A common question among new parents is what’s the best seating option for a baby or toddler.
It can be confusing figuring out if and when you need a high chair or a booster, and given how expensive it is to raise a baby, the last thing you want to do is buy something you don’t need.
So let’s take a look at boosters and high chairs (or baby chairs as some people refer to them as) in more detail, so you choose the right one for your baby’s needs.
What Is A High Chair
A high chair is essentially an independent, free-standing chair that has it’s own, wide-based lags.
These chairs come in various designs and styles, and often have features like footrests, safety harnesses, removable cushions and a tray.
Unlike booster seats, high chairs provide a good amount of back support to keep your child in place, so they can be used from around the time your baby is 6 months of age.
Pros of High Chairs
- Designed to support infants and safety keep your child in place, without the risk of sliding or falling off.
- Likely to feature safety features such as a 5-point harness .
- Lasts for a few years – you should be able to use the same chair from when your baby starts their high chair journey (around 6 months) all the way until they’ve outgrown their high chair (typically around the age of three – more on this point later).
- Durable, sturdy and hard-wearing.
Cons of High Chairs
- Cost – some models can cost $200 or more.
- Many options are quite bulky, take up a lot of space and are difficult to store away.
- A lot of high chairs, especially the more economical models, aren’t particularly attractive.
What Is A Booster Seat?
A booster seat is essentially a small, cushioned seat.
They are designed to give your little one some extra height, and are a great option if your child needs some extra support to keep them in position and to prevent slipping or falling off while eating.
Because they don’t offer the same support as a high chair, booster seats are better suited for older babies and toddlers.
Pros of Booster Seats
- Small, lightweight and easy to store away.
- Portable and easy to take with you on a day trip or family vacation.
- Allows your child to sit at the table and on a regular chair, just like an older child or grown up.
- May promote independence for your toddler, or at least allow them to feel more independent.
- Cheaper than a high chair (expect to pay around $50 on average).
Cons of Booster Seats
- Not suitable for babies or young infants due to the lack of support.
- Less sturdy than a high chair.
- May be harder to clean / not as easy to wipe clean with wipes compared to a traditional high chair.
Main Differences Between High Chairs & Booster Seats
Here is a recap of the main differences to help you decide which one you need for your child and their current developmental stage:
Style & Design
High chairs are solid, tall chairs with their own, wide based legs and provide provide back support, extra padding or cushioning and usually have a reclined seat to keep your baby in the right feeding position.
Booster seats are small seats designed to be placed on top of a “regular” chair, and are therefore lighter, more portable and don’t provide the same level of body support.
Boosters are much smaller and easier to store away than a regular high chair (and compared to folding high chairs).
Age of Child
One of the most significant differences is that high chairs can be used from as early as 4 months, whereas boosters tend to be for toddlers.
High chairs tend to be more expensive than boosters ($150+ vs $50).
Is A Booster Seat Better Than A High Chair?
As you can probably tell by now, neither a booster or high chair is better, it’s more that they offer different features and benefits.
If your child is older (say toddler or above), wants to copy mom and dad, and is getting too big for their high chair, they a booster seat is probably more appropriate.
Booster seats are also a great option when traveling given they take up much less space.
On the other hand, if your baby is still under two, has difficulty supporting themselves, and would find it hard to sit down on a regular chair long enough to eat a meal, then a high chair is probably the better option for you right now.
At What Age Do You Switch From High Chair To Booster?
Transitioning your child from a high chair to a “grown-up” chair is a great feeling, especially as it can help make family meal times more inclusive.
For many parents seeing their little one sit on a “big girl chair” or “big boy chair” is also a lovely milestone, particularly if they are eating the exact same meal as you, like tender meat (preferably well-cooked and unprocessed) accompanied with some baby friendly vegetables.
But at what age do you make the switch from high chair to booster?
The answer is not always straightforward, because there is no set age as to when children should graduate to boosters.
Typically however, many children transition from a baby chair between the ages of 18-36 months.
Before making the switch from high chair to booster, it’s important to make sure your little one is ready for and wants to make the switch.
In addition, there are also safety considerations you should keep in mind before deciding if your little one is truly ready to say goodbye to their chair.
The signs to look out for when deciding if you child is ready to make the switch include:
- They want to copy you and sit on a regular chair.
- They’ve become fussy in their high chair.
- They are too big for their high chair and above the maximum recommended weight or age limit.
- They are able to unbuckle themselves, which poses a safety risk.
- They understand regular chairs are not for playing with and standing on, and they can sit on a dining chair for long enough to eat a meal.
- High chairs are tall, stand-alone chairs whereas booster seats are small seats that must be fixed onto an existing chars.
- High chairs tend to be more suitable for babies and children under 3 years of age, while booster seats are a better option for toddlers and older children.
- High chairs are more sturdy and provide better safety features, while booster seats are lighter, much more portable and require your child to be able to hold themselves in place throughout their meal.
- High chairs tend to be much more expensive than booster seats ($150+ vs $50).
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