Highchairs have come a long way from the standard plastic folding contraptions you may have seen in your own baby photos. As a result, finding the best highchair to suit your home, your baby and your lifestyle can be a minefield.
Ranging from £10 to well over £300, how do you know which are worth it and which just, well, aren't?
Why buy a highchair?
Highchairs are a safe and supportive place for your baby to eat before they’re old to sit on an adult-sized dining chair, and most come with a plastic tray so your baby can see and reach their food easily.
Sitting your child at your eye level and close to the rest of the family at mealtimes aids their development and, as child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed (spokesperson for The Nutrition Society and the Association for Nutrition) says, “Babies often learn what and how to eat by watching their parents and siblings eat too.”
For older babies and toddlers, a familiar highchair often signals ‘mealtimes’ to them, which will encourage them to eat without distraction.
How long will I need a highchair for?
Children should only use a highchair to eat once they’re able to sit unaided and hold their head and neck up themselves. They also need to sit in an upright position, without slumping over to reach their food.
The life-span of your highchair will depend on the type of model you choose (some last well beyond toddlerhood and some can even be transformed into an adult chair), but they are typically used when first weaning right up to the age of three.
What are the different types of highchairs?
There are several broad categories, so consider which functions are important to you before making your choice.
1. Budget highchairs
- Tend to be standalone highchairs – intended to be used by themselves using a plastic tray, instead of being pulled up to a table
- Short on adjustability features and elaborate design – budget highchairs favour functional simplicity
- Easy to clean
A budget highchair might be a good choice if you’re not planning to use it for long, if you favour a no-frills model or if you’re on tight budget. Many Mumsnet users will also say that you don't need to buy a pricey highchair to make it worth your while.
2. Multifunctional highchairs
- Designed to include features that make life easier for parents
- Usually include adjustable seat height options, reclining seat backs or trays that move between different positions. Single-stem highchairs, which stand on one leg instead of four, even rotate 360 degrees as well as adjust in height
- Might include newborn accessories so you can use the chair before six months or have a removable tray so that the chair can be pushed up against the table
- Typically fold away and are freestanding when folded
- Often comes with padded cushions
A multifunctional highchair might be a good choice if you want to adjust the chair to fit your baby or sit at your table, or if you know you’ll want to fold away the highchair when you’re not using it.
3. Transitional highchairs
- Intended to last from babyhood right through to childhood and beyond
- Usually crafted from sturdy, high-end materials and usually come with a range of design options
- The most expensive option and, in some cases, you may have to pay extra for accessories, including safety harnesses and trays
4. Travel highchairs
- These ensure your child always has somewhere safe and age-appropriate to eat when they’re not at home
- Most attach to an adult dining chair as a chair-mounted booster, or clip onto the table edge (sometimes called a hook-on highchair)
- Some collapse to a portable size and many come with their own carry case or shoulder straps
A travel highchair might be a good choice if your child spends regular time at a relative’s house or if your kitchen is small and you want something that won’t take up any extra floor space.
What else should I consider when buying a highchair?
At the crux of it, there are two key things to consider:
- Is it safe and sturdy?
- Is it easy to clean?
Although the look of the highchair may feel important, if it doesn’t tick these two boxes you’ll be tearing your hair out by the second week of weaning.
Our top tip is to head into store and actually test out the highchair options for yourself before you buy. How easy are they to fold? Can you remove the padded seat cover? Also check the measurements against your own kitchen table.
1. How much does a highchair cost?
A budget highchair will set you back somewhere between £10 to £50, a multifunctional highchair will usually be £50 to £150, and a transitional highchair can be anything between £150 to £300+.
When it comes to travel highchairs, these should really stay under £50 for them to be cost-effective.
2. Safety features
Look out for the EU directive EN 14988:2017, which sets out standards for children’s highchairs.
As you consider various options, make sure you check how sturdy a highchair is and whether there are any reports of product recalls. A highchair that is easy to topple is a stress you simply don't need.
Similarly, how stable are the chair's other features? For example, can an older baby easily clip the tray off the chair? Or can they undo the harness themselves? You're looking for a super stable chair that keeps your mini Houdini safely and securely in his seat without being uncomfortable.
If using a harness, a five-point harness is the safest variety, but do check how the harness fits at six months versus two years old – is it easily adjustable? The lock should be stiff enough so toddlers can’t open it but not too stiff that it’s difficult for you to get your baby out if they were choking. Harnesses also get super messy in the weaning days, so a removable, washable harness is an added bonus too.
Some highchairs use a baby restraint system or a special baby insert. These tend to be snug fitting plastic seats with a tummy bar and a bar between their legs. A restraint system may allow your baby freer upper body movements and it can be easier to quickly get them in and out of the seat.
3. How easy is it to clean?
Is the tray or baby restraint dishwasher-safe? Is the cushion or seat padding easily removed or even machine-washable? Trust us on this – before you set your heart on a beautiful padded chair, think about the time you'll spend cleaning it. Weaning is a messy business, so the easier it is to clean the better.
That's one reason why the IKEA Antilop is so highly recommended on the Mumsnet forums. It's not exactly the most beautiful piece of furniture you'll ever see, but you can actually fit the whole seat in the dishwasher. Yes, we're serious.
4. Tray or pull up to the table?
During weaning, a highchair with a tray can be a lifesaver – and, quite frankly, the bigger the tray, the easier all round.
While it's lovely to pull your baby up to the table with the rest of the family, this makes it very easy for them to swipe food to the floor or grab food from other siblings' plates that may not be baby-friendly. Having them set slightly back from the table with a tray can initially be really handy and also means you can serve their food directly onto the tray before they’re ready to start negotiating a bowl or plate.
However, from 12 months old, many parents enjoy being able to pull baby up to the table to be part of the action, allowing them to watch other family members and learn how to act at a table.
Many highchairs on the market today, such as the Stokke Tripp Trapp, offer a supportive, safe seat at the table for older babies and toddlers.
5. Seat padding and comfort
Some highchairs are ergonomically designed to support your growing child’s spine and posture, while others come with a squidgy, padded cushion for added comfort.
The main drawback to seat cushions is that they tend to collect crumbs and, if they’re not made from wipe-clean material, they will stain easily too. If you opt for a cushioned seat, make sure the cushion is easy to remove and to clean or you may find yourself dealing with mouldy food buried in the creases.
6. How easy is it to adjust the height and size of the chair?
Whether the highchair is just for the baby years or beyond, many will offer the ability to adjust the height of the seat to suit your table, adjust the straps to suit a bigger toddler or even adjust the height of the footrest. You just want to make sure that this is quick and easy to do or it’s unlikely you’ll take full advantage of these features.
7. How much space do you have?
If your kitchen or dining room is tight on space, you may be better off with a highchair that you can fold away when not in use or that doesn’t take up too much of your floor.
Also check the footprint of the highchair when assembled to make sure it fits in the space you have available. This is also key if you have twins or multiples as you’ll need to use more than one highchair.
8. What does it look like?
If you have a very specific aesthetic your kitchen or dining room, you may prefer a more stylish highchair, such the Cybex Lemo, which comes in a variety of colours.
But beware – the sleeker the design, the higher the price tag.
Ready to shop? Read our highchair reviews.
About Mumsnet Reviews
All Mumsnet product reviews are written by real parents after weeks of research and testing – this includes recommendations from the Mumsnet forums. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust. Sometimes, we earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. However, we never allow this to influence our coverage. Read our how we test page to find out more.
All prices correct at time of publication
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