Here is advice from the testers with disabilities on the features they found helpful and others they found difficult to use. Before you buy, check over highchairs in the shops for the features you can manage:
A comfortable chair (left), an uncomfortable chair (middle) and a possible finger trap (right)
Parents cared a lot about how comfortable and safe their child would be in the highchairs. This affected how much they liked a chair more than anything else.
- a seat that's padded all around - for nestling in but also so a child in a tantrum does not bang their head on a hard seat back. You can buy padded inserts for around £15.
- high, rounded seat backs - thought comfortable and safe, along with deep seats and closed sides for protection.
cloth seating or covers. Plastic seating is easy to wipe clean but children might get sticky in hot weather.
- footrests, thought to be more comfortable for toddlers.
- fixed crotch straps to stop the baby sliding down while the harness is being put on.
- a few highchairs had a bar that stayed in place when the tray was removed. High to lift the baby over, but some parents liked the deterrent to a baby falling forward.
- tightening the harness waist strap so the child cannot wriggle out or stand up.
- the highchair's stability. Wheelchair users, people with walking difficulties and visually impaired parents thought they might knock over the lighter, narrower highchairs.
- more safety advice - go to How to stay safe.
The space available to lift a baby into varied a lot between the different highchairs. Check the width of the seat, the distance between the back of the tray and the chair back and the space below the tray for chubby legs.
- an easily adjustable tray - pulling it out for more space to get the child in, then pushing it inwards to confine the child. See below for more on trays.
- clear space between the highchair's arms. A child has to be lifted over any supporting bar - difficult from a wheelchair and not always seen by visually impaired parents.
- the right height chair for you - not too low if you are tall nor too high, particularly if you use a wheelchair.
easy-to-adjust multi-position highchairs.
- the layout of the legs and the position of any floor bars, so they don't get in the way of your wheelchair and its footplate.
- your growing child: will there be space for a hefty toddler and for your hands to deal with the safety straps?
Difficult straps to do up (left), easier straps to undo (right)
The DPPi (see Helpful organisations) tells us that safety harnesses are a continuous source of difficulty for many disabled parents. Our user trials confirmed this, so try them out before buying: you cannot take the risk of not strapping in your child.
The disabled testers found 3-point harnesses generally easier to handle than 5-point - simply having fewer straps to deal with. Threading the waist strap through the crotch strap was difficult for some though, particularly people with no sight. In fact our safety expert advises that close-fitting straps around the child's middle are the most effective part of a harness, stopping him or her wriggling out or standing up.
- a safety harness you can manage. Adjust the waist straps to fit snuggly and your child will be just as safe in a 3-point harness.
- a clasp that is not small and stiff and therefore harder to use, particularly if you have impaired dexterity.
- a clasp that closes positively with a click, so you know the fastening is secure without having to see it.
- contrasting colours between the clasp and straps - easier to see, but not many harnesses have them. good quality webbing straps that will not fray or get floppy to handle.
- the hand movements you can manage best: squeezing and pushing in a plastic prong type clasp or pressing down raised flanges to slide them in.
- having your child wear a safety harness most of the day, ready to be clipped into their highchair or pushchair. Look for a harness labelled BS 13210:2004 that will have waist and shoulder straps and fixing clips. These are easy to buy and are washable.
Easy to adjust (left), replacing flip over tray (right)
A good size tray is worthwhile if your child is going to play with toys in the highchair as well as eat in it. But a large tray will take up room and may be cumbersome and heavy to adjust, remove and replace. It will certainly be easier to get the baby in and strapped in with no tray in place.
- a fixed or flip-over tray if your grip is too weak and painful to adjust and remove trays. Bear in mind the flip-over trays still had clips to hold them in place.
- an adjustment and removal mechanism you can deal with. These were under the tray and involved pulling up two tabs (liked by most testers) or pulling on a finger grip (liked by some) or simultaneously pressing a button and pulling a lever (liked least).
Removing tray with one hand (left), fiddly tray to replace (right)
- replacing the trays means locating catches or runners and lining up both sides accurately, requiring a steady grip.
- some trays had to be pushed and pulled quite hard to start them moving. Some came out completely when parents meant to adjust them.
One handed height adjustment
If you are tall, short, need to sit to feed the baby or use a wheelchair, or if people of different heights feed your child, consider a multi-position highchair. Models which have to be rebuilt with tools are not suitable for a multi-height family and the press-button types vary in how easy they are to adjust.
- a height adjustment mechanism that you can manage. A central control is likely to be easier than reaching and operating buttons on either side of the chair, particularly from a wheelchair.
- chair weight that is not too heavy to lift, lower and control.
Almost all the disabled testers needed two hands to change the convertible highchairs to and from a low table and chair. Each way the chairs have to be lifted high to clear the table section. Some of the wheelchair users could not manage the weight and leverage necessary.
- To restack the highchairs, the seat has to be dropped down exactly square on to the upturned table, aligning the four legs all at once. This proved difficult for visually impaired people, those with poor grip and wheelchair users.
Highchairs with adjustable seat backs can mostly be used with babies under six months, before they can sit without help - but check the manufacturers' age ranges in the individual product summaries. Three of the highchairs we tested had this feature: Chicco Mamma, Cosatto Aurora and Jane Activa.
- all had the reclining control on the centre of the chair back: a dial on the Activa (above) and pull-up catches on the other two chairs. All were a reasonable size and most testers could use them one-handed, but some people with weak fingers found them stiff to adjust.
Disabled testers criticised many of the highchairs as being complicated to fold and unfold, having too much to do with different hands or needing some force. The easiest (the Jonelle Contented Cat) folded like a deckchair, and most testers managed it one-handed.
- highchairs that stay stable during folding.
- catches that lock into place with a positive click.
- safety clips in a contrasting colour - easier to see.
- the weight of the highchair and the width between catches: these caused particular problems for wheelchair users as well as getting in close to do the folding.
- the space in your home: will you need to fold the highchair much? Some fold slimmer than others: you could take them on your travels.
- most of the folding chairs had to be leant against a wall. Parents said they would do the same with the couple that stood upright, in case of knocking over by or on to their child.
Wheeling a highchair from wheels (left), easy locking (middle), not so easy locking (right)
Wheels help if your child spends time playing in the highchair as well as being pulled up to the table at mealtimes. Just two of the highchairs on test had wheels: the Chicco Mamma and Cosatto Aurora. Both had tabs on the rear wheels, to lower to lock the wheels and lift to unlock them. Parents with walking difficulties found it slightly harder to lock and unlock wheels than other testers.
Cosatto tell us they no longer make the Aurora with wheels. The Mamma locks were easier to use and see (red against its navy blue wheels).
Moving the highchairs without wheels varied - according to their size, weight, gripping points, how much they wobbled and whether they slid smoothly or juddered along.
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