Keeping children in high chairs

Child Life

November 17, 1996|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

How can I get my 11-month-old son to stay in his high chair? He seems to want to get out even if I have the seat belt on.


Dallas, Texas

It's not unusual for a toddler to want to wiggle out of a tight spot, and parents from around the country have solved this problem using everything from dishes of water to toys to aprons to keep their kids in place.

One parent from El Paso, Texas, says she gave her toddler toys he simply couldn't resist while he sat in the chair.

"I put out a little dish of water with floating toys, and that would usually help," says Parra (no last name given).

Michelle Hammond, a mother from Powhatan, Va., suggests toys that the child doesn't get to play with anywhere else.

"My son was fascinated with the tops of baby-food jars," she says.

Debbie Goodman, a mother from Tampa, Fla., put her children into the high chair at times other than mealtimes and strapped them in to do arts and crafts.

"I kept them in there for three to five minutes at a time, and when it came to eating time, they didn't mind because they had been practicing," Goodman says.

The root of the problem might be the length of time a child is expected to stay in the high chair, according to several parents.

"A lot of parents unrealistically expect a young child to stay in the high chair for as long as 20 minutes to a half-hour," says Kathleen (no last name given) of Glendale, Ariz. "A lot of children eat quickly and can be finished in a matter of five minutes, so she might want to reassess her expectations."

Mike Bowis, a father from Richmond, Va., agrees.

"The high chair shouldn't be used as a place to keep the child while the mother does something else with her back turned," he says. "Only put the child in the chair just before he's about to be fed and take him out immediately after."

The problem could also be partly developmental, says Patricia H. Shimm, associate director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York City.

"They like to try to get out once they have the ability to get out," says Shimm, author of "Parenting Your Toddler" (Addison-Wesley, $12.50).

The child may be happier in a different style of chair, such as the wooden ones used by many restaurants that slide right up to the table, Shimm suggests. Several parents called to recommend the small, portable seats that attach to the table itself.

"We moved our daughter into a booster seat attached to a dining room chair, and she does not try to get out anymore," says Susan Smith, a mother from Nitro, W.Va.

Sally Thompkins of Glendale, Ariz., also noticed that her children tried to escape when they were not comfortable.

"If you look at toddlers' legs, they're very short and have a tendency to stick out from the seat and not hit the footrest," Thompkins says. "That can create that antsiness. Make sure the footrest is adjusted for the child's size. If he can flex his feet and push against it, he will probably stay seated."

An unlikely piece of cooking equipment did the trick for Cathy Mroszak of Roseville, Minn.

"Fit a rolling pin across the bottom of the seat and place the child so their knees go over the rolling pin so they can't get their little legs up," Mroszak says. "It also prevents them from sliding down so they can't choke."

Ellen Kondrat of Hoffman Estates, Ill., used a butcher's apron to secure her 16-month-old.

"The only thing that worked for us was to put the apron on her and tie the strings under the seat of the high chair," Kondrat says. "It doesn't constrain her neck but it does keep her in place."

Finally, remember that this is just a stage, says Shimm, of the Barnard toddler center.

"Be flexible and keep your sense of humor," she advises.

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 the Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608, or send e-mail to

Strange subject: "I want to teach my child not to talk to strangers, but when we go for walks and I meet people on the street, I say 'hello' or 'good morning,' " says Janet Smith of Nanaimo, British Columbia. "I don't want to frighten him. How should I handle this?"

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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