Is a High Chair necessary? Find out here if it’s for you.
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
When our journey of parenthood started, we also had to start thinking about a seating solution for our new family member. With a myriad of options and just about as much different opinions about what is the best type of seating, we didn’t know what to believe and we got stuck in analysis paralysis.
So, in order to take away the confusion, we went to our pediatrician and asked her for her advice on seating for our little wonder. This is what she told us:
High Chairs offer great benefits such as: good stability, reliable safety features and pleasant ergonomics for both parent and child. However, they are not necessary as Booster Seats, Space Saver Chairs or Hook-on Chairs can offer the same benefits. Your best fit depends on your specific needs.
Now we knew that a High Chair is not a necessity, we still didn’t quite know how to make the right choice. Below we will have a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of High Chairs and dive a bit deeper into the world of alternatives.
Once we have that clarified, we guide you through some simple questions that help you decide what’s the best solution for your family.
Why a High chair is very nice to have but not necessary.
Overall, High Chairs are still very useful to have, as they are a stand-alone product with all the goodies implemented:
Stability: They have a wide footprint and sturdy framework for good stability during the roughest of storms.
Independent height: The height doesn’t depend on the type of dining or kitchen chairs you have at home, you don’t have to measure and fit to get it right. Many of the better quality High Chairs are also height adjustable for a perfect fit.
Recline function: Some High Chairs offer a recline function which allows you to use it to bottle feed an infant as well, with this functionality you can start to use the High Chair before your child is on solids.
Tray: Since the tray is part of the High Chair, your sprout will always have a table in the correct position and height to enjoy a meal.
Safety Harness: Buckle up for the ride! With a 3- or 5-point harness your child is safe and secure during meals or brief play times. This is very useful if you like to do some shores and have your child sit nearby. Now you can keep an eye on each other, making sure everything is OK.
Stand-alone: You are not bound to the kitchen to feed your child. Some High Chairs have castors, so picking your space in the house becomes easy.
For us personally, having a High Chair means peace of mind. This is because the product experience is not dependent on the dimensions and the quality of our existing furniture, which at the time being wasn’t so great. (our first, second hand furniture set for the kitchen :-)) After we tested some models in the store and took our pick, we knew what we could expect at home as well.
Of course, High Chairs aren’t all roses and sunshine, they do have one big downside compared to the alternatives and that is the size. Since they are a stand-alone product, they take up an extra spot in your kitchen or dining room.
For many of you fresh parents, space is sparse. You’re just expanding the family, you are still young and at the beginning of your careers, so the spacious home is not part of your life yet. Or, some people just prefer to live in a city center where spacious homes are not always an option and you have to do it with a cozy home.
If this sounds more like you, no worries because there are alternatives on the market that will better fit your needs than a full size High Chair.
High Chairs are not necessary because:
Depending on your specific needs and your kitchen or dining room setup, you can either choose for Booster Seats, Space Saver High Chairs or Hook-on High Chairs. All of them have their own benefits and drawbacks but they have one common advantage over traditional High Chairs: their compact size and portability.
Below we will look at all the pros and cons of each alternative solution and describe in detail what they are designed for, so it becomes easy for you to decides what best fits your needs.
Back in the old days, a Booster Seat was considered the next step after using a High Chair. It usually was just a small pillow to bump up the child until he or she was big enough to use a grown-up chair.
Nowadays, manufacturers see the benefits of having less bulky products and therefore designed Booster Seats that offer the same features and quality as a conventional High Chair but without the need for a lot of space.
Booster Seats are ideal for parents who like to be efficient with their use of space and who like to travel on a regular basis.
About 1/4th the size of a High chair.
They are lighter, very compact and thus more portable.
Easy to clean due to the small size and weight.
They have the same safety features as a High Chair.
Can also be used on the floor for a bit of playtime.
Height depends on the height of the kitchen or dining chair.
They don’t fit on every chair: chairs with armrests and stools won’t work.
Spilled food ends up on the dining or kitchen chair.
Unlike recline High Chairs, they are not suitable to bottle feed infants.
2.Space Saver High Chairs
Space saver High Chairs are for those of you parents who are looking for all the benefits of both regular High Chairs and Booster seats, combined in one product. Unlike Booster Seats, they have a base that reaches a bit higher and is more adjustable.
Overall, Space Saver High Chairs are ideal for parents that live in a cozy home and need a High Chair that is easy to store and doesn’t take up an extra spot at the kitchen table.
About half the size and half the price of a High Chair.
Better height options than a Booster Seat.
Has a recline function to bottle feed an infant.
Easy to clean and store.
All the safety features a High Chair has.
Can be used on the floor for a bit of playtime.
Not suitable for all types of chairs.
Spilled food ends up on the dining or kitchen chair.
Unlike normal Booster Seats, they are not intended for use on the floor.
Although compact, they are less portable than a Booster Seat.
3. Hook-on High Chairs
Hook-on High Chairs are a bit of a special category, as they won’t work in combination with a dining or kitchen chair. In stead, they require a strong and sturdy table to be of any use. They have the advantage that your child can be part of the family meals as she or he is truly joining you right at the edge of the table, just like everybody else.
These High Chairs are ideal for parents who love to travel and pack light. Most Hook-on High Chairs can be folded extremely flat, making them ideal for cozy homes and babies with parents who are often on the move.
Very affordable yet decent.
About 1/6th the size of a High Chair.
Easy to clean the seat and underneath.
No food spills on your kitchen or dining chairs.
Can be folded flat so, perfect for travel.
All the safety features a High Chair has.
Can only be used in combination with the right kind of table.
Not suitable for infants.
Most models don’t have a tray.
In case you are wondering about the overall safety of Hook-on High Chairs, you can have a look at this illustrated article that we wrote here: You will find detailed information about the type of tables that work and what to avoid.
Side note: when you are feeding your child solid food, please make sure not to place them in a reclined position like strollers or bouncers as this increases the chances of suffocation. Your child needs to sit up straight to keep the airways clear and avoid the chances of food getting stuck in the windpipe.
Now that you have a good overview of all the alternatives to High Chairs, it is time to narrow down the options. Below there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide what’s best for you and your child. We’ve also added some common questions parents have when they are in the process of purchasing a seating solution.
Do I have enough space for a High Chair?
Even though High Chairs are very convenient and great to feed your child, if you are living in a cozy home, their size will bring you more pains than gains. If you are keen of having a separate High Chair, you could use a foldable one but this means you still need the extra space during use and storage. Also, you will be folding and unfolding it up to 3 times a day, after a couple of months this will become annoying.
In an ideal case, you’d have an extra spot in your kitchen or dining room where you can leave the High Chair permanently, but remember, this will be so for about 2 years!
Will we travel a lot?
In case you do have the space for a regular High Chair it is good to ask yourself how often you will be using it. If you like to go out a lot or your parents do some regular babysitting to help you out with the logistics of parenting, a normal High Chair can become a bit redundant.
If this is the case, you are much better off using an alternative that is easy to take along with you, like a Booster Seat or a Hook-on High Chair. Your family will probably thank you for not dumping a full size High Chair at their place and considering the price, you can even purchase multiple Boosters Seats or Hook-on High Chairs so that you have one at home, one at your parents place and one on the car for an emergency restaurant stop.
Is my kitchen/dining room setup compatible with Booster Seats, Space Saver or Hook-on High Chairs?
The fact that there are alternatives to High chairs is comforting but before you pick either one of them you need to figure out which one is compatible with your current furniture.
For Booster Seats and Space Saver High Chairs you need kitchen or dining chairs that are stable and have a back support. In case these are armchairs, there needs to be enough space to fit a Booster in between the armrests. Armchairs that are closed at the sides my seem safe but are not suitable as you cannot secure the Booster or Space saver with a strap that goes around the bottom.
Bar stools could work in theory but are not recommended. Usually they lack a back support to secure a strap and the seating surface is often too small to capture the complete footprint of the Booster. For more information about bar stools and their compatibility with Booster Seats, please have a look at this article we wrote here.
Hook-on High Chairs need a strong and sturdy table with 4 legs and a quality tabletop of at least 0.8 inches or 20mm thickness. Glass tabletops are out of the questions as they can break and in most cases, they lay loose on the framing of the table.
Since the stability and safety of your Hook-on chair depends fully on the quality of the table, it is important that you understand the dos and don’t s before choosing this option. For in-depth information about Hook-on Chairs you can have a look at this illustrated guide that we wrote here.
If your setup is right, Hook-on High Chairs are still a very affordable and qualitative alternative to standard High Chairs. Many parents who travel a lot and need to be mindful about the space they have, swear by this type of seating because it is so portable and convenient.
What budget do I need to have my child seated?
For High Chairs there are entry-level, mid-level and top-level prices. So, regardless of which type that you choose, you will always find something within your budget.
Basic High Chairs can be found for as little as $20 but you will only get the pure essence of a High Chair: An non padded seat with a fixed tray and four non adjustable feet. They will have all the safety features that you need but for extra padding or a tray cover you will need to buy separate accessories.
Mid-level High Chairs will cost you about $50 - $70 and offer some additional features like padding, a reclining function and a removable tray or a tray cover. Overall, all accessories that you need are included and the safety standards or fine as well.
Top-level High Chairs can be found in the price range of about $70 - $500. Here you can have High Chairs with multiple functionalities like infant High Chair, Booster Seat, High Chair, youth chair or the more sustainable ones that grow along to become a chair for full grown adults.
For Booster Seats, the price differences aren’t that big as they are in the High Chair category. You will find Booster Seats starting at $20 up to about $60, where the most affordable ones are a simple plastic seating with safety features and the more expensive ones have some extra padding, a removable tray and 2 height settings.
Space Saver High Chairs
These can be purchased for about $50 – 70$. This category is not that broad, so the different brands offer similar features such as a reclining function, padding, a tray, a safety harness and different height settings.
Hook-on High chairs
Hook-on High Chairs can be as cheap as $30 or as expensive as $130.
The entry-level one has a padded seat, a safety harness and a pouch for easy transport. It covers all the basics that you need, nothing more, nothing less.
The top-level version has all the latter, including an integrated tray, a storage bag in the back and a seat that can be rotated for easy interaction with your child. These are however just nice to haves, we find you can do perfectly fine with the entry-level.
As you can see, your budget shouldn’t be too much of a determining factor when choosing a seating solution for your child. What’s more important is that you have a clear idea about how much space you are willing to offer, how you will be using it and what seems to be compatible with your current situation of living.
If you find this article helpful, please share it with other fresh parents and spread the love.
Many thanks for reading!