4 tried-and-tested strategies to keep your toddler in his high chair during mealtimes

It happened with both my kids: at about 12 months and 18 months we battled to get them to stay put in their high chair during mealtimes. My daughter would often squirm and pull up her legs so I couldn’t get her into the seat, while my son would be fine to sit for a few minutes, but then he’d start yanking at the straps and throw his plate and food on the floor until I’d lose my patience and take him out.

Why won’t my toddler sit in his high chair?

The first step to solving the problem is to try identify possible reasons for his resistance. Here are a few reasons from experts why your toddler might hate the high chair:

  • It’s not comfortable (maybe it’s the strapping in, lack of stability or isolation from the rest of the family.)
  • He might not be hungry or he’s tired (you’ll know if he’s fine sitting in the high chair at breakfast but not at dinner time.)
  • He’s lonely (he wants attention more than anything, so eat your meal with him and praise him.)
  • He’s asserting his independence.

4 tactics to try

Based on my own experience, making cute sound effects (“vroom, vroom, here comes the car…”) was never going to solve the problem – it takes way more creativity and patience!

Here are 4 tried-and-tested strategies that might work for you.

Lower your expectations

If he can focus on his food for 10 minutes, experts say it’s a win. Serve finger-foods instead of spoon-feeding, and when he starts playing with his food, it’s time to take that food back to the kitchen.

ALSO SEE: What you need to know about introducing finger food to your baby

Create a mealtime routine

Toddlers don’t like it when you interrupt what they’re doing and just scoop them up and plonk them into the seat. So, start a ritual or routine that will help alert your little one it’s time to eat. For example, taking him to wash his hands, bringing his special plate and cutlery to his table, setting out his food and saying a prayer. You can also try a timer or a special song or sound to signal it’s time to eat.

Make sure the seat is comfortable

According to Judy Delaware, an occupational therapist and co-founder of the website, high chairs without foot rests are bad news for mealtime success. This is because they leave your child’s feet dangling. She says it’s this that “gives them stability in their postural muscles, from their hips all the way up through their neck and into their jawline. This will enable them to scoop and grasp their food, and eating utensils.”

You can also try adding a booster seat to make him more comfortable or, get him is own little dining room set with a table and chair.

Consider a toy to keep him interested

Bring on a special “guest” like a puppet or a toy to join them for a meal. You can also try some role playing as a pre-dinner routine where, for example, you strap your toddler’s favourite toy into the high chair and pretend to feed it first before your baby or toddler has his turn… sometimes just the teeniest bit of novelty can switch the situation.

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