The Best Portable High Chair
Which portable high chair is best for your little one? We took a look at 42 popular ones and whittled it down to 6 top chairs to test side-by-side in this review. Over months of hand-on testing with a cadre of infants and toddlers, we put them through the ringer paying keen attention to the following metrics: Ease of Use, Safety, Quality, Portability, and Ease of Cleaning. We invite you to read the full review to learn more about each product.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Portable High Chair
Inglesina Fast Table Chair
Read Full Review: Inglesina Fast Table Chair
Best Bang for the Buck
Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat
Read Full Review: Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat
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Analysis and Test Results
Let's face it, restaurant high chairs and booster seats can be pretty nasty with enough caked on food and germs to last a lifetime. And, most have typically been through tons of wear and tear as evidenced by their often wobbly nature and safety straps that are either broken or simply lost in action.
Whether going out for a quick bite or traveling with baby, having your own portable high chair can give peace of mind that baby will be dining in a safe and sanitary fashion. Designed for eating at the table, the additional social interaction during mealtime is a bonus. We looked for portable highchairs that provided baby a secure and comfortable place to chow down and parents ease throughout the carry, set up, and clean up paces.
Selecting The Right Product
You will need to decide whether you want to invest in a Hook-On or a Booster Chair. A big benefit of Hook-Ons is that they can begin to be used at a younger age of around 6 months, when baby is able to sit up on their own. In contrast, Boosters are designed for toddlers starting at 12 months who have more core stability. On the flip side, Hook-Ons will need to be set aside at a max weight of 37 lbs, whereas Boosters can support a child up to 50 lbs.
Hook-On chairs attach directly to either a table or countertop such a kitchen island and are a great flexible addition to a family's dining repertoire as well as a space saver. In addition, they position baby front and center to the good eats. Because they fold down, they tend to be quite portable with many including a carry bag. The exception in our testing was the Chicco Caddy Hook On which folded down to a long, cumbersome package without a carry bag. Most hook-ons have removable fabrics for easier hand washing and air drying.
In general, portable high chairs tend to have a 3-point harness, although the Phil and Teds Lobster both surprised and impressed us with a 4-point around the upper torso in addition to a crotch panel.
If a hook-on chair is appealing to you, take a good look at the types of tables or countertops you may be using this accessory with as they may have limitations.
Hook Ons should not be attached to a glass surface, single pedestal table, loose tabletop, table leaf, card table, or over tablecloths or placemats.
Bulkier and less portable than hook-ons, booster seats are secured to an adult-sized chair using straps which wrap around the back of as well as underneath the chair for stability. They are extremely versatile in that only a good sturdy chair is needed and fussing with table detail and anatomy is not necessary. As mentioned, use may begin at 12 months up to a max weight of 50 lbs.
While most hook-ons have removable fabric that can be hand-washed, cleaning a booster seat can sometimes prove to be tricky. Though the Prince Lionheart BoosterPOD has exterior material that can be wiped down, the holes by the straps were a virtual magnet for food. Cleaning this mess is like trying to extract a climbing axe from a dark, deep crevace and will make you want to tear your hair out. On the flip side, we found the Fisher Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat the easiest booster to clean because of its hard plastic with a removable tray that can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. It is also easy to clean the tray by hand in the sink which we highly recommend as hot temperatures and agitation of dishwashers can degrade the plastic over time.
Criteria for Evaluation
In our testing, we scrutinized each Portable High Chair side-by-side on the following: Ease of Use, Safety and Quality, Portability, and Ease of Cleaning.
Ease of Use
In Ease of Use, we focused upon three factors: ease of set up, furniture compatibility, and ease of strapping in baby as well as baby's positioning and overall comfort while eating. Both the Inglesina Fast Table Chair and the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe scored an 8 of 10. They are equally easy to set up as it is one of the easiest to set up, fits on a diverse array of table shapes, thicknesses, and styles, and of equal importance, the one that babies were consistently the most secure and comfortable in when dining. At the other extreme, all scoring 4 of 10, the Chicco Caddy Hook On, the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat and the Prince Lionheart BoosterPOD, scored at the bottom of the barrel in Ease of Use.
Ease of Set Up
If a portable high chair is used mostly for dining out, the number of pieces a parent needs to contend with in addition to the technical aspects of setting up and taking down a chair time and time again matters greatly. Set up with both the Inglesina Fast Table Chair (below left) and the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe is a breeze. On the other hand, we found the 3-piece Chicco Caddy Hook-On (below center) to be a deal breaker as we found ourselves fumbling with the various parts and becoming frustrated before even placing baby inside. However, the worst performer in ease of set up was the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat (below right) because we found the straps difficult to adjust and get really tight onto a chair.
The most diverse Hook-On we tested in this review was the Inglesina Fast Table Chair (below left). Able to accommodate straight as well as curved edged surfaces as well as those with horizontal skirts, it stood out for its versatility. On the other hand, the Phil and Teds Lobster (below right), turned into a disappointment frequently when dining on the go as it only fit onto tables with straight edges without a skirt.
The advantage of booster seats is that they will strap onto almost any sturdy individual dining chair. However, they may not come directly to table height and certainly can not be used in restaurant booths as the seat can not be secured. We found the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat to be our favorite booster. With an adjustable and detachable tray and adjustable seat height, this chair can accommodate a variety of age groups and dining situations, providing a baby with their own eating surface or pulling a toddler directly up to the table to eat with everyone.
Strapping Baby In, Positioning, and Comfort
Getting the chair set up for use is one thing, but getting an infant or toddler strapped in for a meal is another. And, once inside, he or she better be both comfortable and secure or else. Comparing these Portable High Chairs in a baby's point-of-view reminds us of the plot in Goldilocks and the Three Bears: some too much, some not enough, and a few just right!
With long arms, a nicely cushioned seat with high back rest, and lightweight polyester material, every one of our testers was happy and comfortable in the Inglesina Fast Table Chair. In addition, the substantial and sturdy Fisher Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat was a crowd pleaser, as tots were both well-secured and comfortable and could have their choice of dining with a tray or without directly up to the table. With adjustability, the snap-on feeding tray can be set in just the right position to accommodate a child's preference and/or growth.
We were surprised to discover a resounding dislike of the Phil & Teds Lobster among our little testers. Each was clearly desperate for a little space between their food and their bodies, pushing themselves away from the table. The inability to adjust the distance between themselves and eating surface was an absolute deal breaker. As seen in the photo below, both this 14 month old (left) and older child (right) are positioned too close for comfort to the table.
Safety and Quality
We compared the stability with which each chair attached to either a table, countertop, or chair. We also paid very close attention to baby's safety. High scores went to those with solid structure and support, heavy-duty and well-functioning attachment mechanisms, and deep seats with sturdy, supportive backs and well-positioned, easily adjustable harnesses. We also took a close look at materials as well as fit and finish of each chair.
With easy to use universal twist tight attachment mechanisms, sturdy metal frame, well-placed, adjustable 3-point harness, and high seat back, the Inglesina excelled rating a 9 of 10. The seat's fabric is a durable yet lightweight polyester we found resistant to piling, wear, and tear as well as comfortable for baby. Polyester's inherent water-wicking ability is well-suited for use in a high chair as it dried quickly if spilled upon or after cleaning.
In comparison, the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat scored a 1 of 10 in Safety and Quality. Overall, we feel that its materials are low in both quality and support leaving much to be desired with flimsy seat back, sides, and safety straps and an ill-fitting harness. When an active toddler is seated in the Munchkin Travel Booster, they simply looked at risk of toppling over when they leaned over to the side. When researched, this concern is in fact found to be a user complaint. To further exacerbate the situation, the 3-point harness is difficult to adjust around the waist and has a fixed crotch strap which has the harness lying more across the lap instead of around the lower abdomen which, in our opinion, just doesn't offer ample protection.
If a portable high chair isn't easily portable, what is the point, really? Portability occupied a weight of 20% of a product's overall score. In our testing, we took these Hook-Ons and Boosters to restaurants, to grandparent's and friend's houses and on vacation. It quickly became evident that the weight and folded bulk of each portable high chair matter a lot. Also, we certainly noticed which seats had accompanying accessories like a carry bag, strap or handle, and added storage. Top performers here were the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat (below left) at a light 4 ounces with a padded shoulder strap and extra storage compartment and the Phil and Teds Lobster (below center left) at 3.7 lbs with a small folded size and included carry bag with tote handles. In contrast, the Chicco Caddy Hook-On (below right) at 7.2 pounds with multiple pieces, a ridiculously long and bulky fold and no carry bag was a monstrous drag to shlep around when out and about.
Ease of Cleaning
Easy to clean baby gear is music to a parent's ears. Let's face it, it giving gear a thorough cleaning isn't easy during the day when baby is awake. After cleaning many messes, the top performer for ease of cleaning was the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat scoring 9 of 10. Fabricated of hard, durable plastic, it can be wiped clean in a hurry or even hosed down outside. Though the trays are top rack dishwasher safe, we recommend hand washing them in the sink to reduce plastic breakdown and potential leaching. The Munchkin Travel Booster Seat scored the lowest in this metric with a 2 of 10. Cleanup proved to be quite difficult with food getting trapped in crevices and smeared into fabric. Though the structural hard plastic in the center of the seat can be removed, this still doesn't make the fabric any easier to clean.
Overall, the Inglesina Fast Table Chair won us over as an easy Portable High Chair that we liked to use both at home positioned at a the kitchen island countertop as well as for on the go dining with baby as it fits on practically any surface you will encounter whether at a friend's home or a restaurant. Being able to use it at 6 months is a huge bonus and we find that by the time a child is over 37 pounds, they are sitting in a regular chair anyhow. However, if budget is an issue, for half the price, you can't beat the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster seat. Although it is more cumbersome to carry, it is so easy to clean and can be used with the tray or without directly up to the table. We like how both the legs and the tray can adjust to accommodate a growing toddler. Regardless of which you choose, always ensure the seat is firmly secure before placing baby inside and always use the harness feature. Happy dining and mangia bene!
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Jackie Boeheim
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