High Chair vs Booster Seat: How to Choose What's Best for You.
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
As many of you fresh parents out there, we were just as overwhelmed by the myriad of choices there are when it comes to buying a feeding High Chair or feeding Booster Seat for our children.
Not only are there dozens upon dozens of possibilities within the High Chair and Booster Seat category, both categories also start to overlap one another by fulfilling the same purposes.
After talking to a lot of professionals in the field, we found that the key differences between the two categories can be found in the space it consumes when installed, the achievable seating height, the portability it has to offer and the price range.
On almost all other product attributes you can find a lot of similarities between High Chairs and Booster Seats. So, in order to make this easy you can just look at the below statements and see which hold the most truth for you. This will be the category where you will likely find what you need.
A High Chair is for you if:
Your dining chairs are not compatible with a Booster Seat.
You like to have maximum height options.
You have enough space to place this extra piece of furniture.
You have extra budget to spend and like to have lots of options.
A Baby Booster Seat is for you if:
Your dining chairs are compatible with Booster Seats.
You are comfortable with the limited height settings.
You have limited available space.
You prefer a very portable seating solution for your child.
You like to keep it budget friendly and don’t feel so much for lots of options.
We know that the above statements might feel like a very simplistic approach to separate the two categories. So, in order to take away any doubts, we’ve mapped out all the comparisons between both categories like safety, health, comfort, ergonomics and cleaning.
After reading this you will be a lot more confident in making the right choice for you and your baby’s needs.
1. Booster Seats vs High Chairs: a comprehensive product category overview
To start with, let us fully wrap our heads around all differences between the two categories. We’ve put together a nice comparison table to have an overview at first glance.
As you can see, we’ve made the sub-division between a Standard and a High-End product level. This will help us to understand the differences a bit better when looking at the essence of Booster Seats and High Chairs for feeding.
You will notice that in the standard product range, both categories are very much the same. Both are designed for children starting from 6 months up to about 3 years and they both fulfill the purpose of having your child sit upright for meal or play times.
Only the overall product dimensions, the achievable height settings and the portability are of significant difference.
(Note: the safe and healthy starting point for sitting is just a general indication from the manufacturer. If you would like to have a better understanding as to when your child can safely start to sit in a Booster Seat or High Chair, you can learn more in this article we wrote here)
However, once we move up in the product level, you will see that there is an additional column we named High Chairs+. We’ve placed this one separate for now as here you can find all sorts of functionality combinations and product features that would just clutter our comparison. We will discuss this product level at the end, right after our comparison.
2. Are Booster Seats and High Chairs equally safe?
Depending on the brand and model, both categories have equally safe products to offer. For you as a parent however, it is your responsibility to make sure that you use the product you’ve purchased as it is intended by the manufacturer.
Therefore, you should always read and understand the user guidelines provided to you by the manufacturer, before using any product. In case you lost the user guidelines or you’ve purchased a second hand product and the user guidelines are missing, you can always find this on the internet or by contacting the manufacturer directly.
That said, there definitely are some unsafe products on the market as well. So, it isn’t a bad idea to do your research before buying a Booster Seat or a High Chair. This is an easy guide on how to tackle this:
The first thing you should look for are safety marks provided by the CPCS or the CEN.
The goal of these standardization institutions is to minimize the risk of deaths and injuries by providing a list of safety standards for the manufacturer to follow. If a manufacturer complies with the standardization their product will get a label issued by these institutions and you can rest assured that the product is safe to use. (That is: according to the intended use!)
For Booster Seats you can look for these labels:
America: ASTM F2640-18
Europe: EN 16120
Additionally, you can do some safety checks of your own that aren’t covered by the CPCS or CEN simply because they cannot check this after manufacturing.
Safety checks before using a feeding Booster Seat:
The Booster Seat is not damaged.
There is a 3-point harness for standard Booster Seats.
There is a 5-point harness for Booster Seats with a recline function.
The belts are about 0.8 inch or 2 cm wide for even pressure distribution.
The belts are smooth and sturdy and can be adjusted to fit your child’s size perfectly.
The buckles are working properly.
The bottom has an anti-slip material for stability.
The footprint should fit on the dining chair you are planning to use.
The belts for mounting are long enough to firmly strap the seat to your dining chair.
Your dining chairs are strong and stable enough to hold a Booster Seat.
For High Chairs you can look for the following labels:
America: ASTM F404-18
Europe: EN 14988
Safety checks before using a feeding High Chair:
The High Chair is not damaged (check the legs on any defects).
No parts are missing.
The installation is done correctly.
There is a 3-point harness for standard High Chairs.
There is a 5-point harness for High Chairs with a recline function.
The belts are about 0.8 inch or 2cm wide for even pressure distribution.
The belts are smooth and sturdy and can be adjusted to fit your child’s size perfectly.
The buckles are working properly.
The lower frame is sturdy and has a wide footprint.
"Please note that these checklists are not a substitute for the safety guidelines of the manufacturer."
3. What is the healthiest option for my child, a Booster Seat or a High Chair?
Booster Seats and High Chairs are equally healthy options when you make sure that:
You wait for your baby to be strong enough to sit upright independently.
You have your child sit upright during meal times (so no reclined position) as this increases the risk of suffocation.
You keep the time spent in a Booster Seat or High Chair on the lower side. The idea is to use it for brief periods of time as babies are still developing their core muscles and spine.
The product you bought has the safety standard label incorporated.
You avoid products with toxic materials like BPA’s and phthalates. (indicated on the product or on the manufacturers website)
You avoid products that have been refurbished with materials (like paint or varnish) of which you don’t know the origin.
For more information about toxicity in High Chairs, please read this illustrated article that covers it all.
4. Which one is more comfortable for my child, a Booster Seat or a High Chair?
To start with, you must not forget that both Booster Seats and High Chairs are intended to be used for brief periods during meal- or playtime. Your child should spend most of the time on the floor, crawling around, discovering and playing, this allows her or him to follow a normal development trajectory and further strengthen all the muscles.
Both Booster Seats and High Chairs can offer the same amount of comfort your child’s needs. As with safety, it depends a lot on the brand and model and additionally, how your child fits the product.
Ok, but then how do you determine if the comfort level is going to be enough for your little sprout?
If your child doesn’t like it, she or he will let you know! So, visiting a store and testing it with your little critic is a smart move. For people who like to buy online, this is not an easy approach. In that case you can also look at the following things before buying:
Is the Booster Seat or High Chair adjustable, if so, to what level?
Is there enough support on the sides and back?
Is there a foot rest?
Are the surfaces smooth and slightly curved to follow the shape of your child’s body?
Is there padding or cushioning or can you buy this separately?
Are all the straps wide and smooth?
Is it designed so that fingers can’t get trapped?
When looking at this, keep in mind that you are not looking for a lazy chair for adults who use it to binge watch their favorite series for hours and hours. Comfort is important, and we all want the best for our children, but you don’t have to stress this too much as babies have some cushioning of their own 😊.
5. Which has the best ergonomics, Booster Seats or High Chairs?
Depending on the brand and model, both categories offer great ergonomics for your child. However, the ergonomics of Booster Seats and High Chairs also concern you, the parent, as much as it concerns your child.
It is you who is doing the installation, takes the Booster Seat or High Chair from A to B and does the cleaning. And let’s be honest here, you will do most of the feeding too, so that’s why you should think about the complete user scenario before buying anything.
Babies, especially the very young ones, don’t eat very regularly. This means that feeding sometimes needs to be done in between your regular family meal times and sitting at the table at irregular times is not always desired by you moms and dads.
For this flexibility, you might want to pick a High Chair with castors. If this entails that you will be sitting on different types of furniture, let’s say a chair, vs a couch, you might also consider having height adjustability. For parents who have a fixed spot in the house, a regular Booster Seat will do just fine.
As you can see, it is the way you intend to use the feeding Booster Seat or High Chair that influence the ergonomics that suit you best.
Once you’ve determined the feeding setup and you know what category to pick from, you can look at some general ergonomics for your child:
Is there an incorporated tray?
Is there a foot rest that can be adjusted?
Are there arm rests?
Can you alter the depth of the seating area to fit your child’s upper legs?
Can you alter the position of the safety harness so it fits your child at different stages in life?
Here are some ergonomics to consider for yourself:
Can you minimize the product weight or have castors?
Does the height fit your needs?
Is it easy to clean?
How easy is it to get your child in and out of the seating?
How easy is it to install?
Since ergonomics is a big topic, you can read more about proper settings and installation in this illustrated guide with tips and tricks.
6. What is easiest to clean, a Booster Seat or a High Chair?
One might argue that Booster Seats are so much easier to clean since they are a lot smaller. However, Booster Seats are mounted on a dining chair so in that respect both categories are very similar.
After thoroughly comparing both categories, reading hundreds of reviews and talking to many professionals in the field, we found that it doesn’t really matter what category you’ll buy from. Ease of cleaning will depend mostly on the product design and the accessories you use.
So, if the idea of cleaning gives you headaches, you can check the below points to help you select a Booster Seat or High Chair that requires minimal maintenance:
Are there few nooks and crannies that collect dirt and food residues?
Does the Booster Seat or High Chair have dishwasher safe parts like the tray or seating?
Are the surfaces easy to wipe with a cloth?
Are the padding/cushioning and the straps machine washable?
Is there a large tray with a spilling reservoir?
Is there a tray cover?
Is the tray firmly attached to the Seat or Chair? (if your baby can detach it, the tray and its contents will hit the floor)
7. Is an expensive High Chair a better choice than a standard High Chair?
Now that we compared the most important things between the basic Booster Seats and High Chairs, we can have a look at the benefits of the High Chair+ category. Even though High Chairs in this + category seem a bit more expensive, it might be worth the extra investment in the long run.
Unlike the standard Booster Seats and High Chairs, the High Chair+ has a longer life span to it and a lot more options. Meaning, after your child has outgrown the “standard setting“ of the High Chair, you can just convert it to a toddler Booster Seat, a toddler chair or even a youth chair.
For this reason, High Chairs in this category are even less expensive than the standard ones that become useless after just 3 years. If you are planning to have multiple kids and you want a High Chair for at your home, you should definitely look into this category and see what the options are.
To help you get a better understanding of the High Chair+ Category, we divided it into two sub-categories:
1. X-in-1 High Chairs
These High Chairs can be converted into new entities that serve a different purpose. Often, they consist out of multiple parts that you can use separately, like a Booster Seat, a High Chair and a youth chair. The advantage is that you get loads of options with a single purchase, the downside is that you have extra parts that you need to store somewhere.
Our favorite pick in this sub-category is the Blossom 6-in-1 from Graco. It serves plenty of purposes and can even provide seating for 2 kids at the same time. In other words, you get a lot of bang for the buck. You can check the current price on Amazon here.
2. Grow along High Chairs
These High Chairs are a single entity that you can adjust to grow along with your child. Once your child reached a new stage in life, you alter the composition of the High Chair and your child can keep on using it, way into adulthood.
The main advantage here is that you don’t have to worry about storing larger separate parts like a booster seat or the framework. These High Chairs needs minor adaptations for maximum results and are designed to fit well with the rest of the furniture.
Our favorite pick of all times which comes from this category is the Abiie Beyond Wooden High Chair. We just love the way it looks and see this as a long-term investment that pays itself off over the many years our children will be using it, and the price on Amazon isn’t that bad compared to the more standard High Chairs.
So, as you can see, it really boils down to the available space you have at home, the seating height and portability you are looking for and the price range you are comfortable with.
This was our take on the world of Booster Seats and High Chairs. We really hope you liked reading and learning with us as much as we enjoyed writing about this. By now you should have gained clarity as to what the different categories are and gained some confidence in what to look for when you are scanning the web.
As always, many thanks for reading and please share if you know of other parents that are facing this daunting task of choosing between a Booster Seat and a High Chair.