What are high chairs and what are they used for?
Updated: Dec 27, 2020
For many fresh parents, it can be a little bit overwhelming to familiarize yourself with everything that is coming your way. You will have a lot of new responsibilities, you need to learn many new skills and you will have to deal with a myriad of new products. One of these products is the High Chair.
High Chairs come in many different forms and sizes and, depending on the model that you purchase, it can be a very handy tool to assist you in your job as a parent. Before we dive into the details of this product, let’s first have a look what a High Chair is:
A High Chair is a small seat with long legs, designed to safely and securely elevate babies or toddlers to the height of a sitting adult. It allows for an ergonomically pleasant interaction between the parent and child during spoon-feeding, which is its main purpose of use.
Now that you know what a High Chair is, it is time to dive a little bit deeper into the subject and discover more about the history, the use-cases and what to look for in a good High Chair. We will also have a look at some alternatives and compare them with a regular High Chair, so you can decide what best fits you and your child’s needs.
High Chairs, a bit of background history.
It is not exactly known when the first High Chair came to life but there are some very well preserved models that date from as early as the 17th century. We found this rudimentary one below, that now belongs to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is estimated to originate from about 1660.
These early models were little pieces of art that not only served the purpose to elevate young children for feeding but also reflected the status of the family. They were mainly made out of wood and had only limited safety features and relatively poor ergonomics compared to the current day models.
As time progressed and due to the industrial revolution in the late 18th century, High Chairs started to become more of a commodity where the middle class was also able to purchase one of their own.
They became a bit more sophisticated in terms of better ergonomics and additional features such as folding parts and implemented toys (like the wooden beads on a metal rod.) They were still mainly constructed out of wood with the addition of metal that was used in nails, screws or hinges.
Some of these ‘vintage High Chairs’ can still be found today as families have passed them down through many generations. Even though they are now mainly used as a heirloom, decorative element, you can still use them to safely feed your child. That is, if you update them to the current day safety standards. You can learn more about that in this article we wrote.
Around 1950, when the plastics revolution reached its full speed, wood started to make way for plastic and metal parts, making High Chairs even more affordable. The structural quality wasn’t built to last and there was still room for improvement when it comes to safety but now, people from all walks of life where able to purchase a plastic High Chair.
Current day safety standards (as issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials) and manufacturing techniques have mostly dealt with the flaws of the early plastics era.
However, we see that there is a shift in the market, where people are buying wooden High Chairs more often now. This is not very surprising as more and more parents are becoming environmentally conscious and see wooden High Chairs as a long term investment into the future of their children. And let’s be honest here, a wooden High Chair looks so much better than their plastic counterpart.
To know more about wooden High Chairs and why they are an excellent long term investment, please have a look at our article we wrote here.
What are High chairs used for?
Before the age of High Chairs, feeding time meant that the child was sitting on the lap of the parent or the child was seated on a normal chair. Either way, the parent would only have one free hand for feeding as the other hand was holding the child safely in place. Not only is this very unpractical, the chances of an accident are much higher when spoon-feeding a child. This is the reason that High Chairs came to life.
High Chairs simplify the act of feeding or weaning and allow you to do this in the most comfortable, easiest and safest way for both you and your child. In that respect, they are more of a tool for the parent than they are a seat for the child.
While easy spoon-feeding is the main reason they came into existence, nowadays many parents also use a High Chair as a safe haven to briefly park their child while they are busy parenting. For example, while you are preparing a meal, you can safely place your child in a High Chair to join you in the kitchen.
It allows the child to see what you are doing while you can work your way through meal preparation. You will know where your child is and what she or he is doing while your little one can keep an eye on you, making this a win-win situation with peace of mind for both of you.
To keep your child entertained a bit longer, there are toys on the market with suction cups that stick to the tray during playtime. This way you don’t have to pick up toys from the floor all the time.
What you should not use a High Chair for.
As we find this to be the case with many other products, High Chairs too, are often used for the wrong activities:
Watching TV or Ipad for many hours:
High Chairs are only meant to be used for brief periods of time ( around 30 minutes) because for your child’s development, it is much better to crawl and move around as much as possible as it helps to train and strengthen the muscles and improve the coordination.
Napping or sleeping:
Some children tend to fall asleep right after a meal. Even though it is convenient and kind of cute to let them nap in their High Chair, it is not a smart decision to do so. The bad posture is not promoting their health and can even become dangerous as it increases the risk of suffocation, especially right after a meal. High Chairs are designed for feeding and weaning, not for napping or sleeping, even if they have a recline function.
If you like to know more about the downsides of sleeping in a High Chair, you can learn more here.
If you wonder why High Chairs have a recline function if it’s not for sleeping, you can find all the info here.
What should you look for when you are about to purchase a High Chair?
Now that you know more about the background of High Chairs, it is time to arm yourself with a bit of knowledge, so you are aware about which things to look for when buying a throne for your new family member.
This is your number one priority, if a High Chair isn’t safe it will be useless.
To know if the High Chair is safe, you can look for the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) Safety Seal.
The seal indicates that the product meets the minimum government requirements on the use and safety of baby products. These requirements are based on the ASTM (American Standards for Testing and Materials).
If the High Chair doesn’t have a seal like this (because you’re purchasing a used one), you can also go through the following check marks:
A wide footprint: the wider the feet are positioned, the better it is for the stability of the High Chair. Your child should not be able to tip over the High Chair, even when he or she starts rocking back and forth or sideways.
Quick tip: never place a High Chair near a fixed object like a wall are a counter top. Your child can use this as a launching platform to push itself away with its feet, potentially tipping over the High Chair.
A safety harness: there should be at least a 3-point, preferably a 5-point safety harness to safely keep your sprout seated. Also make sure that you can tighten it so that it creates a snug fit. If the safety harness is too loose, it won’t be much of a challenge for your child to wiggle its way out of there. Also make sure that the locking mechanism is tough to open for a child.
Crotch post: The recent safety standard updated, requires each High Chair to have a fixed crotch post to ensure the child cannot slip out of the High Chair from underneath the tray. Some models have this post attached to the tray which is to be avoided. If you remove the tray, the child can still slide off the seat and fall.
Baby Proof: If you are testing out a High Chair, it is good to thoroughly check if there are no loose parts, sharp edges, brims or splinters that can hurt your child. The only person that should be able to move or remove components should be you.
2.Easy to clean
This second point is more about you, since you will be doing the cleaning of the High Chair for up to 3 times a day. To make your life as easy as possible, you can follow this rule of thumb: The simpler the shape, the easier it is to clean. In addition, you should look for the following features:
Large wipeable surfaces: If the High Chair has lots of nooks and crannies, food will find its way into it. Cleaning this takes lots of time and almost certainly results in mold.
Removable padding: Cleaning is a breeze if you can lift up the padding and vacuum any crumbs that fell underneath.
Machine washable straps and padding: Make sure that the straps and padding can be machine washed, it will save you hours of frustration and you can make sure it is hygienic.
Dishwasher safe tray: Nothing beats a tray or tray cover that you can pop in the dishwasher real quick. Beware of spring loaded models with hidden chambers as they won’t dry well and start to malfunction and smell moldy.
High Chairs are primarily designed for the convenience of the parent, for each type of interaction there are a number of features that can help you.
3.1. Getting your child in and out of the High Chair
Single-hand removable tray: Getting your child in and out of the High Chair is often a challenge. A tray that can be removed with one hand will make your life a lot easier.
Pivoting tray: A tray that pivots allows you to place or remove your child with both hands.
Recline function: If your High Chair doesn’t have a pivoting or removable tray, a recline function can be a useful alternative to move your child in or out of a High Chair.
3.2. Kitchen cleanup after a meal
A good High Chair also helps you with the maintenance of your kitchen because usually it isn’t only the High Chair and your child that get messy after a meal. Here are some features that can help you with this:
Deep tray with cup holder: The easiest way to clean up your kitchen is to avoid spilling in the first place. A tray with a fluid reservoir and cup holder can help your child with this. A suction cup friendly tray allows you to firmly fix cups and bowls to the tray ensuring it won’t get knocked over.
Lockable castors: In case the tray didn’t help, it is useful to have a set of lockable castors so you can easily move the High Chair around to clean underneath, even when your child is still seated.
3.3. Transportation and storage
High Chairs do take up a considerable amount of space, so for parents who are on the lookout for something less space consuming, here are some great solutions:
Foldable High Chairs: These High Chairs can be folded down to a flat package so that it becomes easy for you to store them underneath a stairway or in a separate storage room.
Hook-on High Chairs: Hook-on or clip-on High Chairs are great for people who have very limited space at home. They are tiny compared to their regular cousins and they can be folded flat as well. In case you are worried about the safety of this version, you can learn more here.
X-in one High Chairs: These are a great option for parents who have 2 kids to take care of. Like this Graco Table to Table we found on Amazon. It allows you to seat two children at once while only having one High Chair.
Ergonomics in a High Chair are just as important for you as they are for your child. For you it means ease of use and an easy interaction with your child. For your sprout it is all about being happy and comfortable during meal times. Good ergonomics are achieved by the following features:
Adjustable foot support: For optimal blood flow in the legs, your child’s knees should have a 90° angle when seated. High Chairs without foot support aren’t bad but the time your child feels comfortable will be lower than when it has one.
Adjustable seat: If the seat is adjustable, you can choose the optimal height for an easy interaction between yourself and your little one.
Adjustable tray: It is best to have a tray that you can adjust forward and backward so it is always at the right position, regardless of the size of your baby.
Padding: Padding isn’t necessary, however, it is more comfortable when seated for longer periods of time.
Curved back rest: The back rest should have a slight curve to it like the shape of the spine. This will help your child to keep a comfortable and upright position.
When can I get my baby sitting up in a High Chair?
Now that you know all the basics about this special piece of furniture, it is time to have a look at the most important point before you place your child in a High Chair: Is your child physically ready to sit up straight?
Many parents think that they can just follow the age indication on the product specifications when it comes to the starting point for using a High Chair. In fact, this is just a general indication that lets you know for which age groups this is suited.
That said, if your child is not able to sit up straight without support (meaning no back support and without using its own hands) for at least 30 minutes. It is too soon to use a High Chair, regardless of how good the back and side support of this chair is.
Adding towels or blankets to help your child maintain that upright position is also not OK. If you need to help your child with this, then this is a clear sign that its core muscles and motor skills are not developed enough.
Forcing your child in an upright position for too long, will have negative effects on its development and slow down this process. If you like to know when your child should be able to sit in a High Chair, you can have a look at this article.
We know this is a lot to digest and finding a High Chair that best fits your needs is not an easy task. However, if you keep the above information in mind, you will be able to filter out products that don’t meet your requirements.
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