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A high chair is usually found on every new parent’s shopping list. Most of us assume that we will need one once our baby starts eating. However, that might not be the case. There are plenty of alternative options to a high chair out there, but are they safe for your baby and how practical are they to use? Is a high chair the best bet after all?
The most popular alternative choices on the market are a toddler tower, a hook-on seat, a travel chair harness, a booster seat and a chair booster seat. Let’s take a look at these options, whether a high chair is really necessary, and what factors are at play when making your decision.
Is a baby high chair necessary?
The short answer is no. You can simply feed a baby while they sit on your lap or on the ground. You will probably still want some sort of device to help feed your little one though. A good chair can keep them safe and contained, help with their posture, boost them up and attempt to control the mess! High chairs might be the most popular choice for parents to feed their babies and toddlers but that does not mean they are the only choice.
Do you have enough space in your kitchen for one?
Space is a big consideration in deciding whether a high chair is right for your family. There is no getting around the fact that high chairs take up room. It does depend on the brand and style that you choose as to how much space is used. There are collapsible, compact and adjustable models on the market to suit your own individual needs but you still need to put it somewhere. Space is definitely worth thinking about when buying a high chair.
When should you buy a high chair?
The NHS recommends that babies start eating solids from 6 months of age, so if you are planning on using a high chair it needs to be ready by then. If you like to do a lot of research I would start well before your baby is 6 months old. There are a lot of styles and features to choose from and it takes time to sift through them.
How long will you use a high chair for?
It is widely agreed that high chairs are generally used from 6 months to 3 years old plus. Every child is different just like each model and brand of high chair and this will impact how long it will be used for. There are some children who will outgrow a high chair and become more comfortable sitting on a regular chair, and this could be before the age limit recommended by the high chair manufacturer. Then, there are the children who will sit in a high chair for meals for much longer than expected and like it just fine.
Some high chairs have features that extend the life of the chair to mimic a regular chair. This can buy you an extra few months or even a few years of use e.g. the Graco Blossom 6 in 1.
Are high chairs safe?
When high chairs are used correctly they can be an excellent tool to support smooth meal times. It is important to buy a reputable brand and model of high chair, and then follow the instructions carefully for assembly. Here are three smart tips to support safe high chair use:
- Use the safety features of your high chair. That means all the buckles, clips and tray attachments.
- Stay nearby when a baby or toddler is in their chair to keep an eye on them as they eat. That way you are ready in case of choking or any high chair malfunctions.
- Clear off the table around your little eater. Once they get up in their high chair a whole new world opens to them within their reach.
You can find more advice about safe feeding of babies here.
What age do babies not need a high chair?
Again, this depends on the baby and your lifestyle. Babies will adapt to eat in whatever setting they are in — this could be on a picnic blanket or in a high chair. Babies should be happy, comfortable and safe to enjoy their food. A high chair or alternative are useful tools and many babies use them well into their toddler years.
So, are you ready to purchase a seat for a baby or toddler but you’re not quite sure about a high chair?
Let’s have a look at some of the alternatives in more detail.
5 alternatives to the high chair
Here are five alternatives to the high chair with an in depth look at the pros and cons of each option.
A toddler tower is designed to put toddlers at the right height to help with cooking or cleaning at the table or counter. They can also be used for eating, crafts and anything else in between that they need a boost up to do. It’s a clever device to encourage toddlers to be hands on at home.
- Toddler towers are versatile. They can be used for eating and activities.
- Most towers are adjustable and grow with your toddler, which means they should last a growth spurt or two.
- They are a safe alternative to pulling a chair or stool up to a kitchen counter to stand on.
- They are typically designed with bars on all four sides to prevent slips and falls, and are made of sturdy, toddler friendly materials.
- The clue is in the name, toddler towers are best suited to toddlers. Most toddler towers don’t come with safety straps or footrests as you would expect with a highchair. A toddler is expected to be able to stand up independently to use one.
- If your concern is space saving then a toddler tower might not be for you. They tend to take up the same amount of space as a traditional high chair and can be bulky.
A hook-on seat is designed to take the place of one of your dining chairs and clips onto the table itself. Once it is secured your baby can sit in the seat and enjoy their meal. The first time I saw a baby in one of these I did a double take. It does look like they are floating at the table at first glance!
- Many of the designs out there fold down to be stored in a cupboard out of the way when they are not in use. They are good space savers.
- Your baby is right up at the table with the rest of the family at meal time. There is no tray separating them from the action.
- Most models and brands for hook-on seats specify that they are not suitable on some table surfaces. It is definitely worth checking the details before making a purchase.
- These chairs really do need to be installed properly on the table. They are designed to be safe for babies but with no supporting legs, an extra safety check will go a long way.
- The older your baby gets the stronger they get. This means they may be more likely to break free. A hook-on or clip-on seat might not have the long life you were hoping for.
Are hook-on high chairs safe?
There is a healthy debate about the safety of hook-on seats. As I mentioned already, the aesthetic can be disconcerting at first. The hooks or clips need to be strong and it is important to choose a reputable brand and do your research before making any purchase.
Travel Chair Harness
These fabric clip-on seats look like a kangaroo pouch for your baby and can be used on most chairs. The idea is that they can move with you.
- Most styles on the market are designed to be simple to use and fit on most chairs.
- It travels easily and packs down small. They are typically lightweight and will often fit in a changing bag with the rest of the baby paraphernalia.
- Just like the hook-on seat option it is worth considering that babies and toddlers develop strength quickly and might attempt an escape. The travel chair harness is likely to have a short shelf life.
- The harness is made from fabric and is designed for travel which implies that it is not intended for everyday use. I would think that daily use would lead to wear and tear.
A booster seat gives toddlers a bump up to reach the table to eat from a regular, every day chair. They are usually compact, budget-friendly and straightforward to install.
- A booster seat can be added onto an existing chair and save space in your home.
- The average booster seat costs a lot less than the average high chair.
- It fosters a sense of independence for toddlers who crave to be just like you and sit at the table like a grown up!
- Boosters seats can be moved from chair to chair with ease and don’t take up much room in storage.
- Booster seats are generally designed for toddlers and do not have straps and so on. Babies cannot safely use a booster seat.
These seats have the most in common with a high chair plus the space-saving ingenuity of some of the other options. A chair booster attaches on to an ordinary dining chair and comes with safety straps as well as the option of attaching a tray.
- Since it is attached to an existing chair it doesn’t take up extra space in your home.
- The tray and safety straps are nice features to have.
- Chair boosters tend to be light and easily moved.
- One of your dining room chairs has now been converted into a high chair and is out of commission!
How do you feed a baby without a high chair?
You might decide to opt out of buying a high chair or find yourself in a place without one. When this happens, don’t worry. Make sure the baby is sitting on the ground or on your lap. Either feed them gently with a spoon or put food in a bowl or on the table if you have one.
Here is a useful video on how to feed your baby without a high chair
Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a “little noise” about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.