With a wide variety of wooden and plastic highchairs, booster chairs, seats and accessory options available for your child, choosing a highchair can be a challenging task. Here is an overview of some important considerations when choosing the right highchair for your child.
Baby booster chairs typically attach to a dining chair to enable a small child to join the family dinner table at mealtime. Whilst baby booster chairs provide seating capabilites for children, they are perhaps at best only an inexpensive substitute for the baby highchair. The booster chair is not a complete chair but rather an additional seat that can be mounted and attached to an existing chair.
Sitting your child in a booster seat requires you to dedicate one chair for this purpose, or to continually mount and dismount the device at each sitting. Whilst many variations of baby booster chairs have become available in recent years the question still remains, does the baby booster chair provide the functionality and support of a baby highchair? As a fixed seat, the booster chair provides little or no adjustability and does not allow you to alter the height of the chair as your child grows and develops. Often, the booster chair does not include a footrest option so your child’s feet are not supported, leaving them dangling and adrift. Without complete support your child is unable to move, shift weight, or adjust position, making them restless and uncomfortable when seated.
Whilst the booster chair can be considered as a seating option for your child, in truth, it does not provide a real alternative to the highchair. Perhaps at best, the booster chair may be considered a substitute, designed as a low cost, portable alternative to free standing, fully supporting highchairs.
The ideal children’s chair should not only provide a safe place for your child to sit, but also be one in which they can sit comfortably whilst being able to move. Our children are not meant to be seated in a chair for long periods of time. They become restless, uncomfortable and stiff. Medical experts agree that our children’s physical development is supported by allowing them to move freely, and unrestricted from the boundaries of a chair. "If your child is seated for too long, this can even be harmful to the development of your child´s spine and back " (Johnson and Blascoe 1997, Casses, 1996).
As your child grows it is natural to allow your child to sit on a dining room chair or kitchen stool at mealtimes and relax on the sofa during the evening. But kitchen stools, chairs, and other furniture are typically designed with adults in mind and the correct support of your child´s back, development, and comfort are not necessarily met by these types of chairs. Unlike a child, when we are seated our feet touch the floor. This "enables us to sit comfortably as well as shift our body weight whenever our backs or legs become stiff " (Hedge 2002). Your child also needs to sit comfortably. But does your kitchen stool or sofa allow them to do so? Does your child´s feet dangle unsupported in mid-air or do they rest comfortably upon the floor? Whilst the majority of children´s chairs are designed with safety in mind, sadly very few are really designed to provide the correct ergonomic support and comfort that your child requires.
Highchairs allow us to place our children in a chair where they can remain safely. Yet no child should ever be seated in any chair for too long, and when your child must be seated, it should be in a chair that not only provides safety and stabilty, but support, comfort, and the ability to adjust move freely. Only then can you be certain that the childrens' chair you have choosen is in the best interests of your child.
Features and functions of the highchair
There are many highchairs available today. Many come with a range of accessories and add-ons. Whilst the majority of these are promoted as beneficial, many detract from the highchair itself, its design, functionality and purpose. When purchasing or considering a highchair there are several aspects to consider to ensure that the highchair you choose is the ideal chair for you and your child.
A number of highchairs come with various toys and other distractions aimed at providing educational value for your child. Your child´s physical development is better encouraged outside the boundaries of the chair, through activities such as crawling, walking, running and playing. Whilst providing distractions for your child in the highchair may seem beneficial, your child should not be placed in a high chair for a long period of time. The use of a highchair is primarily for eating and mealtime purposes.
The ideal highchair should enable you to adjust its height so that your child can sit together and beside you at the dinner table. Many highchairs provide limited or no adjustment features, which provide less interaction with you and others around the table. Adjustment in depth as well as a footrest adds further comfort and maneuverability. A footrest allows your child to rest dangling feet, as well as moving legs to change seating position and posture.
Highchairs are often designed with a tray. As an adult sitting at the table to eat, you do not use a tray that is attached to your chair as it would distance you from the table. A tray also keeps your child away from the table, reducing interaction.
Many highchairs are equipped with wheels for added manouvering and portability. The wheeled highchair must be locked once your child is in it to ensure your child´s safety. Forgetting this or experiencing a failure to the locking mechanism represents a safety hazzard. A wheeled highchair is more likely to encourage your child or siblings to move the chair, even with a child in it.
Highchairs which are highly cushioned may restrict the normal flow of air around your child, creating perspiration and discomfort. Make sure your highchair, even when cushioned, provides ample space for your child to encourage natural movement and posture.
Some highchairs fold for easy storage allowing you to take the chair away from the table. However repeated folding and unfolding may be time consuming. Your highchair needs to be a high quality product that can cope with repeated folding.
Harness, rail, and safety
The majority of highchairs are fitted with a harness and security rail. The harness and rail reduce the risk of climbing or otherwise falling out of the highchair. Look for a system that enables you to easily secure and release your child in daily use, as well as detach the harness and rail from the highchair when your child is old enough to enter and leave the chair on their own.
Helpful tips and advice to help improve your child's eating habits
Research tells us that the family dinner is an ideal place for the development of your child´s language and social skills. Here are some helpful tips and advice to help improve your child's eating habits at mealtime.
One bite at a time. Fill your own plate with pieces of fruit, vegetables, and other cut-up morsels of food.
Sit next to your child and offer one bite at a time. As your child learns to eat one bite before wanting the next, you can consider when to allow your child to have their own plate with food pieces.
Laughter is a messy medicine. Your child seeks attention and reaction. When you react by laughing at your child´s eating behaviour and mess, this invites an unwanted encore. Try to consider mealtimes as opportunities to encourage development rather than entertainment. Control the mess If mealtime gets out of hand, end the serving until it calms down. Once the baby understands the effect of his or her actions, the food will stay where it belongs.
Use utensils. Put a plastic spoon or another utensil into each of your child's hands to occupy them while you feed your child with a third utensil. This will associate eating with kitchen utensils and help your your child become accustomed to them.
Eating together. Many infants and toddlers become easily distracted and fidget in a highchair. A highchair that allows your child to sit close to you, allows your child to focus on eating rather than screaming, crying, or other efforts to get your attention.
Your tips are welcome. If you have any tips that you think are helpful and would like to share with our mothers on how to get the most out of mealtimes, please contact us.
Highchair comfort for your child
As an adult, we often opt for the softest chair, believing it to provide the greatest comfort. However a soft chair is not necessarily the most comfortable chair, and more often than not, a soft or highly cushioned chair provides the least support for the lower back and spine. The highly cushioned chair typically reduces airflow and causes perspiration. Too much softness also tends to absorb the body rather than support it, which leads to stiffness in the vertebra creating strain on the spine and back.
Comfort is achieved when there is proper ergonomic support for the back and spine, an ability to move in the chair, and sufficient airflow not from cushions and soft sitting options. The needs that your child have from their highchair are even greater, as their body is in a state of growth and development. So as parents the demands we must place upon our children's highchairs are therefore not only to provide comfort, but also to provide greater support, and safety.
At a stage in life where your child’s needs for assurance, support, and connection with you is important, comfort is not only a consideration you must have in selecting the right highchair for your child, but a need that must be fulfilled.
As a parent today we have many options and alternative highchairs to choose from. There are highchairs which provide various levels of support. There are highchairs which are manufactured in various materials, such as wood or plastic. And there are highchairs which are created in various forms, such as traditional highchair, and booster chair. More than security, your child’s posture, sense of balance, and carriage are all developed whilst sitting.
The ergonomically designed highchair is able to facilitate correct posture, provide support, and balance, without strain or discomfort to the back. When your child is sitting correctly, the highchair should allow your child´s elbows to be alligned with the table.Elevated at this correct height, your child can eat, play, and interact with you and your family, without fear of unbalancing the highchair.
Sitting optimally, the depth of the seat plate should allow two-thirds of your childs upper leg to be rested. Your child´s feet should also be supported by a foot plate that provides adjustability in height and depth to ensure the ideal 90 degree angle of upper and lower legs. Seated this way, your child is able to move and shift position with little effort as well as sit sit more comfortably. Sitting upright at an early age is not natural for your child and can easily make them restless. This is most often fueled by the lack of support given by the highchair to your child's feet. Some highchairs provide no footrest support at all, leaving your child´s feet dangling and adrift. Without complete support your child is more restricted from moving, shifting their weight, and adjusting their position. The majority of highchairs that do provide a footrest, often lack adjustability. The ideal footrest should be able to move independently from the seat, allowing full flexibility of the highchair to accommodate the unique growth of your child. However, with limited, and restricted options for adjustment, many of today’s highchairs are only designed to accommodate your child for a short period of time. Forcing you to purchase several chairs and booster seats to accomodate for your child's development and growth.
Most every highchair provides secure seating for your child, and so ultimately the decision in choosing the right highchair is made in the chair's ability to provide the fullest adjustability in both seating height and depth in supporting and accomodating your child's growth and development. Highchairs may encourage and enable close interaction with your child
Using a highchair that enables your child to sit more comfortably and closer to the table without the barrier and separation of an attached tray allows you to have greater contact with your child. Positive, frequent and close parent-child interactions are crucial to child development. Being able to sit with your child at the table allows you to create stimulus and interaction that would otherwise be unachievable.
The use of objects, motifs, colours, and shapes whilst seated help encourage interaction and level of playfulness between you and your child.
Sitting and moving
Historically mankind has always been active. Hunting, gathering food, moving, and exploring new territories. Modern life is passive. As adults we spend, in general, a majority of our time sitting in front of the computer, the television, or in our cars. But how does this affect us and more importantly how does this affect our children? Our children grow and develop actively, not passively. And whilst sitting is a necessary activity, their bodies are not designed to sit for durations or longer periods of time. When your child is sitting, it should be in a chair that encourages and allows active movement.
The short film “Our active past, our passive present”, illustrates the comparison between the movements of our bodies throughout a typical day. The film compares our ancestors historical movements against those of our own in today's modern society and poses the question of natural development for ourselves and our children
Sitting and safety
Whenever your child is seated, always provide adequate supervision. If your child is seated in the chair, ensure correct fitting of the safety rail and crotch strap. Stay within reach of your child, and if you need to leave the room take your child with you.
Sitting around the family table encourages development. Research tells us that sitting together with the family around the table, is an ideal place for language development and social skills to evolve. Chairs with a fully adjustable seat and footrest, provide your child with optimal sitting and comfort to naturally shift body weight. At approximately six months of age, when most children can begin to sit on their own, your child reaches many milestones regarding physical development, which are reflected in their sitting and eating abilities. "Your child begins to imitate your social, verbal, and motor skills, as well as observing and learning from other family members".
Placing your child in a carrier, car seat, stroller, or other sitting device before they are able to sit unaided can cause "harmful damage to their spine and back". Research tells us that sitting together with the family around the table, is an ideal place for language development and social skills to evolve. And children who eat dinner with their families are exposed to a greatly reduced risk of "developing social problems in later life" . All in all, a highchair that enables your child to sit with you at the table, encourages social interaction and provides your child with a secure plattform for growth and development.
Sitting your child in an adult chair
An adult chair, such as a dining room chair, kitchen stool or chair, is designed for adults. The adult chair does not provide adequate support for your child´s back, or enable their feet to rest comfortably upon the floor.
When sitting in an adult chair, your child is forced to either sit far back into the chair or forward at the chair's edge. Neither of these positions provides your child with safety when sitting, or the ability to reach across the table comfortably. When your child is sitting too low with arms at shoulder height, this quickly becomes strenuous, and limits your child´s reaching capacity. As opposed to sitting at the correct height, if your child is seated in an abnormal position, muscle and body strain tires your child, creating discomfort, breaking concentration, focus, and communication.
Security and comfort
A higher quality children´s chair passes all security norms, standards, and expectations, whilst providing your child with proper comfort. Security features like belts and harnesses provide additional safety for your child while seated in the highchair and peace of mind for you.
Highchairs come in a wide variety of materials and designs. Their prices often reflect these qualities, their longevity, and safety guarantees.
The cleaning and maintaining of your child’s highchair is a regular and often daily exercise. A high quality highchair not only benefits from improved design and construction, but also from more durable, resilient, and strengthened materials. With highly protected and more refined surfaces, higher quality highchairs not only provide a smoother surface for your child’s comfort, but are also more easy to clean, maintain, and preserve.
A high quality highchair which promotes easy and efficient cleaning will increase the life and longevity of the chair, and its durability for your child.
If you do not have an adjustable highchair, you will require numerous chairs to accommodate your child´s growth. This consumes even more floor space and increases your highchair's overall cost.
The longevity of your highchair is dependent on its durability, ability to adjust, accommodate your child, and its aesthetic qualities.
When considering your high chair options, choose a highchair that is produced in an environmentally friendly manner.
Lower quality highchairs require you to purchase additional chairs as your child grows. A highchair that lasts a lifetime is not only good for your child, but for the environment.
Trays and highchairs
When you sit at the table to eat, you do not use a tray, so why should your child? Most high chairs come with a separate tray for your child but a tray keeps your child away from the table where we eat, play, talk, and work.
Your child learns from watching, observing, and interacting with you. The single and most natural place for this interaction is around the family table. Whether eating, sitting, playing, talking, the family table is a central hub of interaction for every family.
In essence the tray of a highchair is designed as a separate table for your child, which may reduce interaction as this creates a distance to the family table, and presents a personal table to your child. One which cannot be shared between you. Research tells us that, "the family dinner is an ideal place for language development and social skills to evolve" (Tarkan 2005). "Children who eat dinner with their families develop better eating habits later in life".
It has long been a popular misconception that the real value of the highchair tray is to reduce mealtime mess. However, seated further away from the table, and in greater isolation from you, your child will become increasingly agitated and attention seeking, resulting in more noise, mess, and fallen food, the family table is the best tray your child will ever have.
When sitting at the correct height, interaction is encouraged between you and your child, laying the foundation for your child´s development and independence. Many highchairs are designed with a tray, and many with a tray that is not detachable. A tray which cannot be detached from the highchair discourages interaction between the parent and child. Sharing the table with you will help your child develop through immitating you and otherwise interacting with you.
Fixed height highchairs can cause strain both for your child when eating and reaching for food, and for you when serving. A large majority of highchairs do not provide a footrest, or provide footrests with limited adjustability. A footrest allows your child to rest dangling feet, as well as moving the legs to change seating position and posture.