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How to Transition from the High Chair to Table

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS
Is it time to say bye-bye high chair?

Are you tired of fighting to get your child in their high chair at mealtimes?

Many parents wonder at what age their child should stop sitting in their high chair. But, when to make the switch often depends on the child’s development and what you’re comfortable with.

Here are five signs it may be time to ditch the high chair and how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

When to Switch From High Chair to Booster Seat?

You think it may be time to transition from the high chair, but don’t want to create extra stress or endangerment by abandoning it too soon.

So how do you know when your child is ready for the next step?

Here are five signs to look out for:

1. The High Chair Is Creating Chaos

If your child gets hysterical whenever you try to put them in the high chair, it may be time to start transitioning from it.

Mealtime should be about socialization and quality family time, not a war zone. Also, as toddlers become more independent, their high chair might be too restrictive for them.

2. They Can Follow Rules

Following basic high chair safety rules is a must when transitioning, especially if you’re bypassing a booster and going straight to a regular chair.

Before making the switch, be sure your child knows chairs are not for standing on, rocking, lying on, or playing. Make it clear they should remain seated during meals, and all plates, bowls, and utensils are to stay at the table.

As long as your child can sit still long enough to eat and follow these basic safety rules, it really shouldn’t matter where they eat.

3. You’ve Got A Little Houdini

Has your child suddenly become an escape artist capable of unbuckling that five-point harness? Can they climb in and out of the high chair or crib?

Once your child can unbuckle and escape, the high chair becomes more of a safety hazard than helpful. Get your little Houdini out as soon as possible.

4. They Want To Be Like You

Have you noticed your child imitating every little thing you do? Do they want to be, “just like daddy or mama?”

When a child reaches this phase of development, they notice their parents or older siblings aren’t sitting in a high chair. Or if in a daycare setting, they’ll see all of the older kids sitting at a table.

Most children then want to sit in a “big kid” chair.

5. You’ve Got A Little Climber

If your child is starting to try out all the different seats in the house, then it might be time to let them sit like a big kid. Once they can safely get in and out of the different seats, go ahead and let them try it out during meals.

Transitioning Out of The High Chair

So you’ve identified the signs above, and your child is ready to graduate from the high chair. But how do you make the transition?

This will vary from child to child and also depend on your preferences.

Here are some of my favorite tips for transitioning from the high chair.

1. Make It Gradual

If your child is showing all the signs above, except for being an escape artist, you can take your time transitioning from the high chair.

Start with just snacks in the big kid chair and still use the high chair for meals until you know they are fully capable of sitting still through the entire meal.

You could also keep the high chair for really messy meals.

2. Consider A Booster

Strapped boosters are a great next step if your child will sit in one. When choosing a booster seat, pick one with straps for the child and straps to the chair. Avoid restaurant-style boosters, as they can easily topple over.

There are also space saver high chairs, which sit right atop a chair and can become strapped boosters by merely removing the tray and pulling them up to the table. Try adding some stickers with your child’s favorite characters to make the booster more enticing.

3. Make it Child-Size

If your child won’t sit in a booster, but you’re not comfortable with them sitting at the tall kitchen chairs, then a child-size set of table and chairs may be a great alternative.

They can sit in a chair without the worry of falling a few feet to the ground. You could also invite their friends over and let them have a little “dinner party” at the table.

4. Make it a Family Fun Event

Turn off the T.V. and sit at the table as a family. Make mealtime a social family event, rather than just scarfing down food. Talk about your day, involve your child, and spend some quality time together.

This also distracts them from getting in and out of their new un-restrictive chair, and they can eat better.

Bye Bye, High Chair

It may be time to ditch the high chair if it’s just creating chaos or your child is trying out the different seats in the house. Also, when your child can follow the rules, is a little Houdini, or wants to be “just like you,” it’s time to say bye to the high chair!

When you make the switch, consider using a booster or child-size table, and make mealtime a family event.

Headshot of Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS

Po-Chang Hsu, MD received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Hsu has interests in both pediatrics and neonatology, and he also loves writing, walking, and learning new languages.

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