Each year, thousands of children are injured in high-chair-related accidents.
To prevent this, it’s important to take certain safety precautions when using a high chair or booster seat.
We’ve done our research and have spoken with safety experts to bring you everything you need to know to keep your child safe in their high chair.
High Chair Injury Statistics
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 such injuries (1). That’s 24 children every day — a whopping 9,400 children each year.
Common High Chair Injuries
The biggest risk of injury when using a high chair is a fall. Over 90 percent of all high-chair-related injuries are due to falling (2).
If a child were to fall from a high chair, they could suffer a number of injuries, including:
- Head injury.
- Neck injury.
- Broken Bones.
- Mouth injuries.
- Broken teeth.
However, falls aren’t the only injuries associated with high chairs.
Children can also be injured by:
- Choking on an item left within reach.
- Burning themselves on hot food or beverages close to them.
- 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?
There are many high chair models available. While it’s tempting to skip straight to a booster seat to save space or money, it’s wise to choose an age-appropriate high chair for your child. This ensures it will meet their unique physical and developmental needs. Here are your choices.
- Traditional High Chair – These chairs are standalone units with long legs, bringing your baby up to the level of your dining table. They typically have a plastic seat, a harness, and a removable tray. They usually recline to prop up babies who are not quite ready to sit completely upright.
- Space-Saving High Chair – These high chairs sit atop a regular chair and have straps that fasten 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. They can often be converted to 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 don’t often have a tray or recline, but most have a buckle or harness system. You should only use a hook-on high chair once your baby has a stable head, neck, and core control and can sit upright.
- Booster Seat High Chair – These are backless, trayless seats designed to enable toddlers and older babies to sit on regular chairs at the table. A booster seat raises a child’s height, so the table will be at the appropriate height for them. As they do not have a five-point harness system, they are not appropriate for younger babies.
- Heirloom or Antique High Chair – Your parents or grandparents may have used these high chairs. They are sentimental, and probably look unique, too. However, safety standards change rapidly, and older high chairs don’t have the same safety features required on current chairs, so it may be a good idea to buy a new one.
Important Safety Features
When purchasing a high chair, look for these safety features.
- Five-Point Harness – Just as 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 prevent your little one from wiggling out (as they may be able to in a waist-belt-only restraint system).
- Wide Base – High chairs can become top heavy due to your child’s weight as they sit in them. To combat this, choose one with a wider base and a larger footprint. It may take up a little more space in your house, but it is much safer.
- Locking Wheels – If your high chair comes with wheels, ensure they can be locked to keep the chair from moving around when in use.
- Metal Joint Construction – Many high chairs have been recalled primarily due to plastic joints cracking (3). Choose a high chair with metal joint construction as it tends to be stronger than plastic.
Staying Safe In A High Chair
1. Look For A Wide Base
Choose a chair with a low center of gravity so it won’t tip easily. The wider the legs at the bottom, the more stable the chair will be.
2. Secure Your High Chair
Before you place your baby in it, make sure your high chair will not move. If it has wheels, lock them. For a space-saving high chair or booster seat, check to ensure it is strapped securely to the chair.
3. Strap In
Choose a high chair with a five-point harness (not a three-point harness or a simple lap belt) for the utmost safety. For each use, always strap them in and tighten the straps so they cannot wiggle free.
4. No Standing in the Chair
Many falls happen when a baby or toddler stands in the high chair. Do not let your kids be in positions other than sitting in the high chair.
5. No High Chair Playtime
Do not let children sit or be near their high chair aside from mealtimes. Kids can topple the chair and injure themselves during playtime if they push or climb the high chair. Store the high chair out of your child’s reach when not in use.
6. Position The Chair Out of Reach
While you want your baby to participate in family mealtimes, be mindful of the potential hazards if they are positioned too close. Make sure the high chair is far enough away so their legs cannot reach to kick the table and topple the high chair.
7. Be Extra Careful with Hook-On High Chairs
Make sure the hooks can latch and lock securely onto the table when you buy a hook-on high chair. If you use a hook-on chair for travel, always make sure the table is heavy and stable enough to support your baby without tipping.
8. Look For Potential Hazards
Check for anything on the table within your child’s reach, and either remove it or move your high chair further away. Examples include choking hazards, sharp objects, hot foods, or even a tablecloth your child could pull.
9. Always Supervise Your Baby
While they seem 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. Always put the baby into the chair or pull the baby out yourself. Never let children try to climb in or out of a high chair by themselves.
10. Clean the High Chair Regularly
Food spills and baby saliva make the perfect environment for bacterial and fungal growth. Make sure you clean and disinfect the high chair regularly to prevent your little one from getting sick.
11. Check Periodically for Recalls
Baby items are recalled regularly for product failure or repeated accidents. Periodically, check the government website at Recalls.gov to ensure your high chair has not been recalled.
The Bottom Line
Every year, nearly 10,000 children are injured in accidents involving high chairs, most of them due to falls. Keep your child safe by choosing an age-appropriate high chair for your child with plenty of safety features. Always supervise your child at all times during use.
In recent years, the safety standards for high chairs have been updated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to include the following (4):
- More rearward stability.
- A visible warning label.
- A permanent passive crotch restraint.
Editor's Note:Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS