The lowdown on highchairs
When you’re starting solid food (and once your baby can sit up by himself), a highchair gives your child a safe place to experiment with tastes and textures. It also makes it easy for you to supervise meals – and clean up afterward.
Highchairs come in a wide variety of styles and prices. Choose one that's sturdy and easy to clean; it needs to be durable enough to withstand several years of daily use. Your child may use a highchair until age 2 or 3.
Basic highchairs will do the job, but some high-end models hold up better to wear and tear, and can be more useful in the long run.
See which highchairs parents like best in BabyCenter’s Moms' Picks awards, or browse dozens of highchairs.
Types of highchairs
Basic metal- or plastic-frame highchairs
These models are fairly simple. Some are just molded plastic with harnesses; others have a bit of padding on the seat. Some have trays, others don't. Pros: They're usually inexpensive and lightweight. Some fold, making them easy to move and store. Cons: They typically offer less comfort for a baby than other kinds, can have tough-to-clean nooks.
These have all the features of basic models plus extras like well-padded seats, wheels, detachable trays, dishwasher-safe tray covers, and adjustable height and seat recline. Some models grow with your child, converting to a booster seat or or kid-sized chair.
Portable and hook-on highchairs
Instead of a freestanding highchair, some families choose a seat that attaches to the table or that straps on to a regular kitchen or dining-room chair. These hook-on chairs can free up space in tight quarters and tend to cost less than standard highchairs. And since they’re portable they’re useful for restaurants, Grandma’s house, and travel. On the downside, many hook-on chairs don’t work on every table, particularly if yours is extra-thick or thin or has a lip.
Wooden highchairs can be very appealing but may have drawbacks. Often the seat is too deep and the footrest too low for an infant. And wooden trays are heavier and harder to clean than plastic. Still, they may have fewer crevices that can trap crumbs and spills, and some models convert to regular chairs as your child grows.
What to look for when buying
Type: This will vary depending on your taste and needs, but pay particular attention to size and your space constraints.
Tray: The most convenient option is one that detaches easily and fits in the sink or dishwasher for cleaning (some trays also have a dishwasher-safe cover). Chairs with detachable trays are more versatile as your child grows, since they can be pulled up to the table.
Ease of cleaning: Food will find its way into every crack and crevice. Check the seat, harness, tray, and frame for hard-to-wipe areas, and if you find too many, go for a different model. The seat and harness should be simple to wipe clean or remove and run through the washing machine.
Versatility: Some highchairs convert to a booster seat or kid-sized chair to use when your child is older.
Adjustability: Chair height adjustment is handy, as is an adjustable tray to make sure your child's tummy isn't squeezed as he grows. Each adjustment should lock securely into place.
Sturdiness: Chairs with wide bases are harder to tip over. Give the chair a couple of shakes to check for stability.
Comfort: Padded seats are easier on your baby's bottom; a footrest is a nice feature for older babies. Make sure seams along the front of the seat have no sharp edges and won't scratch the back of your child's legs. Check the bottom of the tray for holes or sharp edges that could hurt your child's fingers.
Safety harness: Your highchair should have a 5-point harness, or a 3-point harness and crotch post, to keep your child from standing up or slipping out. Check the buckle; one that's too simple to operate can easily be undone, even by the pressure of your child's tummy. Harness straps should adjust to accommodate your growing child.
Wheels: These make it easy to move a highchair, often from the kitchen to the dining room. Make sure the wheels lock to prevent accidental roll-aways.
Safety standards: Look for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification seal on the packaging.
Important safety notes
- Children can be badly injured by falling out of a highchair, so always supervise your child and keep the safety harness buckled. Follow the manufacturer's recommended weight and age limits if given.
- Hundreds of thousands of highchairs have been recalled in recent years for a variety of safety problems, including pegs that stuck out and caused lacerations, safety belts that came unbuckled, and seats that came loose. Before buying a highchair or using a secondhand one, check product recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Vintage wooden highchairs are best used for decorative purposes only. Safety standards have changed over the years and though pretty, your heirloom chair may not be safe.
What it's going to cost you
Standard highchairs start at around $40 and run to about $200, with top-of-the-line models reaching $400 or more. A hook-on chair or portable highchair costs about $25 to $100.
Download our illustrated guide to highchairs