When I first started to research high chairs, I was looking for wood. I checked out vinyl chairs by the big brands, just to see some of the desirable features people seek. Some of the chairs looked like they were made by LaZboy, with children reclining, lots of padding, and massive stands that take up half the room. These beasts, usually composed of PVC, and other harmful petroleum-based products that off-gas, are either passed down (which is the best way to acquire them, as opposed to purchasing new) or end up in landfills for the next 16,000 years. Luckily, there are better options these days. Here are a few of the ones I have found.
The Trip Trapp is attractive and simple to use. They are easy to assemble, from the folks I know who have them. They come in a bunch of fun colors and they are created from sustainably harvested wood in Europe. They become toddler chairs and can be used as the child grows up. One of my friends wishes that the Stokke had a tray, because the surrounding mess can be a bit laboursome.
The advantage of no tray is that your tot gets to be part of the festivities, joining the family for meals at the table. This can encourage better table manners and allows the babes to feel they are truly part of the scene. Children can easily climb up into it, once they are toddlers, which is a nice feature also. It is sleek and fits neatly with many different styles.
The Svan is a good chair made from sustainably harvested wood. It can last a lifetime because the chair adapts into the teen years (which is a nice marketing point, but as some of you know, once kids get big enough, they want to sit in an adult chair and want nothing to do with their former baby accoutrement.) From a design stand-point, this chair is modern and functional. There are many color choices of both wood and cushion and it takes up minimal space, however I would not bother getting the cushion. The kids don’t need it to be comfy and there is a huge gunge factor.
Some people get frustrated by the chair because the straps are hard to reach once a child is placed in the seat. You have to dig around to reach them. These chairs can also get really funky, from food. There are many nooks and crannies to clean and it can take some time but the chairs do come with a BPA-free tray that snaps onto the wooden tray. For cleaning we have hosed them down, brought them into the shower (not advised) and scrubbed them outside to get them clean. It is possible – it just takes some work. I have yet to see a high chair that doesn’t require some serious upkeep. One other note, the darker wood tends to chip and fade from the plastic tray. This can make the chair look kind of shoddy.
The Stokke is probably one of the easier to maintain, although the ensuing debris surrounding the chair (on the floor, table, family dog) and lack of tray might minimize the simplicity. The Stokke is a bit easier to incorporate as it truly fits at the dining table and brings the family together. The Svan can purportedly do the same, but the chairs are just a bit more awkward. On the plus side, they encourage good posture, since kids are sitting upright. The Stokke, from what others have told me, is much easier to assemble than the Svan. The Svan took hours and the instructions (and accompanying DVD) were not all that simple, even for a seasoned Ikea assembler.
Safety 1st Wood High Chair
Made from New Zealand pine that is sustainable and renewable, the Safety First chairs are the cheapest of the three environmentally conscious brand-name choices listed. On the design front it is simple and unassuming. The chair may not be sleek or modern, but it gets the job done for a reasonable price.
Restaurant Style Wood High Chair
These things are inexpensive and simple. You can just google restaurant high chair and find a ton of them. They do not have trays, which means it is table eating for your little one. They are usually inexpensive because they are not made from quality wood (I could not find one that stated it came from environmentally conscious production) but if you are getting one used, it is a great way to go.
If you prefer to just do a booster, and avoid having a big high chair to deal with, the HandySitt booster seems to be popular. It is sleek and simple and many people like to use them for traveling or heading out to a restaurant. There is not a ton of cleaning and kids are part of the family meal.
The best one can do, when acquiring any baby/kid gear is try for used first! There is such a vast array of resources such as Craigslist, Babyloot, Zwaggle, and eBay not to mention friends, family, TAG SALES! We found all of our outdoor toys at tag sales this year. It felt good to recycle and not have to purchase anything in a store. My feeling is, even if it is plastic and a bit of an eyesore, if you are keeping it from ending up in a landfill, that is a good thing. Virtually anything you need can be found if you look carefully. Often you can find quality items if you just invest a bit of time.