Wooden vs Plastic High Chair: A guide that helps you choose.
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
As we were planning to buy a High Chair for our little sprout, we wondered whether we should choose a wooden or a plastic High Chair. There are so many options and variants available it initially seemed like a difficult task to figure out what is best. However, after some research we where able to boil it down to this:
The two determining factors for choosing between a wooden or a plastic High Chair are portability & aesthetics. All other product attributes are pretty similar for both product executions.
If portability is important to you than a plastic High Chair is the right choice for you. Wooden high chairs will almost always outweigh their plastic counterparts and thus making them less forgiving for traveling or storing between meal times.
If design is important to you, we believe a wooden High Chair is the winner. The natural material just blends in really well with the rest of your furniture and wooden High Chairs come in numerous colors and styles. In our opinion, traces of use actually make a wooden product look better, as it catches a life story. Plastic Chairs with traces of use just look worn out.
This table compares all the attributes of a wooden vs plastic High Chair:
So is this really everything you have to keep in mind when choosing between a Wooden or a Plastic High Chair?
Well, yes… it pretty much is. The days when Wooden High Chairs where stiff, non adjustable relics from ancient times (sometimes very nice ones), are over. Many Wooden Chairs have the same options when it comes to adjustability, safety and ease of cleaning as plastic variants. And Plastic Chairs have come a long way when we look at stability, quality and recyclability. The differences are really not that big anymore and the price points become quite similar, depending of course on the perks and options that you choose. Here below you will find all the points we cross-checked when figuring out our best option.
Since we were interested in buying a Abiie Beyond High Chair (yes we love the aesthetics) we wanted to make sure this was a responsible choice so we contacted a Governmental Agency that focuses primarily on child and family services and we posed the following question: Are wooden High Chairs safe?
The unambiguously answer is: yes they are! They are definitely safe as long as they have the following features implemented: a safety harness (3 & 5 point), a crotch post, back support, a sturdy wide footprint and soft/rounded edges. (these features are also a necessity for plastic High Chairs to be safe) Even more so, in terms of stability they slightly outperform plastic High Chairs. This is due to the material properties of wood. A wooden frame is usually stiffer than a metal tubing framework that comes with most plastic High Chairs. Also, the overall weight of a Wooden Chair is often a bit higher than a plastic one. The higher weight reduces the possibility of rocking the chair and tipping it over. This makes wooden High Chairs the ideal pick for children with special needs. Now, a good stability doesn’t mean you can leave your child unsupervised at any time nor should your toddler be able to use the High Chair (plastic or wood) as a climbing frame as this is where lots of accidents happen. Parents also often ask: "won't my child get any splinters from a wooden High Chair?" This is a grounded concern as wood is a natural product that has the tendency to generate splinters from time to time. However, manufacturers are perfectly aware of this disadvantageous quality of wood so they make sure that all the surfaces are thoroughly sanded down and finished with a coating that prevents the wood from splintering. So as long as the chair is intact, the risk of splinters is close to zero. Should there, for some reason, be a defect on the chair, you can always sand the defect down to get rid of any splinters and seal it up again with a clear coat. As for plastic High Chairs, the chance you will get a splinter is really nil. However, during our research we’ve found some plastic parts too have pretty sharp edges or brims that can cause your child to get scratched. This is a result of the manufacturing process, but you can easily resolve this by cutting off the brim with a sharp knife. Don’t forget to wear protective gloves though!
To find out which High Chair is easiest to clean, the wooden or the plastic one, we diligently scanned through hundreds of online reviews. However the reviews still left us inconclusive so we visited some baby shops and asked for advice. This is what we learned: Many parents think that the plastic High Chairs are easier to clean than the wooden High Chairs. But this is a false assumption as it actually depends on the execution of the specific High Chair and the material finishes. Simple: closed shapes and smooth surfaces are easiest to clean. Openings like cracks and joints collect dirt and are difficult to reach for cleaning. When we look at the overall design of Wooden Chairs, we actually find that they commonly have very simple and straight forward shapes with larger, flat, easy to wipe surfaces. Plastic High Chairs, for some reason, often have complicated shapes and surfaces with more corners, slots and ribs.
Surface textures in general like a textured plastic or untreated wood are both really sensitive to stains. This is why we recommend to buy a High Chair (plastic or wood) with smooth surfaces. For wood this means it should have a layer of paint (clear or color) that seals the pores to eliminate the risk of stains. Accessories for both wooden and plastic Chairs like straps, cushioning and trays or tray covers come off easy for thorough (machine) cleaning. The only thing you can’t do with a Wooden High Chair is to place it outside and hose it down with water but as our adviser said, if you have to hose down a plastic Chair, it probably isn’t that easy to clean either.
The level of convenience is greatly dependent on the use case, so we made two categories: at home and on the go.
Parents who have limited space better look for a High Chair that is foldable and light or has castors. If you need to store the chair 4 times a day, it will become annoying if its heavy and bulky. For this we found plastic High Chairs to be more suitable. For those of you who have enough space to leave a High Chair standing in the dining- or kitchen area, a slightly heavier wooden High Chair will work just fine. Thanks to the stiffer frame and the increase in stability, they often have about the same footprint as a normal dining chair.
On the go:
Even though there are wooden High Chairs that you can fold flat (we found this one on Amazon), we are just not convinced this is the right choice for traveling or daily storage. Nothing beats a light luggage when you hit the road. Especially when you have a baby or a toddler you need to carry around. This is where plastic is unbeatable. And since traveling means you’re not at home, matching the High Chair with your interior isn’t that much of a topic anyway.
So we asked the salesperson: How can a wooden High Chair possibly beat their plastic counterpart when it comes to ergonomics? Plastic is so much softer and easier to shape than wood, so it must be better. Well, nothing could be further from the truth, this is what the expert taught us: Good ergonomics includes not only soft material and curvy shapes, although it helps in the overall feeling of comfort, these are not the main features to consider. Much more important is the level of support at the right places and the way the chair induces good posture for your child. In general we could say that the higher the adjustability the better, because your baby will grow fast and the support needs to ‘grow along’ with the ever evolving body of your child. This means you should look for a High Chair with a good back support and the possibility to adjust the foot support to enable a 90° knee angle, this ensures a good blood flow and a comfortable feeling for your child. All these settings should be available for all stages of growth that the High Chair is designed for. There are both plastic and wooden High Chairs that score really well on adjustability and thus ergonomics. So it’ s fair to say that there isn’t a clear winner here, it just depends on the model and the price category.
Speaking of which, isn’t an ergonomic High Chair really expensive? Well, it depends how you look at it. First, if the High Chair is fully adjustable and grows along, it has a pretty long lifespan to it, meaning if you divide the higher price by the additional years of use, the price is often not so bad.
Secondly, some of the models will literally last a lifetime so, in our opinion, they are a really good investment. We found the Abiie Beyond Wooden High Chair on Amazon and the price is very acceptable considering the years it will last. Ok, all this adjustability is really cool, but there are a lot of brands and models on the market, which High Chair is ergonomically sound? To make it easier for you moms and dads, we’ve put together a list on Amazon of the most ergonomic High Chairs on the market, ranging through different price categories and for both wood and plastic.
We fully understand that there is no accounting for taste, however, for us, aesthetics is a pretty big topic. We really love products that look nice and blend in with the rest of the interior. This is where we feel the wooden High Chair is the clear winner over the plastic High Chair. No plastic can beat the warm feeling of an authentic material like wood. Every wooden product has something unique to it, as its material is created by nature. The biggest benefit we find, is that you can easily restore and/or restyle your wooden High Chair. Just sand it down and you can get creative with colors and finishes, really making it your personal product. This is something you just can’t pull off with a plastic High Chair. So, than how do you pick the right design for your High Chair? Well, our rule of thumb here is: The longer the product is supposed to stay with you, the more timeless it should be. We define timeless as: a simple straightforward design with very little decorative elements, as these elements are merely trendy for a very short time and run easily out of fashion. If the decorative touch is defined by elements like the padding, or the print on the safety harness, then that’s fine. These you can easily replace by something that works well again with the current trend. You can check out our top list of timeless designed High Chairs here on Amazon.
Which one has the highest amount of accessories, a plastic or a wooden High Chair?
The amount of accessories you get, or can purchase afterwards, really depends on the brand and the purpose of the High Chair. Most of the better brands have a very broad pallet of accessories to choose from. And more than likely, there are a lot of after market ‘universal’ accessories (like padding and straps) that fit on almost all the High Chairs, regardless of whether they are made of wood or plastic.
What if it gets broken, which one can I repair best, a wooden or a plastic High Chair?
As for most products on the market, there is always a manufacturers warranty on the products that you bought new. For most of the top brands it isn’t that much of an issue to replace any parts if they do get broken. (We’ve found owners of this OXO chair to be exceptionally pleased by the customer service.) However, once your warranty period is over, the complete cost for a replacement part has to be covered by the owner of the product. This is where we feel wooden High Chairs have another benefit over plastic ones. If you are a little handy with woodworking and have some basic tools at home, you can reanimate almost any wooden product, including your High Chair. Plastic High Chairs on the other hand are often not that easy to repair. Things like clips, pins and locking mechanisms, are made out of very thin walled plastic, once they are broken, they can be glued together but the original strength can never be regained so it will probably not last that long.
What if I want to resell the High Chair, what is best, a plastic or a wooden High Chair?
Products that are well taking care of and still are in a good condition you can sell again. As we’ve mentioned before, we really feel that wood as a material that keeps its value much longer. Even if your wooden High Chair has some traces of use on it, you can give it a small make-over, making it look brand new and easy to sell for a good price. The reversed direction is also true: we purchased many wooden products for a bargain and refurbished them into personalized high value objects with a soul. Plastic High Chairs have to be maintained really well in order to retain the value. Scratches and stains are almost always non erasable and devalue the High Chair a lot. So from a long term investment point of view, a wooden High Chair has a lot more options.
Which is the more sustainable option, a wooden or a plastic High Chair?
Sustainability is a hot topic nowadays and luckily more and more of you parents consider the environmental impact of the new products you want to buy. Both wood and plastics are fully recyclable and not all the wood comes from cultivated forests, so from a material point of view its hard to decide what is the most sustainable option. For High Chairs however, it is not just about wood vs plastics. It depends more on how the High Chair is constructed and the way it can be recycled after it has reached the end of its life-cycle. It basically comes down to this: The easier it is to separate all the materials by category and type the easier it is to recycle. So a High Chair made entirely out of wood is probably a better choice than a High Chair made out of metal tubing, foamed plastic and injection molded plastic parts, especially when there are different types of plastics used in one product. Because this isn’t easy to figure out we’ve put together a checklist that can help you decide if the High Chair you are looking for is sustainable or not:
Wooden High Chairs
Does the wood come from a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forest? This means that it comes from a renewable source.
Is the wood engineered or solid? Engineered wood often contains toxic glues to bond it together, whereas solid wood doesn’t.
How easy is it to separate the materials? Screws, inlay padding and removable straps all indicate an easy to disassemble product. Engineered wood is difficult to separate.
A good example of an environmentally responsible designed wooden High Chair is this one from Abiie we found on Amazon. It has all the certifications and the company really focuses on the long term effect of their products on the environment and the future of our children.
Plastic High Chairs
Do the manufacturers use recycled plastics for their products? The products quality stays the same but plastic stays out of landfills as it is reused in other products.
Does the High Chair contain many different types of plastics? A product made of a single type of plastic is easier to recycle.
How easy is it to separate materials? Products that are co-molded (like hard plastic with a soft TPU rubber-like material melted on top) are much harder to separate. Do you have the option to bring the chair to a recycling center?
Look at the general information about the company
If you are not sure or can’t see the above checkpoints, you can always check the companies environment policies on the web. If you search for the company and add the word environment or sustainability, you should get some info about the initiatives this company took to improve our environment. Companies that are contributing to a better environment usually communicate this loud and clear to the public. This comes in the form of sustainability reports that disclose all their goals, special programs and results. Another way to check for environment contribution is through awards a company has achieved. This will certainly be found on their website as it is one of the selling propositions.
Which one can you use the longest, a plastic or a wooden High Chair?
This really depends on the model that you are buying. There are both wooden and plastic High Chairs that will only last a couple of months to a few years before they become too small and the transition to a Booster Seat becomes necessary.
But if we look for the overall winner when it comes to age range, we’d have to say that wooden High Chairs take first place. All the grow-along chairs that are designed to stick with you forever, are made almost entirely out of wood. Which comes to no surprise considering the advantages of wood we talked about before.
Also, we haven’t found any plastic High Chair that we could imagine keeping around for decades. They become outdated soon and there is just too little of a visual overlap with our interior, even with today's models.
Which one is most interesting from a financial point of view, a wooden or a plastic high chair?
Here we thought that, since wood is a much more noble material, it must be higher priced than their plastic counter parts. But after we looked around on the web for a little while, to our surprise, we found wooden High Chairs not to be such bank breaker after all.
This is how we looked at this:
First, we determined the type of features the High Chair should have and listed them up. For us this meant: All the normal safety features such as a 5-point harness and a crotch post; a tray + cover (one that is dishwasher safe); removable padding for easy cleaning.
Secondly, we looked at the age range that we want to cover with the High chair. Since we don’t like having too much stuff in and around our house, we looked for High Chairs that will support our child up to adolescence, rendering out the need for a Booster Seat before transitioning to a dining table.
After comparing some of the models we picked based on our criteria, we saw that the price ranges are quite similar, in the table below you can see the overview we’ve made, we hope it helps you in getting a better picture.
This table compares the price per year for a High Chair during its life cycle:
So there you have it, our complete guide to help you decide what type of High Chair is most suitable for you. We really hope it answers all of your questions and saves you precious time getting to a decision that you fully support.
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