Fun with Solids! Highchair Games for You and Your Little Ones
Introducing solids to your baby—and putting your little one in a highchair—are significant steps in parenthood, as those of you with toddlers know.
- Some babies love hanging out ‘with the big kids’ in their highchair. Other babies don’t, though. Or maybe you have a baby like my niece: she loved her highchair … until she learned to walk and now she’s refusing to eat in it!
- There are ways to help your child associate their highchair with many positive things—tasty eating, a mealtime routine, bonding and socialization with family, and even playtime.
- And actually, this last point is what we’ll focus on in this post. Turns out, encouraging your little one to play in their highchair helps them learn important feeding and socialization skills—and it helps them learn that highchair-time can be enjoyable!
Here are three ways to play in a highchair before the baby’s first bites, courtesy of Jordyn Koveleski Gorman, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist and feeding specialist. Check out her work on IG @eatplaysay!
1. Bring your baby's favorite books and toys to the highchair! Encourage your little one to reach out for and touch the toys on the tray to practice reaching and touching foods.
2. Offer spoons and teethers! When your baby brings these items to their mouth, they are practicing self-feeding skills, Jordyn explains. (How cool!)
3. Sit face-to-face with your baby in the chair and play! Feeding is a social activity, so playing with them in the highchair is great practice for mealtime socialization.
Speaking of playing, here are a few highchair games for you and your little one, designed to be fun, easy, and safe:
4. Water play! Fill a cake pan or cooking tray with ~1/2” of water and place on top of the highchair. Or if you have a thick-lipped highchair tray, you can put the water directly in it. Put your child’s favorite (waterproof) toys in the water. Plastic Easter eggs are a great option, too. (You can also be creative and use new ‘toys’ like milk jug lids—just be mindful about choking hazards). Your baby will love splashing and feeling the water, and by trying to move and catch their toys, they are working on fine motor skills, hand and eye coordination, sensory skills, and the ability to grasp objects as they move. This game is a little messy but it’s just water!
(Photo credit:ParentHacks; photos by Emily Moss and Misty Poush)
5. Muffin time! Place your muffin pan on top of the highchair and put small (but safe!) toys in some of (but not all) the openings for your little one to pick up, feel, and move around/reorganize. Wooden blocks and small balls are great options. Try to select toys of different shapes and textures to promote different sensory experiences and skills.
Tip: try turning the muffin tray upside down! The game works using the spaces in between the “bump-ups” for muffins.
6. ‘Painting’ with yogurt and purees! You can use yogurt (Greek is a great option)—or try one of Amara’s baby blends. On the highchair tray, place a few blobs of different kinds of yogurts/purees—ideally different colors—and let your baby ‘fingerpaint’ on the tray with them. (You can model it for them to get them started.) They’ll have fun smearing it around and tasting the ‘paint’ without you having to worry about actual paint. It’ll be messy!—but easier to clean up than actual paint.
Tip: We recommend Amara baby food blends for this due to their vibrant color and customizable textures.Try Kale Potato Veggie mash for a great green ‘paint’ color’; Tropical Mango for orange; and Applesauce with Maqui Berry for red/purple.
(Photo Credit: BabyPlayHacks; Yogurt Painting)
8. Painting mess-free with ‘actual paint’! Put a piece of blank white paper into a resealable clear bag, squeeze in a few drops of different paint colors, and seal it up. Tape it to the highchair tray and encourage your baby to press on it, mixing the different paint colors (with no mess!).
(Photo Credit: The MumandtheMom)
9. Magnet magic! Place a small metal pan and a handful of magnets on your child's highchair. Choose larger magnets to avoid a choking hazard. By moving them around and picking them up, your baby will be exercising more of those fine motor skills! And worse case—if the pan falls to the floor, the magnets shouldn’t fly everywhere!
Any highchair games or tips to share?