High Chairs High Chairs

Eventually, that little bundle of energy will be able to sit in a grown-up chair at the table, even if it takes a little longer for him to be able to make appropriate conversation with guests or know which fork to use for the escargot.

But until then, you've got the tricky in-between time to deal with, after your baby learns to sit up and before he learns that one always says "excuse me," when one burps at the table.

The high chair is your friend during these years, and it has become a better friend than the ones that were available when you were a baby. Just as ergonomics have been taken into account with desk chairs and keyboards, so too have they influenced the design of high chairs, and now there are several factors to consider when looking at them.

Of course your main concern will be whether or not the chair is safe; you want to make sure the chair is well-constructed enough so that there's no chance of it collapsing, taking Baby and his mashed peas down with it. The main consideration is that the wider the base, the more stable it will be.

To add a measure of reassurance, look for a chair that's certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. They look at every imaginable aspect of the chair, and demand that folding chairs have locking devices, that there are no sharp edges, and that they must be properly labled and come with appropriate literature about operation and maintenence.

The importance of safety can't be overemphasized. Two years ago, Cosco recalled a million high chairs, after getting reports of babies being injured when the seats separated from the frame or fell from the higher positions to the lowest. On some of the seats, the restraint anchor slipped through the seat.

When shopping, you should look carefully at the restraint system. As adults, we think of restraint at the table as not having that third helping of pasta puttanesca, but with Baby "restraint" is just about keeping him in his seat through the meal. There should be a sturdy, yet comfortable, strap that attaches to the waist belt and then passes through Baby's legs, so Baby doesn't slide down under the feeding tray. We all know that feeling, after a satisfying meal, of just wanting to slip into a reclining position, but it's better if you can stop this habit in Baby before it starts.

However, you can get a chair that has a reclining as well as an upright position. This isn't so that Baby can nap during dinner but is to allow for bottle feeding.

Remember that you'll be using your high chair for a long time; you hope it won't be until Baby goes to college, but you never know. You want something that is adjustable, so that you won't have to keep investing in a new one with every growth spurt.

In addition to the chairs for home use, for about $60 you can get a chair that attaches onto the edge of a table for travel use. This way you can take Baby to the Park Plaza for tea even before he's learned how to say "petite fours."

Another factor to consider is the material of the chair. In the olden days, we all, babies and adults alike, sat on wood, almost as if we were punishing ourselves for sitting down. Now, however, high chairs, like sofas and other furnishings, came in cushy padded fabrics. Make sure the one you choose has a removable, washable cover, and that the plastic tray is easy to clean. The choice of different colors and patterns gives you a chance to harmonize your high chair with your overall kitchen decor.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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