A high chair is not only a handy tool for parents to keep babies from smearing food around the house while eating, but also a safety measure. Babies and small children have limited attention spans and can become easily distracted. Having a child sit while eating and being able to observe their eating is important for their safety and learning as much as it is for your home.
I encourage you to keep your child in their high chair for as your child can comfortably and safely sit in it to eat. If they are no longer safe (ie standing, unbuckling) or you’re having an ongoing highchair stand-off, it might be time to transition.
When transitioning from highchair to seat at the table I suggest the following:
Ensure you are already implementing family meal times wherever possible and role model how you sit at the table throughout a meal. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid getting up and down from the table while eating - social modelling is effective!
If you have the ability, remove the tray from the highchair and allow your child to experience eating at the table from their highchair. You may wish to do this for a few weeks or you may need to skip this step if your highchair and table are not compatible.
Prepare a seat at your table for your child. You may need to adjust the seat using pillows to ensure they are able to reach their meal comfortably. Children should be sitting upright, legs and hips at 90 degree angles and ideally their feet supported (a stool under their feet works well).
Our transition suggestions include:
- Removing highchair tray and pushing highchair into family dining table
- Outdoor seat cushions with ties (these are easy to clean and tie to the bottom and back of most chairs)
- Using a stool under feet if your child is easily distracted at the table
- Tripp trapp style seats that convert from highchair to table chair
Establish non-negotiable ‘rules’ and clearly and consistently remind your child of these. For example, my one non-negotiable meal time rule is that they must not run around with food in their mouth and this is for their own safety (and don’t forget to model this too!). The rest is behaviour they will learn with time.
Child-sized tables are a great option for children, provided you are still prioritising eating as a family as often as possible. I recall many occasions where I sat, knees up to my face, at my son’s child-sized table to eat with him when we weren’t sitting at our main dining table.
Once you transition from the highchair expect a little chaos, a little mess and a lot of negotiating, and know that it does get better with time.
What if we don’t own a dining table?
This is TOTALLY OKAY! Remember, the ‘where’ is less important. What is important is sharing family meals as often as possible. Choose a consistent, distraction-free space in the house to eat from.
What age should we transition by?
There really isn’t a perfect age as every child is different. Most children transition between 1-2 years of age. However, if your child is comfortable, safe and within weight limits of their highchair it is perfectly fine to keep them in their highchair for longer.
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