Ask! When is it time for a booster seat at the table?

Q. I am ready to get rid of the bulky high chair. How do I know when to transition from a high-chair to a booster seat? What challenges can I expect during the transition?

A. When to begin using a booster seat instead of high chair is really a matter of choice. Most parents transition their child out of the high chair by 18-24 months of age. Although some families opt out of the high chair and go straight to the booster seat because it is smaller and takes up less space than a high chair. With the huge variety of booster seats now available, forgoing the high chair is easier than ever.

The following guidelines may help you decide when to transition to the booster seat. Your child may be ready for the transition out of the high chair into a booster if he or she demonstrates the following skills:

  • Your child can sit up without falling forward for an extended period of time. This skill is achieved by most 9-month-olds.
  • Your child has expressed desire to join you at the table.
  • Your child is climbing out of the high chair. Falling out of a high chair can result in serious injury. If your child has become a Houdini, it may be time to make the transition.
  • Your child is able to sit at the table and participate in the family meal for at least 10 minutes.
  • Your child does not grab things off of the table.
  • Your child is able to have a meal without throwing things.
  • Your child is able to stay still during meal time. If your child is constantly wanting out of the chair, it may not be a good time to transition.

When choosing a booster seat, the following things must be considered:

  • Safety straps: Make sure that the booster seat has straps. Do not use a booster without straps. A four-point harness is the most stable, reducing the likelihood of your child falling out of the chair. Make sure that the booster seat has a strap to secure it to a stable chair.
  • Make sure your child fits in the seat with minimal wiggle room.
  • Make sure there is a center portion so that your child cannot slide out of the chair.
  • Never leave your child unattended.

To reduce any “challenges” that may occur due to your child’s newly found freedom:

  • Have family meals. By eating with your child, you are modeling appropriate seating behavior and your child will be less likely to try to travel during mealtime.
  • Do not let your child out of the seat unless he or she is finished with dinner.
  • Do not let him or her down with food.
  • Do not allow your child in and out of the booster seat. Remind your child "If you want to eat, you must stay in your seat."

Making the transition to a booster seat is just one of the many transitions that toddlers make. Following the above guidelines will help the process occur smoothly and safely.