Baby furniture buying guide

Don't purchase a cot, cradle, playpen or highchair until you've read our informative guide.
 
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06.Highchairs and other seating

Highchairs

A highchair can come in very handy at mealtimes when a baby can sit up independently. It should be stable, sturdily built and have no gaps or crevices that might trap little arms or fingers. Our tests have been based on the international standard for highchairs (ISO 9921-1) but we will use the new Australian standard in future (it’s very similar).

What to buy

In the February 2009 CHOICE test of highchairs we recommended the following models.

Childcare Stella

Childcare Stella Price $180
Good points

  • Passed all our safety tests
  • Height-adjustable and reclinable seat.
  • Easy to move around with four castor wheels.

Bad points

  • Nothing to mention.

Inglesina Zuma

Inglesina Zuma Price $429
Good points

  • Passed all our safety tests
  • Height-adjustable and reclinable seat.
  • No initial assembly required.

Bad points

  • Folding requires use of both hands and a foot.

Love N Care Futura

Love N Care Futura Price $69
Good points

  • Passed all our safety tests
  • Light and easy to move.

Bad points

  • A person folding it could get their fingers caught in rotating or closing parts.

What to look for

High chair essentials
  • Five-point harness (with shoulders, waist and crotch straps). This helps prevent a child from falling or climbing from the seat. Shoulder straps that attach to the seat at shoulder height provide more effective restraint than ones that attach to the back of the waist strap. The crotch strap should be anchored close enough to the back that the child can’t slip through one side. The buckles should be easy for you, but not your child, to release.
  • Construction This should be sturdy and robust enough to carry the weight of a child. Push on the seat and backrest to see if they squeak, sag, deform, move out of position or collapse.
  • Stability Look for legs that spread outwards farther than all other parts of the chair.
  • Moving parts shouldn’t be able to pinch, crush or trap a child’s finger, toe, limb or head (or the fingers of an adult folding or adjusting the chair). Also check for sharp edges and points along the edges of the chair and tray, and easily detachable parts (including stickers) that could pose a choking hazard.
  • Castor wheels Useful for moving the chair around. They should have brakes that lock in position on at least two of them (the front or back set). If the chair doesn’t have castors, check that it’s light enough to move easily without them.
Comfort and ease of use
  • Large seat Useful if you plan to use the chair for some years as it will accommodate a toddler.
  • Reclining back or seat Good for younger babies who can’t sit upright for long.
  • Tray This should be secure when fitted but easy to remove, attach and adjust.
  • Height-adjustment and back-reclining These should be easy for you, but not your child, to operate. The mechanism should be out of the child’s reach and require some strength or dexterity to use.
  • Foldable and handy for storage. The chair should be easy to fold and unfold, and preferably lock in its folded position.
  • Lightweight If you're going to be regularly getting the chair out and storing it away again, make sure it's not too heavy.
  • Footrest or leg support This is important to support the child’s feet or calves. Adjustable footrests are useful as the child grows. All models on test have a footrest.

Junior chairs

  • When your child has grown up a little and no longer needs a harness to sit safely, you could consider a tall junior chair as a replacement for the old high chair.
  • Such chairs are simply elevated child-sized seats intended to allow the youngster to sit at the dinner table with the family.
  • They usually have a footrest so the child can sit comfortably without his or her legs dangling.
  • The high chair standard does not technically apply to chairs like these, but nevertheless we put one model – the IKEA Gasell ($69) – to the test to see how it performs. It fails the sideways and rearward stability tests, so a child in this chair who pushes away from the table could risk toppling. While we wouldn’t say the IKEA is unsafe, a high chair that passes the stability test and which has a roomy seat and removable tray could be a better option for an older child to sit at the dinner table.

Children’s folding chairs

A folding chair specifically designed for a child could do more harm than good. Many children—some as young as one year old—have injured their fingers badly on such chairs, breaking or crushing bones. Some have even had finger(s) amputated.

Safety concerns

  • When folded or collapsed, many still leave small spaces (of less than 5mm) where a child’s finger can get trapped, pinched or squeezed.
  • At present, only South Australia has a mandatory standard that sets safety requirements, including the minimum 5mm trapping space and NSW Fair Trading Act 1987 has a Prohibition Order on unsafe folding chairs. Even there, too many children are injured because unsafe chairs can be imported or manufactured in other states where the mandatory standard does not apply
  • CHOICE thinks all Australian states and territories (and New Zealand) should adopt a mandatory safety standard for children’s folding chairs.

What to look for

  • It’s best to buy a small, moulded plastic chair. These are commonly available from variety stores and even supermarkets.
  • If you do have a child’s folding chair, check the trapping spaces when you fold it up, and supervise your child when using it.
  • Don’t let adults use your child’s chair – they’re designed for the weight of children, rather than adults.

Bouncers and rocking infant chairs

A little rocking or bouncing chair can be useful during the first few months, so you can keep your baby close to the action. They come in a variety of styles.

Using a bouncer safely

  • Never place a bouncer or rocking chair anywhere but on the floor. Even a slight bouncing motion could be enough to propel the chair plus baby over the edge of a table, and if the baby decides to try turning over for the first time while in the chair it’s not too far to fall to the floor.
  • Always use a safety harness (which should comprise a lap belt and crotch strap).
  • Never leave your baby alone in a bouncer.

What to look for

  • The base or rear support should be wider than the seat.
  • The base should have rubber tips or other non-skid surfaces which would minimise movement on smooth floors.
  • The safety belt should be strong, properly attached to the frame of the chair, easy to operate and adjustable to fit your baby.
  • Try to assess the chair’s stability with your baby in it. If the seat is held up by a tiltback handle, press down on it to check that the locking mechanism holds securely.
  • Fabric covers should be removable for cleaning.
  • If the seat has handles for carrying while the baby is installed, check they are correctly positioned for balance; don’t carry a baby in a seat without handles.
  • If you buy a self-assembly model make sure all joints are fully engaged and the fabric cover doesn’t present any entrapment hazards such as open flaps.
 

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