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A high chair is a long-term purchase

High chairs aren't just for giving baby a quick meal anymore. The right high chair can help babies join in family mealtimes from the time they are infants until they are ready to pull a chair up to the table with the rest of the big people. Mealtime is an important part of socialization, and there are high chairs to see your child through every stage of eating.

Any high chair worth considering will do two things well: keep your baby safe and comfortable, and be easy to clean and maintain. Given that the high chair will be a kitchen and/or dining room fixture for the next two to five years, parents should consider function and design as they would when buying any other piece of furniture. They should also consider whether future family additions might use the chair.

Basic high chairs have a metal frame buffered by plastic molding, seat and tray. Brands and models are distinguished mainly by features such as recline options, height adjustability, removable trays and tray inserts, seat cushioning, wheels, foldability and even built-in toys. Space-saving high chairs have either a highly compact fold or sit directly on a chair so they don't take up any floor space, then fold away for storage.

Wooden high chairs are a classic choice, but they're not as widely available as they used to be. Some of the most popular models of the past have been discontinued because they are not as easy to clean or as versatile as today's modern high chairs. Many of today's wooden high chairs are made from high-end materials and are more expensive than basic high chairs, but they also last for years.

Convertible high chairs are a step up from traditional models. These high chairs are designed to evolve with baby through various feeding stages, converting from infant high chair to toddler seat and in some cases to an adult seat. Portable high chairs attach directly to the table. They're a great choice for travel, or if you just don't have much space for even a space-saver high chair.

Any high chair you purchase should be very easy to use, even if you have to operate it with one hand while holding a squirming baby in the other. Ease of cleaning should be another top priority. Many parents fall in love with the aesthetics of a gorgeous high chair only to have that love turn to loathing when they find it's a nightmare of cracks and crevices that trap food.

A good high chair must be safe and sturdy. Features that distinguish the safest high chairs include stable bases to prevent tipping; five-point safety harness systems that restrain at the shoulders, around the waist and through the legs; a passive-restraint T-bar or post that keeps the baby from slipping out of the chair; and lockable wheels when applicable. But remember: A restraint system only works if you use it. Always use harnesses and other restraints when children are in the chair. Be sure all parts of the chair are fully locked and the chair is away from any objects that a child could pull over or push against. has evaluated current reviews of high chairs by both experts and consumers to determine the best high chairs based on their overall safety, ease of use, lifestyle features and benefits, as well as brand quality.

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