Mealtime Booster Seats: When to Move and Good Features

Find out when you should move from a high chair to a booster seat at meals and what features to consider when choosing a booster seat.

Toddler eating lunch

“Parents will inquire as to whether a booster seat is absolutely necessary. No, it is not. However, if a child is kneeling on an adult size chair, he usually lacks the coordination to move food from plate to mouth without creating an enormous mess. A booster seat helps reduce the mess” (On Becoming Prestoddlerwise, page 71).

Okay, so when I was a child, a “booster seat” was the largest phone book we had. Times have certainly changed, and I have changed with it!

What Age Should You Get a Booster Seat (Instead of a High Chair)

What age do you move to the booster seat? There is no set age that is appropriate for all ages. Here are the things I consider:

1-Mess: How messy of an eater is the child?

It is easier for me to clean a high chair than the booster seat and table, so I take into account how messy the child is.

2-Plate: Will the child use a plate?

I wait until the child can be trusted with a plate at the table without throwing it on the floor.

3-Height: Can the child reach my table in our booster seat?

Tables, children, and booster seats come in all sizes, so I wait until the child can sit in the booster seat at our table and be able to reach and eat the food.

Our Kids

Brayden and Kaitlyn were somewhere around 18-20 months when we moved to a booster seat at mealtime. With both of them, we were prepping for another baby around that age. I wanted the highchair long out of their minds so there would be no issues when baby started to use it.

McKenna was closer to two.


There are so many Booster Seats out there. Tons. So when you are buying your first, how do you decide which one to buy? Here are some features I would consider.

1-Color: Does it matter to you?

Many booster seats are designed with children in mind. Ours happens to be a nice, bright blue. If I were to pick today, I would probably go for something more neutral. It isn’t a huge deal, but my preference is a bit different than it was the day we bought it. It might be the fact that we have since moved and the kitchen is attached to our great room, which is our formal room, so I have this nice bright blue booster seat in my formal area. Again, not a life-ruining thing, but if you are buying new and have the option of being choosy, just consider if color will be an issue for you.

2-Straps: Do you want them?

There are some booster seats out there that are basically just a seat that sits on your kitchen chair–really just a glorified phone book. This would be fine for the child who needs an extra boost who is close to 3 or 4, but I really think that for a child 2 or under, you really want straps.

I am talking straps not only for the child to be strapped in the seat if needed, but also to be able to strap the booster securely to the chair. Ours features both. If it did not have those straps, then McKenna would not be able to climb into the chair on her own–we would have to put her into it so it didn’t fall down every time she climbed up into it.

Straps for the child–we did not need them for Brayden nor Kaitlyn–they both sat nicely. McKenna, however, has had her share of meals strapped in so she wouldn’t stand up. I am glad ours has straps.

So my recommendation is that yes, you do want straps.

3-Tray: Do you want one?

Many booster seats out there come with a detachable tray. This can be nice if you have company over and you need to free some space at the table. I personally wouldn’t make the tray a deal breaker, but I know for some it might be.

4-Height: Measure your table!

Our booster seat has an adjustable height so we can get it to the right size for our table. You will want to be aware of how high it needs to be and how high is too high for the child’s legs to fit under the table. Our table has several inches of wood that go straight down from the table top, which means our legs can’t be too high, but the child needs to be able to reach the table.

5-Portability: Do you need it to be easily moved?

Some boosters are easier to travel with than others. We actually have a a separate travel booster that folds down compactly (The First Years On-The-Go Booster Seat). We keep it in our vehicle and if we are visiting grandparents or friends and need it, we can pull it out.

When Brayden was a baby, we just used his booster seat to travel with (our bright blue one). It doesn’t fold down at all, so it took up a fair amount of space, but with one child space wasn’t an issue. It is more of an issue with our three children.

So consider how easy it is to move and how compact it can get when moving it.

6-Cleaning: How easy is it to clean?

Most booster seats are made of plastic, and plastic is easy to clean. Some are other materials and fabrics, though. Consider ease of cleaning as you choose–especially the “arm rest” area. That is where sticky hands touch the most.


What features are important to you? What couldn’t you live with out? Do you have a booster seat you just love?

And, what age did your child move to the booster seat?

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High chair to booster

8 thoughts on “Mealtime Booster Seats: When to Move and Good Features”

  1. We also have the travel one you have and we keep it in our car. It's great! For home, we have the Fisher Price Space Saver Booster which you put into a chair. It is a reclining high chair, regular high chair with tray, then as the child gets older you can remove the tray and lower the seat so it becomes a booster. It has served our son from age 6 months to age 3 and we are now using it with our daughter!

  2. First time commenting and I just love your blog! We just moved our twins into boosters last week at 17 months. Both are very tall for their age and ready. It has been so much easier so far! We are using the boosters that came with the Graco Blossom highchair system. They are easy to attch and remove (they have straps), very adjustable for different sized kids and easy to clean. It is so great to have our "big boys" at the table with us. 🙂

  3. My twins never had high chairs. We used the Fisher Price Healthy Care Boosters with the trays from when they started solids, and moved the boosters to the the table when they turned two (they are both very messy). The seats have all of the necessary features you've mentioned, and they were $25 each. When they get really filthy, I just chuck them in the dishwasher whole. Awesome.

  4. This is an interesting post for me, as we put the booster in the 'nice to have' category and have therefore lived without one for our 3 children.I can certainly see the benefits! But we have survived by moving our children out of the highchair a bit later (2+ years), and using a kitchen step ladder for our third child (who is now 3 years). If I did it again with the same financial constraints, I would definitely use the kitchen step ladder for all three children.

  5. I love our Fisher Price booster seat with the fold-down back and the removable trays. We actually used ours from our older son's babyhood through his toddlerhood and then for our next baby, and currently use it for our now-33-month-old. We never had a high chair and I loved having a very washable, inexpensive, travel-friendly seat instead. It comes in handy up to four years old in my experience. With two children, we will be using it for a combined total of maybe seven years for about $25!

  6. Penny, that is interesting! I don't know how many people have step ladders that would work (I know I don't). It is a good idea for those that do.


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