Congratulations! Beginning solids is one of the first steps a little one makes towards independence (plus, pictures of adorable faces covered in strained peas or applesauce are a rite of passage). But before your child takes the leap, it’s essential to have the right baby gear—and that means the perfect baby high chair!
Purchasing a high chair can be an overwhelming experience—there are so many different options. To help you make this important decision, we’ve prepared this guide outlining the different features for safety, comfort, durability and cleaning, plus how they’ll impact your baby’s feeding time.
Questions to ask when buying a high chair
- How do I know if my baby is ready for solids?
- What are the most important baby high chair safety features?
- What high chair comfort features should I look for?
- What makes for a durable high chair?
- How can I ensure the high chair is easy to clean?
- Are there any other cool baby high chair features I need?
1How do I know if my baby is ready for solids?
Health Canada recommends that babies reach six months of age before being introduced to solid food, but some children show signs of readiness earlier. In this case, you can introduce solids as early as four months—but only with permission from your child’s doctor.
Signs of readiness include:
- Your baby can hold their head up by themselves.
- Your baby can sit, with or without support.
- Your baby doesn’t push food out of their mouth with their tongue. (This is called tongue-thrust reflex.)
- Your baby has started putting things in their mouth and chewing on them.
- Your baby attempts to pick things up with their thumb and forefinger. (This is called the “pincer grasp.”)
- Your baby seems interested in mealtimes.
- Your baby watches with curiosity when adults or other children are eating.
No matter how you choose to feed baby food to your little one—either by spoon-feeding DIY baby food or giving your babe small pieces of soft food to feed themselves (which is called baby-led weaning)—the readiness cues are the same. When in doubt, call your doctor to check-in.
2What are the most important baby high chair safety features?
If you’ve established that your baby is ready, now comes the fun part: shopping for their high chair.
To start, you’ll need to make several safety checks when buying a high chair in Canada or adding it to your baby registry checklist. Most models sold in national stores will have been approved for sale by the government and include safety features necessary for keeping a baby protected in their high chair, but it’s always worth double-checking.
- Five-point harness: Like a car seat, a high chair should have a five-point harness to keep your baby secure. For convertible seats, which are engineered to grow with your child from infancy through their toddler years, the harness may progress from five points to three points. Be sure the clasps are child-proof, so your little one can’t pull a Houdini and escape (or get their fingers caught in the attempt!).
- Lock-in tray: Not all high chairs have a removable tray, but if this is an included feature, make sure the tray locks in with child-safe mechanisms. (This means there are extra steps for release that would be very difficult for a baby or small child to manipulate.)
- Locking wheels: Some high chairs have wheels for easy mobility, which can be a great feature if you’ll be moving it a lot. However, wheels pose a problem if they can’t be locked in place. Look for wheels with a child-proof locking system to ensure there’s no possibility of the chair rolling when your baby’s in it.
- Crotch post: Squirmy babies have a unique talent for arching their backs and attempting to slide out of the high chair under the tray. A crotch post is just as it sounds: your baby’s legs go on either side of the divider before the tray is locked in place. While the harness will have a strap to secure between your baby’s legs, a post is solid and provides even greater protection.
- Wide base and considerable weight: A high chair with a wide base is generally safer than a narrow one since they’re harder for an active baby to rock and potentially tip over. A heavier chair will also help prevent tipping—check the weight when buying online or on the packaging when shopping in-store.
- JPMA certification: While all products for infants and children must be approved for sale by the government, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) offers a safety seal for those who voluntarily submit to and pass their rigorous testing. You may not find it on all high chairs you’re considering—and that’s okay—but it may offer extra peace of mind when you’re comparing models.
3What high chair comfort features should I look for?
Just like any other item you’re buying for your child, comfort is a huge factor. There are a few features you can consider to help your little one feel snug and relaxed.
- Foot rest: This may not be a major consideration when your baby is tiny, but as they grow, having a place to brace their feet will make feeding times more comfortable. Without a rest, their feet will wave freely in the air, which may feel unsettling.
- Padded seat: The seat construction should be firm for safety reasons, but this can be hard on your little one’s bum and back. Choosing a high chair with a padded seat like the Graco DuoDiner will give your child a comfier experience.
- Adjustable seat height and backrest: Many high chairs have adjustable seats and backrests so you can make tweaks if your baby gets fussy. (And trust us: This will change day to day!) For example, the Evenflo Symmetry High Chair has two recline positions to address any discomfort. Many high chairs also have removeable elements, like the tray, which allow them to convert to a booster seat as your child grows.
- Removable tray: Some high chairs are very large and can be difficult to pull up to the table for a meal. But if the tray is removable, your baby can easily join the rest of the family. (You won’t want to remove the tray when your wee one is first starting solids, but when they’re a little bigger, it’s nice to have the whole family eating together.)
4What makes for a durable high chair?
No one puts a product through the wringer like a kid, so a high chair must be well made. Check on the materials: Is the chair made from a high-quality plastic that won’t scratch or crack easily? If it’s a wooden high chair, is it finished with a hard-wearing varnish? You can often get a good sense of the high chair’s build quality by reading online reviews or customer ratings.
Durable high chairs may be a little more expensive, but they provide peace of mind and are worth the money if you plan on using the high chair for years to come.
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5How can I ensure the high chair is easy to clean?
- High chair construction: Are there many nooks and crannies where dropped food will get caught? If a chair can be partially disassembled after eating (e.g. removable tray cover, adjustable backrest, removable padding), it will make clean-up time much easier. (The Fisher-Price 4-in-1 even has pieces that can go in the dishwasher!) Similarly, make sure you can use cleaning products on the entire chair, not just the tray. It will get dirty in ways you’ve never imagined!
- Upholstery: If your high chair of choice is upholstered, make sure the upholstery is wipeable (like the Cosco Simple Fold High Chair) or treated to be stain-resistant (especially if it’s not removable!). Some cushions or covers can be removed, making for easy cleaning—especially if you can toss them into the washing machine and then tumble- or air-dry.
6Are there any other cool baby high chair features I need?
- Aesthetics: For some moms, the look of their baby’s high chair is an important factor—and manufacturers are getting wise to this fact! Many chairs are now crafted with home décor in mind and boast stylish designs like muted fabrics on covers and cushions. (The Evolur Zoodle 3-in-1 is a great example!) Just make sure all of the safety and functionality elements are also present.
- Portability: For small spaces, a chair with a tiny footprint, or foldable or stowable components that can be tucked away when not in use (like the Baby High Chair with Basket from Living Basics), might be up your alley. Similarly, if you’re a family of jetsetters, you might want to consider a high chair that’s easy to pack and go. Travel high chairs are usually inexpensive—so you may want to consider buying one to take on the road while you leave your larger, bulkier high chair at home.
Shop high chairs and must-have baby gear
- Health Canada. Infant nutrition.
- Canadian Paediatric Society. Timing of introduction of allergenic solid foods for infants at high risk.
- What to Expect. 7 Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Solid Foods.