The time is coming where you are seriously thinking about ditching the highchair for your toddler and going to the table.  Before you jump in and take the plunge, here is a number of tips to think about and organise before you start.

iStock_000011999171XSmall1.      Is it really the right time?  There is no rush to move from highchair to table, though sometimes we might have reasons or timeframes as in, there is a baby who will be needing the highchair in a few months, or your toddler is too big for the highchair.  I’ve certainly seen older kids of 3 – 4 yrs. of age sit at a very high stool/chair that is pushed into the family dining table, so there is no exact age that you must make the move.  Sometimes you have older kids at a little table and your toddler is keen to join, be sure though that you still have some control on this.

2.     Are you doing this because your toddler is demanding that they don’t like the highchair?  Is your toddler screaming every time you go to use the highchair because, they. just. don’t. like. it!  This decision isn’t about their demands its about whether it suits you and would be practical.  If they are really hungry they will sit and eat in the highchair once you stay calm and in control.

3.     Once you go and decide on the table there’s no going back!  Seriously, once you decide your using the table and chairs and then the situation gets out of control, there’s no going back.  Your toddler will not be too happy with the freedoms that a table brings to want to go back to the highchair so think about it seriously.

4.     What are my options?  Okay so there are a few options.  You can find a good quality long lasting kids table and chairs, test it for yourself as you will be sitting there often as well.  So nice and strong, timber is usually a great option.  Remember easy to clean as there will definitely be lots of this, no fancy edges, designs etc.  Another option is a toddler seat strapped onto an adult chair, one advantage here is that it takes away the ease of your toddler getting up and down, that a little kids chair brings.  Another a tall chair (suitable breakfast bar chair) that fits your dining room table.

5.     What if they won’t sit there?  The ups and downs start. With exiting the highchair comes a great deal of independence.  First question to ask yourself is this….. what if my child gets on and off the chair instead of just sitting?  What are you going to do?  You need to have a plan.  My suggestions after a few reminders of “you need to sit, bottom on the chair, while you eat”  “when you get up and leave you are telling me your finished” then you simply need to act.  See strategies….

6.     Ask yourself do you really want a child that gets up and down and eats wandering around the house?  The answer for most of us is NO, so what you teach your toddler in the first few days about eating and wandering just fast forward about 5 years and if you think having a 7 year old who can’t sit at the table and eat and cruises around the house spilling crumbs is fine then you don’t need this one!  But if you would like them to eat at a table then this is what you have to teach and expect right at the beginning.

7.     Strategies: Plan A: simply lean over and pick up your toddlers plate, wait till they sit down (without saying a word) and place the plate back on the table.  Try not to be too interested in what they are doing.  After maybe 2 or 3 times doing this, clearly say, ‘dinner is finished’ and clean dinner up.  Nothing to eat till next meal which is generally in a couple of hours for toddlers.  Water is fine!  Plan B: get a little strap, something like the travel belts/money pouches is fine, and strap it around the back of the chair and your toddler as a reminder when they get to stand up that they are expected to sit.  The pouch comes off when they can sit without trying to do the up and downs.

8.     Do you really mean it? For either Plan A or Plan B to work, you have to mean it, you don’t need to be nasty, just firm and in control.  If you give the plate back 5 times, it will then be 10 times and then 15…… ok so then you have a new problem.  So mean it and stick too it or your toddler will push you to the limit!

9.     Start in the morning not last meal of the day! So just as a reminder it’s not a success  to start something new in the afternoon or at dinner time.  When you are worn out and your patience is thin and your toddler is the same.  Start first up in the morning with breakfast, tell your toddler clearly what you expect ie. “we are going to eat our meals at the table not the highchair.  Mummy wants you to sit on the chair still, keep everything on your plate and your plate on the table.  When you are finished eating, had enough, you can then get up from the table.  If you get up before you are finished you are telling mum you’ve had enough so breakfast will be over”  You can also add in “if you need to leave the table you must say to mummy or daddy, ‘May I leave the table I need……’ “  I’ve seen this work well too.

10.  Manners – the start of teaching….  If you haven’t started already, this will be the start of teaching manners.  Be sure to do this in a positive way, i.e..  ‘use your spoon’, rather than ‘don’t use your fingers!’, or ‘that’s good manners using your spoon’  you will notice your toddler self correcting.


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