7 Simple High Chair Safety Tips Will Make You a More Prepared Parent
Last Updated August 31, 2017
Do you have a high chair? If so, you probably use it daily like millions of other mothers around the world.
But aside from simply buckling the straps, have you ever given much thought to safety?
Each year, thousands of children are injured as a result of high chair related accidents.
To prevent this from happening to your child, it’s important to take certain precautions when using a high chair or booster seat.
Here’s everything you need to know to keep your child safe in their high chair.
How Common Are High Chair Injuries?
High chair injuries are on the rise. A 2013 study indicated that every hour, one child is treated in a U.S. Emergency Room for high chair related injuries (source). That’s 24 children every day, and a whopping 9400 children each year.
What Types of Injuries Can Happen With a High Chair?
The biggest risk of injury when using a high chair is a fall. 93% of all high chair-related injuries are due to falling (source).
If your child were to fall from a high chair, they could suffer a number of injuries, including:
However, falls aren’t the only injuries that can be associated with high chairs.
Children can also be injured by:
Choking on an item left within reach
Burning themselves on hot food or beverages left within reach
Cutting themselves with sharp objects left within reach
Toppling the high chair by pushing on the table with their feet
Pinched fingers in latches or high chair joints
What Are My High Chair Choices?
When choosing a high chair, there are several different models available. While sometimes it’s tempting to skip straight to a booster seat to save space or money, it’s important to choose one that’s age-appropriate for your child to ensure it will meet their unique physical and developmental needs. Here are your choices.
- Traditional High Chair - These chairs are standalone units that have long legs, bringing your baby up to the level of your dining table so they can participate in mealtimes. They typically have a plastic seat with harness and a removable tray, and recline to help prop up babies who are not quite ready to sit completely upright.
- Space-Saving High Chair - These high chairs sit atop of a regular chair and have buckles that attach around the chair to secure it. They differ from a booster seat because they have an adjustable reclining back (for extra support) and a removable tray for food. They are often convertible to be later used as a booster seat when your baby is older.
- Hook-On High Chair - These petite and portable high chairs hook directly onto your dining table. They do not have a tray and do not recline, but most have a buckle or harness system. These should only be used once your baby has stable head, neck, and core control and is able to sit upright to prevent them from falling face-first into the table.
- Booster Seat - These backless, trayless seats are designed for toddlers and older babies to be able to sit on regular chairs at the table. It raises their height so the table is at the appropriate height for them. Because they do not have a five-point harness system, they are not appropriate for younger babies.
- Heirloom or Antique High Chair - These are high chairs that were used by your parents or grandparents. They are sentimental, and they probably look really unique, too. However, safety standards change rapidly and older high chairs don’t come with the same safety features required on current chairs, so it may be a good idea to buy a new one.
What Safety Features Should I Look For?
When purchasing a high chair, there are a number of safety features to look for to help make your child safer.
- Five-Point Harness - Just as you find them in car seats, you’ll also find five-point harness options in high chairs. The shoulder straps keep your baby’s torso from falling forward, and also provide an extra level of security so your little one can’t just wiggle out (as they maybe be able to do in a waist-belt-only restraint system).
- Wide Base - A high chair has a tendency to get top-heavy due to all the weight as your child sits in it. To combat this, choose a high chair with a wider base and larger footprint to bring down the center of gravity. It may take up a little more space in your house, but it increases the safety immensely.
- Locking Wheels - If your high chair comes with wheels, make sure it has a mechanism to securely lock them to keep the high chair from moving around during meal times.
- Metal Joint Construction - Some plastics may crack after use. In fact, some high chairs have been recalled primarily due to plastic joints cracking (source). Find a high chair with metal joint construction as it tends to be stronger than plastic.
If your child is a little Houdini who is able to un-latch the chest buckle on your five-point harness, simply tie a piece of fabric around it to prevent them from accessing the buckle.
How To Keep Your Child Safe In a High Chair
1. Choose a Stable Chair With a Wide Base
When purchasing your chair, make sure it has a low center of gravity so it does not tip easily. The wider the legs at the bottom, the more stable the chair will be.
2. Make Sure Your High Chair is Secure
Before you place your baby in, make sure your high chair will not move. If your high chair has wheels, make sure they are locked before putting your baby in the chair. If you are using a space-saving high chair or a booster seat, check to ensure it is strapped to the chair securely.
3. Make Sure They Are Strapped In
To make sure your baby is as safe as possible, choose a high chair with a five-point harness (as opposed to a three-point harness or a simple lap belt). Every time you place your child in the high chair, strap them in and tighten the straps so they can not wiggle free.
4. Position The Chair Out of Reach of the Table
While you want your baby to participate in mealtimes with you, it’s important to be mindful of the potential hazards that can come to your baby if they are positioned too close. Look under the table; make sure the high chair is far enough away that your baby’s legs cannot reach it to kick the table and topple the high chair.
5. Examine the Table for Potential Hazards
Check for anything that may be within your child’s reach on the table and either remove it or move your high chair further away. Examples include choking hazards, sharp objects, hot foods, or even a tablecloth that may be pulled off.
6. Always Supervise Your Baby
While it may seem that they are secure, never leave your baby unattended in a high chair. Choking is a silent accident and is quite common as children are still learning to eat.
7. Check Periodically for Recalls
Baby items are recalled all the time for product failure or repeated accidents. Periodically, check to make sure your high chair has not been recalled by checking the government recall website at Recalls.gov.
The Bottom Line
In order to keep your child safe when using a high chair, do the following:
Choose a stable chair with a wide base.
Make sure your high chair is secure and will not move.
Make sure your child is securely strapped in (preferably with a five-point harness).
Position the chair out of reach of the table.
Examine the table for potential hazards and remove them.
Supervise your baby while they are seated in the chair.
Periodically check Recalls.gov for product or safety recalls.
Every year, nearly 10,000 children are injured in accidents involving high chairs - and the vast majority of them are due to falls. Keep your child safe by choosing one that’s age-appropriate for your child with plenty of safety features, and supervise them at all times during use.
Did your child ever have a high chair related accident or near miss? Tell us about it in the comments below - and share this with other mothers who need to keep their kids safe.