Saturday, January 06, 2007

Give 'em the Chair: Booster Seat Revelations

When we finally revealed our pregnancy, my mother-in-law squealed with delight "Great, now I can get you that booster seat!"

After 11 years of hearing "you're pregnant!" as a response to any "we have news" type comment, I didn't realize we were adding another person to the planet so other people could shop new aisles of their favorite stores. Weird.

Anyway, the wondrous seat turned out to be one of those hook-to-the-table fellows. It never was purchased. Have you noticed how restaurant tables often wobble? How do you think they'll perform with a 30 pound toddler dangling from an edge? I didn't want to find out. Plus, those seem designed for restaurant use. I really don't want to carry my own seat along when the restaurant provides suitable ones on loan. Even at my most germ obsessed, an anti-bacterial wipe or a high chair seat cover (we love the Buggy Bagg for little babies and will review it soon) can remedy 99.9% of the seats we encounter. And that other .01%, don't eat there. Seriously, the high chair is the tip of the iceberg.

So, I smugly assumed I would never ever need a portable booster seat. Ha! Only if we agree not to visit friends and family and never travel overnight.

My parents, who BabyGeek visits at least weekly, did not want to invest in a great, stable high chair (Chicco Polly, $130 at Target) in either funds or floorspace. The cheaper high chairs available in our area were highly unstable, so we compromised on a Fisher Price Healthy Care Booster ($25 at K-Mart or Target).
While I was reading the use instructions, BabyGeek kept climbing in and out of the seat while it sat trayless on the floor, and laughed like a maniac. It was one of the first pieces of grown-up style gear that came in his size, and he was eager to use it. The FP Healthy Care seat, like many other boosters, straps to the back and seat of a real dining chair.

It fits securely on a kitchen chair. BabyGeek loves pulling the tray lid off and the secondary tray, but is equally amused to replace them. To date, he doesn't attempt these maneuvers with food in the tray.

We borrowed this seat when visiting friends' and relatives' homes, but any spontaneous trips often meant we went without the booster. After one of these ill-fated journeys, we stopped at a Meijer to buy another portable booster. They don't carry the Fisher Price brand seat, so we picked up the $20 Safety 1st Deluxe Fold-Up Booster Seat (and congratulated ourself on frugality).

The congratulations was premature. Safety 1st's seat lacks variety in high adjustment for the booster seat (it has two settings as opposed to the 4 options on the Healthy Care seat). The tray was almost impossible to attach and remove. I fought with it for a while, managing to brutally pinch myself (blood-blister style) twice. Jim, upon my request, decided to show me another tactic which resulted in a third pinch injury for the Jones family. Now, if the tray is so bloody hard to get on and off without a toddler flailing in the midst, how on Earth will we manage it with BabyGeek adding fragile, curious hands and feet to the mix?

Plus, there is a bomb (megaton in proportion) in the instructions. I scanned it in lest you think I made it up.
Place the serving tray (the white insert tray) where? In whose diaper bag? Oh my. When I carry the giant diaper bag, it's already stuffed to the gills, and a little cute one? No chance unless someone can alter the fabric of space and time:

[If you are wondering about the small diaper bag- it holds 4 diapers, a full sized ointment tube, my cell phone, checkbook, cards, cash, and a refillable diaper wipe case. Plus, it's part of the reason I've not been posting lately- more on it later- it's a hack gone wild.]

After the blood blisters, I was fully prepared to tell Safety 1st where best to put their tray. This made me realize a subtle advantage of the tray lid on the Healthy Care seat. A dirty tray can be snapped shut and cleaned at home (in the sink or dishwasher). It's nice to have that option.

We returned the Safety 1st seat the next time we were at Meijer. For BabyGeek's birthday party at Jim's folks' house, they bought him a First Years Swing Tray Booster Seat. Before the napkin was on my lap, BabyGeek, had dismantled the swing tray to the point it took the big Gerber pocket tool to repair it and required constant supervision from that point on. It has no drop-in-tray, so you have to pull the big tray off and clean it. It's not that difficult, but it's less convenient than the others. It has no apparent height adjustment.

Needless to say, we feel that the Fisher Price Healthy Care seat did the best in our family's field testing. It's definitely worth the extra five bucks.


Amy said...

We have the second one. I just threw the white tray in a cabinet and I use the blue tray all the time. I just wipe up the mess before we put it back in the car. LOVE it. In fact, I wish the grandparents wouldn't buy cheap, rickety high chairs and would just understand that we have our own, thanks very much (I swear, one of those things is going to kill her before she's 3).

I don't carry a diaper bag - I just have a really big purse with diapers in it. :)

We use ours at restaurants, too, because our kiddo does better when she has her own tray. She eats better and makes less of a mess for the poor server to clean up.

Anonymous said...

we went thru almost the same process (had the Safety 1st seat first, then the Fisher-Price), and am totally sold on Fisher-Price. Now that our daughter doesn't need the belt or tray, we like the BabySmart Cooshie Booster -- just sits on a regular chair, no straps necessary, and gives a height boost. The Fisher-Price stays stowed in the basement for when friends with little ones come to visit.

adrienne said...

A friend just emailed me a new option for the Bumbo Seat (typically used to help young children learning to sit up) that will improve its use as a travel high chair:

(Thanks, Veronica!)

If anyone is using one of these, I'd love to hear his or her thoughts on it.

Jim said...

I just wanted to add a clickable link for the Bumbo Tray.

JL said...

My daughter (10mo.) loves her FP Healthy Seat too. For meals and playtime, she digs the design. I'm pretty happy with it.

Anonymous said...

Was scanning sites for reviews on booster seats and came across this one. With regards to the Bumbo Seat - it's a FANTASTIC invention. It's attachable tray, however, not so much. Bought mine at a discount on eBay and am glad I didn't spend more. It's very diccicult to attach securely and my 10-month-old can rip it off and fling it across the room with a gleeful yell.

LeftyMama said...

We, too, love the FP booster and it is the seat that my 14 mo son eats most of his meals in. We keep it attached to one of our dining chairs at home and we've never needed to purchase a "real" high chair. We plan to keep using it as a booster when he can eat at the table as a "big boy." However, I must say that during the first couple of months that our baby was eating solids, we ADORED our Chicco Hippo chair (the one that attaches to the table). For us, that chair was perfect for travel & dining out because our son wasn't able to sit up well enough to be stable in a typical restaurant high chair with no seat back or torso support. The Hippo chair pushed his weight forward just enough that he leaned toward the table instead of slumping down to one back corner. We no longer need to use the Hippo chair in restaurants, but it still comes in handy for dinner at someone else's home (and yes, you do need to make sure they have the right kind of dining table - no glass tops or light-weight tables with center pedestals). The Hippo chair folds pretty flat, so it doesn't take much space in the car, a handy feature if you're going cross country and have your cargo space stuffed with luggage and xmas gifts.