By Mari-Jane Williams / The Washington Post
Feeding a baby is a messy business. Liquefied rice, vegetables and fruit are just begging to be smeared around.
A high chair isn’t going to make your child a more civilized diner. It can, however, safely contain her during mealtime. Feeding seats, whether traditional high chairs or portable boosters, have come a long way since we were kids, says Paula Motte, senior editor at Babycenter.com.
“Designers are getting really great at intuitive, smart design,” Motte says. Chair patterns now go beyond ponies and giraffes, she says, to fit more seamlessly into the design of your home, with sleek styling and modern fabrics in solid bold or neutral colors. Some models have a simple foot pedal to raise or lower the seat height, depending on who is feeding the baby, she says.
“People are looking for versatility,” Motte says. “Anything that makes life easier.”
If space is at a premium, consider a folding model. High chairs are bulky and take up valuable real estate, particularly in smaller homes. Folding chairs, which can be stored in a closet or corner, have become easier to use, Motte says. Some collapse with a click of a button and can be stowed without being propped up.
A booster seat can take the place of a full-size high chair. A booster seat that straps to a chair is a great option for traveling with your baby, but you can also use it as your high chair at home, Motte says. Many have removable trays and three-or five-point harnesses that make them safe for young babies.
Think about the long term. Your baby will move quickly from gumming soupy rice cereal to eating mashed peas to dumping a bowl of spaghetti on his tray (or head). Shop for a high chair or booster that will grow with your child, Motte says. Some convertible models go from a reclining high chair suitable for infants to a seat you can pull up to the table for older children.
Always use all of the restraining straps and locking devices. Make sure the harness is fastened as soon as you put your child in the chair, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. If you have a folding model, be sure it is locked in the open position each time you set up the chair.
As with other baby gear, keep your child within sight when he is in his high chair or booster seat.
Place the high chair far enough away from tables, counters, walls and other surfaces that a child could use to push off and tip the chair or scoot it across the floor.
You’re likely to find crumbs and sticky residue everywhere from the tray down to the footrest. After each use, wipe the high chair or booster with a damp cloth, Motte says. If necessary, use a mild soap or dish detergent to remove stubborn dirt.
If your high chair comes with a removable tray or tray liner, run it through the dishwasher daily to keep it clean and germ-free.
Photos: Stokke Tripp Trapp, $250 at Tottini, South Lake Union; Boon Pedestal Highchair, $229 at Amazon.com; Graco Blossom 4-in-1 Seating System, $150 at Amazon.com; Ikea Antilop Highchair with tray, $25; Chicco Caddy Hook On Chair, $40 at Babies R Us; Peg Perego Rialto, $100 at diapers.com.