Throwing the highchair out with the bathwater

Throwing the highchair out with the bathwater


What is it with the manufacturers of child & infant products, like highchairs? Sometimes it seems like the people designing and marketing these things don’t have kids of their own. Take our high chair, for example. It’s a Graco, one of the less expensive, mass-market brands. We bought this particular chair four years ago just before Isabella was born and it’s served both Sophia and Benedict too.

It’s not a bad high chair, although there was a recent recall that replaced some screws that were prone to work themselves out of their places and added a piece of fabric that attaches to all four legs to prevent the chair from doing splits if another piece of plastic breaks as it apparently could. As a side benefit, the fabric acts as a convenient tarp for catching all the food that falls from the tray. Ick.

But what really baffles me is how the chair is packaged. There’s the usual tray that attaches to the chair in front of the child, but Graco also provides a removable tray that goes on top of it. The idea is that if you place the food on this removable tray—which is on top of the other also removable tray, mind you—then when the child is done imitating Jackson Pollock, you just whisk it away to the sink. And Graco provides not one, but two of these trays. And they go on top of the regular removable tray that every high chair comes with to make three removable trays.

Keep in mind that while two of these trays are in use—because you can’t use the top removable tray without the removable part that attaches to the chair (It’s getting difficult to describe this; Click the zoom button on this chair and you should see what I mean)—the third tray has to be stored somewhere. But what’s really annoying is that the trays are light enough and don’t actually snap onto anything that a 1-year-old child can easily get his hand gripped on the edge and flip it off. Yeah, we know this by experience. So early on we stopped using the little trays and just serve food right on the regular tray, which washes just fine in the sink and can go right back onto the chair when Ben is done.

So the two extra trays are pretty useless. But what would be nice to have an extra of is the seat cover. That seat cover gets downright nasty with ground-in, mushed banana, pasta, Cheerios, and a miasma of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. The problem is that there’s only one of them and you can’t use the chair without it. So you either have to remember to pop the thing right into the wash as soon as he’s done with dinner to have a hope that it will be ready by breakfast or else hand wash it in the sink as best you can, wring it out, and then hope it dries by morning.

So we get two trays that are essentially useless and only one seat cover that would great if we had a second.

Now, maybe these folks really do use their products because I see that at least some of their highchairs come with a second seat cover. They’re fast learners, these baby gear manufacturers.

Photo by Coreyu -

  • Based on the picture in the link, your high chair’s trays sound similar to ours. We have an Eddie Bauer wooden one. I liked the look of the wood and we expect and hope it to last quite a while. Ours likewise has 3 trays. The top two are removable but the bottom one which also has the descending piece to secure the child between the legs is screwed on into the wood. I actually only use that tray when the baby is just beginning and I’m spoon-feeding everything such that it really never gets used. The top two trays we keep on. Once Elizabeth is finished eating on the top tray, I use it to collect all the remnants from the floor, the foot piece, the seat, the arms, etc. I wipe the edge of the middle tray and take only the top tray to the kitchen. Usually I clean it immediately and put it back. But, when she has something that stains (usually tomato-based) I will need to keep that tray in the kitchen soaking or such. Then we will use the middle tray until the top one is clean again.

    So we do use the two top removable trays. But I am all for an extra seat cover. I gave up using it at all with Cecilia because I simply could not keep it clean enough.

  • Ours isn’t exactly like the one in the link. I think ours is discontinued, but it is similar. On ours, the piece that goes between the legs stays attached to the chair while the trays go on top. It’s not really possible for the two removable trays to stack on each other, which is another design flaw I should have mentioned. So you have to find someplace to store it while you’re using the other one. Painful.

    I wish we could just do without the seat cover, but you can’t use the seat without it. All the hard plastic bits would be poking him in the back.

  • Ah, I see. That is weird. Ours is no longer available either but our top tray is like an insert into the bigger middle tray so, usually, when Elizabeth uses the high chair, all three trays are on it one on top of another.

    Before I just went bare without the seat cover, I tried just using a couple of towels. I’d keep them in rotation so I always had one on hand but they were easy to just throw in the laundry when they got dirty. Would that work with your high chair? Just draping a towel over the back and down the seat as a cushion? I do use them whenever a little one is first learning to sit up in the high chair just to help cushion them especially behind their head.