The most important and hard-and-fast rule about when to stop putting Baby in a high chair for his meals is that it needs to happen before he reaches the size and weight limits for his high chair. Beyond that, it gets murkier, though. Once Baby starts to have strong neck and trunk control, there’s no physical reason he needs to stay in a high chair, but there are still practical reasons. For one thing, from a high chair, there’s no way Baby can run away halfway through the meal, and though it doesn’t always succeed, a high chair is often an attempt to limit the blast radius from dinnertime with especially messy eaters.
On the other hand Baby may start hinting that he would like to start eating his meals at the table with the rest of the family. Since that’s the eventual goal for most families, it can be a good idea to take advantage of the time when it’s what Baby wants to do, before he has the chance to grow into a threenager who’s too cool for school – er, family dinners.
Most children move out of high chairs (often into booster seats) some time between the ages of 1 and 3, but that range of ages is so large because it really has more to do with Baby’s individual level of maturity, and what you are comfortable with, than it does with his age.
Signs it might be time to make the switch
- Baby really hates the high chair: Some messy eaters who don’t love mealtime really just can’t stand their high chairs. If Baby is perfectly happy snacking in the park, on-the-go in his car seat, or in a living room picnic, but starts to shriek with frustration when his high chair straps reach out to hug him, he could just be ready to move to the big kids’ table.
- He has become an escape artist: The biggest appeal of high chairs for parents is that they’re meant to be the safest way to make it through mealtime. But if Baby has started pulling a Houdini with his high chair, the answer probably isn’t to strap him in tighter.
- You trust him: If Baby has good, growing coordination and muscle control, and is able to follow simple instructions and safety guidelines, he really might be ready to join his family around the dining table.
Remember, like just about everything else when it comes to Baby, there’s nothing set in stone about when to move away from the high chair. It all depends on Baby and you, and whatever decision you make is the right one.