From flying food and tumbling crockery, tears, smears and mess, feeding time can be a challenging experience, so the last thing you want is a highchair that hinders rather than helps. Once babies develop their neck strength (at around six months of age), they're ready to comfortably sit in a high chair to feed. High chairs should be sturdy and safe and have all the right features to make feeding time easy for your child – and you!

This guide includes things to consider when buying a stand-alone high chair, as well as other options like portable or clip-on baby chairs. Also check out our test to see which high chairs we recommend.

High chair safety

The most common form of injury involving high chairs is when the child falls after trying to stand up in, climb in to or get out of the chair. Other serious injuries can result from having their fingers, toes or limbs pinched or crushed by moving parts or gaps, or choking on easily detachable small parts. Make sure you check out the chair when it's set up in the store, and really get in there – rock it to check stability, get your fingers into cracks and crannies, and play with moving parts to check for finger or limb traps.

When shopping, look for chairs which comply with the Australian Standard for high chairs, AS 4684:2009 or the European Standard EN 14988 – there's a variety of different styles, so you shouldn't have to sacrifice safety to buy one that looks good in your kitchen or dining room, if that's important to you. And when you get home, make sure you set up the chair at least half a metre from anything your child could use to push off from and topple over – windows, large furniture, blind or light pullcords, and so on.

What to look for

Five-point harness

This means a harness with shoulders, waist and crotch straps so kids can't fall or climb out.

  • 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.
  • Ideally, the harness should be non-removable, or at least require a tool to remove it (such as undoing a screw); this is so that you or your child are unlikely to take it off and lose it, or forget to reattach it.

Construction

This should be sturdy and robust enough to carry the weight of a child. Push on the seat and backrest to see if these squeak, sag, deform, move out of position, or collapse.

Stability

Look for legs that spread outwards further than all other parts of the chair – the area of the floor space between the four legs should be greater than the area of the seat. Perfectly vertical legs aren't as stable.

Moving parts

These 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. These 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, make sure it's light enough to move easily without them.

Large or adjustable 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

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.

Simple to clean

Watch out for nooks and crannies in the chair frame, cushion or straps where food can be hard to clean out.

Portable high chairs

Harnesses, boosters and clip-on toddler and infant seats are compact alternatives to a standard high chair – here are additional things to consider if you like this option.

Fitting

The seat should fit securely and easily. Most stores (and product websites) have them set up so you can see how they work.

Security

Make sure the seat won't move, or tip over the table or chair, once it is attached and your child is in place. Give it a firm tug up, down, sideways, back and forth to make sure it's anchored securely.

Seat

The seat should have back and side support, and prevent the child leaning too far and unbalancing or falling. A seat that reclines is useful for seating an infant.

Tray

If provided, the tray should be secure when fitted but easy to remove, attach and adjust.

Washable

The chair should be easy to clean.

Height-adjustable

Some booster seats can be height adjusted for smaller or larger children.

Capacity

Check that the recommended age and weight for the seat suits your child.

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. These are simply elevated, child-sized seats that allow your youngster to sit at the dinner table with the family. They usually have a footrest so the child can sit comfortably without their legs dangling.

The high chair standard does not technically apply to chairs like these, so check that the chair is stable enough not to topple sideways or backwards if the child pushes against the table.