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Plastic vs Wooden High Chairs

Congratulations! Your little one is approaching membership to the ‘Can Sit Up and Make an Impressive Food Mess’ brigade. Chances are, you are spending quite a fair bit of time wondering about high chairs. In which case, welcome to the debate: kids wooden high chairs vs kids plastic high chairs. Dragons of Walton Street does not yet specifically create a high chair, but we have lost track of the number of times parents have asked us for our input on this question. Here is our verdict: we’d choose wood every single time!

Ok. There may be one exception. As far we can tell, plastic only has a single advantage over wood, in that it is a teeny bit lighter, so plastic lends itself to portability. If you need your child’s high chair to be exceptionally agile and on the move constantly for any reason, then we would say plastic is King. Though you can find wooden high chairs which fold flat quite well, plastic high chairs will always be the lighter option, especially when you are double tasking by carrying a baby as well.

Besides that, we’d say wooden high chairs for kids rule supreme and here’s why:

Wooden High Chairs for Kids are Beautiful

Plastic will never hold the inherent charm of wood. When parents are making early purchases for their children, they are making decisions about the aesthetic language the child will speak fluently later in life, especially when they can make their own purchases. A refined appreciation for natural materials should be a child’s birthright, since an affinity with nature is an aesthetic ideal which never goes out of fashion. Plastic will never have the ability to ‘mature with age’ as wood does – a used plastic high chair simply looks raggedy – whereas many examples of antique wooden high chairs can be seen, which only gained gravitas and charm with age. Check out, for example,this gorgeous example on the Victoria & Albert website. Wood is a forever elevated material; plastic is not.

Fast Furniture Takes a Back Seat

Fast furniture is causing landfills to overflow and high chairs are a common item which contribute to this huge problem. Some innovative children’s furniture brands have created children’s high chairs which are designed to last from early childhood to late teens and that makes these particular wooden high chairs supremely respectful to planet Earth. As it becomes evident that the onus is firmly on this current generation to make better choices to ensure that the following generations have a planet to inherit, this investment is more than in a high chair, it is an investment in life. What is also worth consideration is that when a wooden highchair ceases to be serviceable, it will not languish in a landfill for thousands of years. The same certainly could not be said for plastic high chairs. One thing worth pointing out, however, is that there are some plastic high chairs available made of recycled plastic which are making a positive contribution to the planet.

Fewer Yuck Traps

Wooden high chairs tend to have pretty simple, straight-forward and functional designs – closed shapes and smooth surfaces. By way of contrast, plastic high chairs tend to have exactly the same functionality, however, complication tends to lend itself to plastic high chair design. Ribs, corner, slots and cracks can make cleaning dried on food a challenge and these are more common features with certain plastic high chair options. As small children are notoriously messy eaters, necessitating a never-ending round of cleaning, the clean-ability of the high chair is a key consideration that can cut down on cleaning time.

High Chair Safety

As mentioned, some fine examples of wooden high chairs for children can be seen on the Victoria and Albert Museum, in come cases, dating back to the 1800s. The wooden high chair has been well and truly road tested for safety over the years and are generally considered be sturdier than their plastic counterparts. A wooden frame is more rigid than metal tubing, for one thing. Another point to consider is wooden high chairs are heavier than plastic high chairs, giving them a higher tipping point. Regardless of whether you choose wood or plastic, do remember that for your high seat to be safe you require a safety harness (point 3 & 5); a crotch post; back support; soft, rounded edges and a firm, wide footprint.

High Chair Care

If bought new, the vast majority of all types of high chairs will have a warranty, of varying lengths. If something becomes broken, the manufacturer will generally fix at no cost to the parent. Once this warranty period is over, the question of how the high chair may be repaired without the assistance of the manufacturers comes to the fore. The wooden high chair option then becomes more attractive since this option is more repairable you have a few skills with woodwork. Plastic high chairs, once they receive the inevitable scratches and bumps will becoming aesthetically unappealing and be much more difficult to make good if something becomes broken.

Sell-ability

Here at Dragons of Walton Street, we believe that furniture should, wherever possible, be handed down and re-used. This is why we have created an Earth Matters segment on the Dragons website in order that parents and grandparents may resell furniture which they have bought through Dragons. We extend this thinking when advising on plastic vs wooden high chairs - wooden high chairs are a better option for re-selling as they remain attractive despite usage. The same cannot generally be said for plastic high chairs which do not look quite so attractive even with just light staining or scratches and in the case of plastic these minor defects are generally non-erasable.

Ergonomics

You would think that due to the inherent malleability of plastic that this material would offer superior ergonomic advantages over rigid wood. However, a key consideration with ergonomics is that your child’s high chair offer the right level of support in the correct places and that the chair ultimately lends itself to your child exhibiting good posture in the long run. As long as you consider a wooden high chair with adjustability and a foot brace, a wooden high chair should be every bit as ergonomically friendly as its plastic counterpart.

Accessories

Overtime, design elements for high chairs have become standardised to the point that prime accessories may be treated as interchangeable across brands and models. This remains true whether the high chair is wooden or plastic – the leading brands will supply harnesses and padding, for example, that work across the spectrum of designs.

Toxicity

Should you decide to buy your little one a wooden high chair, do make sure to source one that is made of authentic, solid wood and not of a composite wood fabrication. Engineered wood is constructed with the use of glues – some of which contain formaldehyde. Plastics are something of a bigger toxicity minefield. Plastic highchairs can potentially contain phalates and plasticizers. Phalates are known to interfere with the normal functioning of the body’s hormones. They are likewise associated with diabetes and asthma.

Another toxicity consideration is that many furniture manufacturers use chemical flame retardants which are associated with a raft of health concerns. It is therefore advisable to seek out high chairs that are not treated with flame retardants.

Paints and finishes, especially on wooden chairs, are also worth looking into. Typically a kids wooden high chair has to be treated - this is to avoid splinters, mold and mildew etc. Ensure the paint finish on your chair is VOC free. Look out for words like ‘toluene’, ‘xylene’, ‘petroleum distillates’ and ‘benzene’.

Safe natural lacquer sources for wooden high chairs include linseed oil, water-based paints and lacquers and product labelled as no-VOC finishes.

Companies which take an active and genuine interest in the health and wellbeing of their customers will happily provide information about the make-up of their products. Do bear in mind, though, that a number of household name makers of plastic children’s high chairs decline to publish information about what their plastic high chair products are made of. With reference to toxicity, given the wide ranging health issues scientifically proven to be caused by certain materials and chemicals, it is definitely worth doing your research to understand exactly what is in the surface your child is eating off of.

Joy Archer is a trained journalist who defected from her job in the City to become an interior designer. Now, many fabulous projects later she combines her writing skills with her love of all things interiors and babies in her role as PR for Dragons of Walton Street. Joy’s favourite Dragons piece is the huge friendly brown lion which she pats every morning for good luck.

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