to see if you want a five-point harness or a three-point one (honestly, in my big high chair, I almost never use the restraints, as I find the tray keeps them in just fine).
A few other notes on high chair options. One of the HDYDI moms had a stroke of genius: wooden restaurant high chairs! If you can find a restaurant supply store near you, they can be a cheap and stable option, though not portable. For other money-saving possibilities, don’t forget your local twin club sale and Craigslist. IKEA also sells the high chairs that they use in the in-store cafeteria: very inexpensive, and they even stack! For traveling, I have really liked the Eddie Bauer Pop-Up Booster seat. It folds nice and small, and while it’s maybe not the most stable or practical for everyday use, it’s a great thing to keep in the car or take on trips.