You’ll want a stable, sturdy model that can stand up to spilling, kicking, and regular cleaning for at least a year (some babies can’t bear to sit in a high chair after that). A chair with a tray that can be released with one hand is also a plus. Picture your baby occupying your other arm while you’re opening and closing the tray; it’s just one of the many physical feats you’ll be asked to master as a parent.
A high chair usually consists of a frame of molded plastic or metal tubing and an attached seat with a safety belt and a footrest. There are still a few old-fashioned wooden high chairs out there with a removable tray or arms that lift the tray over a baby’s head, although they aren’t always as comfortable for babies as the modern, form-fitting models on the market now, and most of them aren’t certified as meeting the latest safety standards. You’ll also find a few hybrid units, which can double as a swing or convert into other types of gear, such as a chair for an older child or a play table.
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Look for a chair that has a waist strap and a strap that runs between the legs. If a tray is used, there should be a passive restraint, such as a crotch post, used in conjunction with the harness straps. A high chair, like a car seat or a stroller, is one of those shake-rattle-and-roll buying experiences. We suggest visiting the baby store near you with the broadest selection. Then do the following:
Check for the absence of small parts. Make sure the caps or plugs that cover the ends of metal tubing are well secured. Parts small enough for a child to swallow or inhale are a choking hazard. Know when to fold ’em. If you plan to fold up your high chair as often as every day, practice in the store. Some chairs that claim to be foldable can have stiff folding mechanisms. Technically they may be foldable, but they’re not user-friendly.
High chairs at this end of the price range (under $70) are simple, compact, and generally work quite well. Essentially plastic seats on plastic or steel-tubing legs, such models may or may not have tray and height adjustments and tend to lack bells and whistles, such as wheels, foldability for storage, one-handed tray removal, or the capacity to recline, which you may not use anyway unless you’re bottle-feeding. The seat is usually upholstered with a vinyl covering or bare plastic, and the pad may be removable and washable. The tray is typically kept in place with pins that fit into holes in the tubing.