Booster seats can either supplant the need for a high chair entirely or bridge the gap between a high chair and an adult chair. Depending on the seat, booster seats for dining can work for children as soon as they can sit on their own all the way until they are the size of an average 10-year-old. Because they work with normal chairs and take up minimal space, some parents love to use booster seats every day while some reserve them mostly for eating away from home.
For a booster seat you’ll love to use every day for years, our top recommendation is the OXO Tot Perch Booster Seat with Straps(available at Amazon for $41.99). The design is simple, sturdy, and to the point. It cleans up easily and will look nice at your table for a long time—which is good because its weight limit covers nearly nine years of use. As a bonus, when you’re eating away from home, the whole thing tucks up for easy transport.
If you’re looking for a booster seat to use primarily on the go, you can’t do better than our second-place winner, Chicco Pocket Snack Booster Seat (available at Amazon). This well-constructed booster seat is optimized for travel. It folds flat, has its own click-on tray, and a built-in carrying strap. Plus, its three different heights will give your tiny diner an optimal boost no matter where you go.
These are the best booster seats we tested, ranked in order:
OXO Tot Perch Booster Seat with Straps
Chicco Pocket Snack Booster Seat
Summer Infant Pop and Sit
Keekaroo Café Booster
Fisher-Price Healthy Care Booster
Prince Lionheart Soft Booster Seat
Prince Lionheart Booster Squish
Ingenuity Smartclean Toddler Booster
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This sleek-looking booster seat has the longest product lifespan of any of the booster seats for dining that we tested. It works for children as young as 15 months and can be used until your child is the size of an average 10-year-old. In accommodating such a big age range, there are some product trade-offs. The boost is on the shorter side, so depending on your child and your table, this seat may not provide enough height for the youngest kiddos, and without a tray, that could be a problem.
But whenever you use this booster seat for dining, you’ll find that it’s solidly functional. The chair straps are easy to click and adjust. All the straps are removable, which reduces some clutter, while the non-skid feet ensure that you won’t sacrifice stability for older kids and travel. It also helps with cleaning and the straps’ gray color works well to camouflage any lingering food stains. The comfortable foam cushion and plastic seat back both are easy to clean and can be separated to get into nooks and crannies.
Finally, thoughtful details make this booster easy to store—the back folds down and the straps can be secured to the underside of the booster or stored inside it. This booster seat’s age range, portability, quality materials, aesthetics, and ease of cleaning mean that it is the best booster seat for dining for most people.
When I set up this booster seat for dining, my 6-year-old said: “It looks like a chair for a chair!” This tiny throne was a favorite with our kid testers. This chair has three different height settings, and my kids loved the lift the highest setting gave and the little armrests. I appreciated that this chair is among the most portable that we tested—it folds flat and the straps can be used to carry the seat over your shoulder. The only extra part to keep track of is the tray, which can help the littlest foodies reach their fare easily, and clicks right onto the seat when folded for easy carrying.
However, that folding mechanism means there are lots of nooks and crannies for purees, juices, and milk to get stuck in, even though the hard plastic and metal surfaces you can access do wipe clean easily. The white straps are not removable for cleaning and will show food stains. Even so, this sturdy-feeling seat will see you through a lot of years of meals on the go.
It's worth noting that the age range says 36 months, but the maximum child weight is 50 pounds, which is the size of an average 7-year-old. My svelte 6-year-old loved a chance to test this seat, and I felt safe with him in it.
Hi! I’m Emily P.G. Erickson. I live in Minnesota with my husband and three sons. I’m a freelance writer and hold a master’s degree in psychology. I write essays and journalism about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood. Before I became a writer, I worked as a mental health researcher. I love applying my research chops to parenting-related challenges. Sometimes these problems look like how to help calm down a tantruming preschooler and sometimes, like now, they look like evaluating the best booster seats for dining on the market today. For this review, I also employed the help of my two older sons who were 3- and 6-years-old and both within the weight limit for all but two of the boosters at the time of testing.
I conducted tests on the booster seats in at least two different meals in two different locations with two different kids. The first location was in our dining room, where I installed the booster seats on our classic cafe chairs. The second location was our patio, where I installed them on our outdoor chairs with armrests. While each meal was a little different, I made a point to include something sticky and likely to stain in each meal (thanks, berries!) to really put the functionality of each booster seat to the test.
To determine the best booster seats for dining, I rated each booster seat on 12 different criteria, including ease of use, stability, adjustability, ease of cleaning, portability, and special features.
What You Should Know About Booster Seats
To Strap or Not to Strap
Most booster seats for dining have two types of straps. The first type secures the booster seat to the chair via a pair of straps that go around the back of the chair and another that goes around the bottom. The second type of strap is a three-point harness to secure your child to the seat, which can help prevent injury from falls. Some three-point harness buckles have side releases while others have an easy push-button release.
For the youngest booster seat users, straps are essential for safety. For the older set, straps are a nuisance—just an extra part to clean. And, to boot, straps are a part that doesn’t clean as well or easily as smooth, less flexible materials. The color of the strap can help hide the inevitable stains, so even though white straps can look clean and fresh out of the box, they’re likely to look dingy over time. Some booster seats are designed such that the straps are removable, which can help with cleaning and clutter when your child is ready to get in and out of the seat on their own (usually around age 2 1/2 or 3).
Where You’ll Use it Matters
Part of the appeal of booster seats is that you can take them with you. If you plan to primarily use a booster seat when you’re eating away from home, you’ll want to pay particular attention to whether the seat folds and works in a variety of settings. At the same time, none of the booster seats we tested weighed more than 6 pounds and all are leaps and bounds easier to travel with than a high chair.
Even if you plan to park your booster seat in one spot, it pays to consider the parameters of that spot before you click “buy.” Your chairs may or may not work with a particular booster seat. For instance, in our house, mid-century modern cafe-style chairs flank our dining room table. They have a large opening in the back, which only just meets the installation requirement for some booster seats.
Finally, where you’ll use the booster seat may impact how important aesthetics are to you. If a booster seat will be part of your dining room for years, how it looks probably matters more than a seat you plan to occasionally use at restaurants.
Consider the Height of the Boost
The average booster seat provides about 3 inches of lift. Some seats provide a little more, some a little less. Others offer more than one height setting. The boost you actually need will depend on the differential between the height of your chairs and your dining table and the size of your child. During testing, I was surprised (and then not surprised) to discover that my kids were most excited about the booster seats that gave the biggest boosts, regardless of any of these considerations. It was simple really: The highest seats made them feel the most grown-up. Besides, who can argue with a good view?
How Easy Are Booster Seats to Clean?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but kids + food = mess. This means the most important feature for any product to do with kids and food is, arguably, how easy it is to clean that product of said food. None of the boosters we tested were impossible to clean, but some materials and design considerations meant that some of the booster seats were easier to clean than others.
Other Booster Seats We Tested
Summer Infant Pop and Sit
A previous winner for best for travel, this seat is built to move. It looks like a tiny camping chair, which my kids loved. They also loved the height of the boost and that it had armrests. I was charmed by thoughtful details like a carry pouch for toting and storage and a pocket in the seatback for utensils or books or whatever your kid needs to be happy on the go.
The lightweight, flexible nylon covering contributes to its portability, but it also makes cleaning trickier than most of the other booster seats for dining we tested. For instance, during one of our testing sessions, my son ate a waffles-and-maple-syrup breakfast. The maple syrup soaked right into the nylon. Some dish soap, elbow grease, and a towel did the trick, but it was considerably more work than most of the other booster seats we tested. On the plus side, the colors of the chair and straps will help hide stains. The booster seat also comes with a dishwasher-safe tray that fits right into the carrying pouch and will fit with any size dishwasher. All in all, this is the booster seat for you if you’re looking for a highly portable chair for your little one that you can also use at the table.
This super-soft, comfy booster seat got high marks from our testing parents and kids. My kids liked the 4-inch lift they got from the seat. I loved that the seat itself is all one piece, which makes it one of the easiest booster seats for dining to clean. The proprietary materials are impervious to fluids, which makes them virtually stain-proof. As a bonus, the black straps are great at hiding food stains, completely removable for cleaning, and the child restraint straps have a button for one-handed unlocking.
The biggest dings for this booster seat are the placement of the straps, which isn’t as intuitive as the other booster seats for dining that we tested. And, the trade-off of the one-piece structure is that the booster seat is bulky for storage, though the materials will hold up to being tossed around in your car or closet. If you’re looking for a booster seat to leave mostly in one place and last for a long time, this high-quality, easy-clean booster seat is a fantastic choice.
Cleared for use from when your child can sit unassisted until they are the size of an average 7-year-old, this seat boasts one of the longest product lifespans of booster seats we tested. It’s also well-design to accommodate this range of ages. To start, it easily adjusts to three different heights. The youngest diners will love the dishwasher-safe tray, complete with a lid to help keep the tray clean on the go. Older diners will appreciate that the seat back is removable—a feature that also helps with storage. The straps for the three-point-harness are not removable, however, which were annoying for our 5-year-old tester (and his mother who had to clean them).
Speaking of cleaning, the seat of this booster is one solid piece of plastic, which limits nooks and crannies you’d need to clean. Despite the removable tray and back and the lightweight plastic material, the bulk of this seat means it isn’t especially easy to take on the go.
If you’re looking for a substitute for a high-chair that you can use for years at your dining room table, this is a good option.
This sleek-looking seat is all one solid piece of low-density foam. This cuts both ways. On the one hand, there are no crevices for food or drink to get stuck on. This makes cleaning the seat a breeze and the easiest to clean of the booster seats we tested. On the other, the size is what it is, which can be a ding for portability. It’s the kind of seat that is easy to toss in your car but tricky to pack in your suitcase. The high-quality materials and lack of moving parts do mean that although the shape could be awkward for storing, it doesn’t require much in the way of special care. It’s easy to toss in a closet or trunk and pull out to use as needed.
Because the seat is built for older kids (age 3 and up), it doesn’t have any straps to get caught on anything, but the easy-clean finish doesn’t slide around on the chair, so it still felt sturdy, even for my very wiggly boys. Speaking of them, my sons said the seat was comfy, but they wished it was higher.
This booster seat is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a little boost for your bigger little kids, and its good looks and easy cleaning mean you won’t mind having it around at your table once you’re past the baby phase.
This stable, plastic booster has a rubber seat that forms a kind of hammock for your child to sit in, which our kid testers deemed, “pretty comfortable.” This seat is simple and to the point. The straps on this booster were easy to use and well-positioned. One thoughtful detail I loved was a quick button release for the three-point harness. This meant I could use one hand to unbuckle, helpful for extracting my messy kiddo.
While the buckle and seat itself wipe clean easily with water, the white straps will likely stain over time. Our child testers used the seat after a visit to a strawberry patch and even after some cleaning with dish soap, a pink stain remained on the harness. The height of this booster seat is also nothing special, and both my children wished the seat was higher.
This booster has some strong assets and one major flaw. Let’s start with the good: The straps that attach to the chair are well-positioned, adjust easily, and fasten well. Our kid testers said it was comfy, the right amount of boost, and “awesome.” The seat cleans easily. Most excitingly, the straps are removable and machine washable, which is handy, and gray in color to camouflage any nagging stains.
The foam insert also removes for cleaning, but—here comes the major flaw—it just sits on the plastic base. The straps run through the foam but the insert itself doesn’t click or connect with the base. This makes this booster feel unstable and unlikely to be comfortable to use all the way down to 16 months as the packaging suggests it could be.
Emily P.G. Erickson is a freelance writer with a master’s degree in psychology. A former mental health researcher, her journalism and essays about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood have appeared in The New York Times, WIRED, Romper, and elsewhere. Emily lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. For more from Emily, visit www.emilypgerickson.com.
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