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help...my 3 yo runner can unbuckle his table booster seat


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My 3 yo is a cross between a tornado and Houdini.  He's also a runner.  He can now undo the buckle on his booster seat at the dining room table which means he spends the entire meal grabbing things all over the table and randomly running off.  I really need him to have a booster seat that he can't unbuckle.  Any recommendations for a booster seat with a buckle that's hard for a 3 yo to undo?  Or other ideas?

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Well my idea sucks for the parent, but I have had to do it.  Stand or sit right next to him, and just pick him up and plunk him back in his seat every time he gets up.  If necessary, have one parent on each side.

I am presuming he's only running because he doesn't want to be there and not because he's freaked out over the food or something.  I have had a kid cry for an hour over an exposed green bean so I understand that sort of aversion, just wanted to make sure he's running off cause he is running off and not some other sensory thing.  

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How about a car seat? Maybe see if you can find an expired one that is still ok for non-vehicle use, but has the firmer latches to make it harder for him. I know lots of kids can still undo them, but honestly, if that doesn't work, then I wouldn't bother trying to contain him. 

I  would put his food at a little table and let him graze as he runs by.  Wait until he is older and then try to teach the skills necessary to stay still during a meal.

It is physically uncomfortable for ds to sit too long. Meals are especially hard for him. He greatly prefers to pace and eat. LOL He has several college degrees, so it hasn't prevented him from succeeding (or sitting when he needs to), but he will stand/walk when he has the choice. 

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10 minutes ago, Farrar said:

I guess I would just let him run off. Eating at the table is nice, but between essentially shackling an unwilling toddler to the table and letting him graze and play, it seems like a no brainer to me.

She said he grabs things all over the table, though, I read that as the biggest problem. 

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Is there anyway possible for a bit to feed him first/by himself before everyone sits down for dinner?  Perhaps, having him sit with you and eating first and working on behaviors, might help.  Then while you all eat, he could play nearby.  Then transition back to everyone dining together.  I think this is the child you have written about before that you thought needed an evaluation but your DH was against it.  How much exercise is he getting before dinner? Is it possible for you or one of your older kids to help do a good 30 minutes before dinner? This could help him be calm enough to get through dinner. 

Edited by itsheresomewhere
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56 minutes ago, Farrar said:

I guess I would just let him run off. Eating at the table is nice, but between essentially shackling an unwilling toddler to the table and letting him graze and play, it seems like a no brainer to me.

Exactly.

My dd isn't 3 yet and I cannot fathom tying her down at the table to eat. I put food down. She eats it or not. She gets down. I leave her food there after dinner for a bit so she can come back and grab more if she wants. 

If she tries to get others food I stop her, or have her get down. But she'd scream bloody murder if I tried to strap her into a chair. 

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Once our kids are out of high chairs, we don't contain them at the table. And they've all been done with the high chair by 2ish. Yes, sometimes they run off. Sometimes they graze as they dash around like mad. Generally, they have all stayed in the kitchen area though, as that's where the action is. So it makes it easy to keep an eye on them.

I cannot fathom wanting to contain an unwilling 3 yo at the table. It just sounds like a disaster in the making. No one would enjoy the meal, so what's the point?

But as for helpful suggestions, do you have a belt? As in, a belt for pants. Try that, putting the buckle in the back. 

And good luck if this is something you continue to choose to do. I hope you find a path to calmer mealtimes.

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9 minutes ago, Shellydon said:

I strapped my kids after the oldest choked because she was running with food in her mouth. I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect a 3-year-old to not grab food and run. I'd try a belt buckled around the entire chair.  

 

I don't let them take food with them, although I suppose whatever is in their mouth is still there. If they want to eat, food is at the table. 

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If you haven't had a child that reminds you of the cartoon version of the Tasmanian devil, it is hard to imagine. I have no advice as I just had to survive the wait for mine to grow up a bit more.

I remember complaining about my version of OP's child to another mom who was an aquaintance. She recommended strapping said child down in a high chair as well & I was horrified at the suggestion. But I get where the OP is coming from. *hugs*

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At 3 my kiddos (who now all have ADHD diagnoses) could not be unsupervised AT ALL.  Ensuring they stayed contained at the table for 10-15 minutes during meals was the only way I could eat, get a short break, and stay sane. 

I kept them in high chairs for a long time.  Then I moved them to Stokke Tripp Trapp chairs. My 6 year old still sits in his, normally unstrapped, but he will sometimes request the straps if he is feeling unsettled and disregulated.

They sell safety covers to go over car seat buckles to prevent kids unbuckling.  You could look to see if any of those would work on the booster seat buckle. 

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One of mine was an escape artist, especially in shopping carts. I used to make sure that she had on shoes with laces and I would tie her shoe laces together as soon as I put her in the cart. She could still move around, but you can't climb out with your shoes tied together. If anyone thought that wasn't kind, I would posit that it was kinder than giving her the opportunity to fall out -- which she already had. 

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So my current rule is if my 2.5 year old wants down, he can (usually) get down, but he is done eating for that meal.  Montessori Style.  That cut down on the initial wave of running after having one bite.  Sometimes DH says "No, you need to sit in your chair until everyone in the family is done eating," and I don't override that but I don't enforce it if DH isn't here. DH often puts him in his lap and I can't, there is too much else to do when I'm feeding everyone alone.

If he comes back to the table to pester anyone or grab anything off of it he can go in a playpen until everyone is done eating.  I have two toddlers and two playpens. They're just pack and plays, in the living room, out of each other's reach.  I don't typically leave anyone in them for long, but they are the places they go (without toys) for time outs, and the places they go (with toys) if they need to be in a safe place while I do anything where I don't have eyes on them.  The room can be totally toddler proofed and they will still hurt each other if I don't have eyes on them.  So far neither one has climbed out (although the younger is close), but DS2.5 has started stripping himself naked if unsupervised even for the less than a minute it takes me to go to the bathroom.

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OP, I have no advice as I gave up on this fight years and years ago and no longer enforce eating at mealtimes at the table.  If they're hungry, they eat.  If not, they run around destroying the house.

But can I just say how reassuring threads like this are.  Sometimes when you have a lot of littles, especially when you have one or two with terrible judgment and way too much energy thrown in the mix, you feel like you're the only person in the world raising a pack of wild monkeys instead of normal children.

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39 minutes ago, moonflower said:

OP, I have no advice as I gave up on this fight years and years ago and no longer enforce eating at mealtimes at the table.  If they're hungry, they eat.  If not, they run around destroying the house.

But can I just say how reassuring threads like this are.  Sometimes when you have a lot of littles, especially when you have one or two with terrible judgment and way too much energy thrown in the mix, you feel like you're the only person in the world raising a pack of wild monkeys instead of normal children.

 

I was feeling exactly like this yesterday.  Then I took my kids shopping, where the first thing we all saw & heard was a mom yelling at her preschool aged kid about how much she hated taking him anywhere because he was so disobedient. All of mine got very quiet and behaved "like normal children," for the rest of the shopping trip.  Until we got home, when their behavior returned to "wild monkeys" again.

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13 hours ago, parent said:

My husband got backpacking straps and strapped our guy to chair with those.  These were like 2" wide and he crisscrossed the straps and he couldn't get out.  Those were the days... I feel for you.  My tornado/Houdini/cliffhanger is a very sweet 5 yr old... if that is encouraging.

 

Something like this.  I have not had to, but know people who used straps likethat  (or straps like for dog restraints) added to whatever kiddy table was being used and put the buckles in the back where kid could not so easily reach.  

 

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14 hours ago, parent said:

My husband got backpacking straps and strapped our guy to chair with those.  These were like 2" wide and he crisscrossed the straps and he couldn't get out.  Those were the days... I feel for you.  My tornado/Houdini/cliffhanger is a very sweet 5 yr old... if that is encouraging.

I just ordered a connected backpack-harness-thing https://www.amazon.com/ProTec-BPSTRAP-Protec-Padded-Backpack/dp/B0002KX5E6/ref=pd_cp_86_3/146-3520205-2460646?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0002KX5E6&pd_rd_r=e5b4b4f1-7abd-4d6f-a78d-79802e6636b0&pd_rd_w=vZ6aK&pd_rd_wg=7sddp&pf_rd_p=e44de6bb-cc27-4696-9c22-3a1bddefabbd&pf_rd_r=ANVS5NS35M8HGSYMKFMN&psc=1&refRID=ANVS5NS35M8HGSYMKFMN  Hopefully between that and a few random straps I have I can rig up something he can't escape from.

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7 hours ago, RootAnn said:

If you haven't had a child that reminds you of the cartoon version of the Tasmanian devil, it is hard to imagine. I have no advice as I just had to survive the wait for mine to grow up a bit more.


My kids ate in their double strollers when they were that age. Five point harness to the rescue. 
Many of my cousins use the strollers as high chair substitutes. 

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2 hours ago, mom@shiloh said:

One of mine was an escape artist, especially in shopping carts. I used to make sure that she had on shoes with laces and I would tie her shoe laces together as soon as I put her in the cart. She could still move around, but you can't climb out with your shoes tied together. If anyone thought that wasn't kind, I would posit that it was kinder than giving her the opportunity to fall out -- which she already had. 

He is a terror in stores.  He can climb out of the cart in about half a second, and he grabs everything.  He's fascinated by buttons on the payment kiosks, and scanners, and has taken to dashing around the back of the check stand to try to grab any handheld scanners he sees.  If I strap him in the front the 19 mo (also a climber) has to ride in the back which doesn't work very well. Yesterday I finally figured out that (gently) pinning him between me and the checkout counter works well to contain him, but of course that will only work once we're up at the checkout counter.  I think I will have to put his kiddie leash on him any time I have to take him in a store.

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4 hours ago, caedmyn said:

He is a terror in stores.  He can climb out of the cart in about half a second, and he grabs everything.  He's fascinated by buttons on the payment kiosks, and scanners, and has taken to dashing around the back of the check stand to try to grab any handheld scanners he sees.  If I strap him in the front the 19 mo (also a climber) has to ride in the back which doesn't work very well. Yesterday I finally figured out that (gently) pinning him between me and the checkout counter works well to contain him, but of course that will only work once we're up at the checkout counter.  I think I will have to put his kiddie leash on him any time I have to take him in a store.

Unless someone has experience with a kid like this, it is hard to fathom how difficult it can be to wrangle them. They are like trying to contain an octopus.  You block one method of escape and they are already moving another direction before you even get fully into the first position. They can be so fast!! Part of it seems like no fear....mixed with young agile bodies....and an innate strength/athletic ability.  They don't just move their bodies, they fling their entire weight into each motion. They are exhausting to hold if they want to go  a certain direction, and you are trying to hold them back.  It is baby Parkour! Their brains go so fast that  it is almost impossible to predict their next move. They also get incredible at faking movements in one direction and then going the opposite direction to get to a goal. 

 

DD13 used to have a blood draw every 6 months and she had to be restrained. I used to tell the nurses, hold her down and DoNotLetGo! Even if she starts to relax, hold on tight!  I would make sure everyone understood, but some kind soul would inevitably relax. I would insist on one person per limb and I would contain the torso (I laid across her). She was notorious for fake relaxing to get people to relax their grip and then she  would escape. I had one nurse get kicked in the face with an Ugg boot because she didn't head my warning.  The nurse told me, she didn't take me seriously enough and it was partly her own fault, but as a parent you still feel terrible.  Now dd has to be put under anesthesia to get blood draws, because she is too big to restrain.

 

(((Hug)))) It is exhausting!  I agree with a leash. It is the kindest thing to do in some cases.

Edited by Tap
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1 hour ago, hippiemamato3 said:

I can't even fathom tying a 3 year old to chair. Let him move his body. 

To provide a contrary POV, I personally can't imagine letting a 3yo run around the house during dinner time, especially with food in his mouth or hands, so there's that. I'm sure the kid gets plenty of time to move his body outside of family meal times. There are times for moving one's body and times for settling down.

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10 minutes ago, EmseB said:

To provide a contrary POV, I personally can't imagine letting a 3yo run around the house during dinner time, especially with food in his mouth or hands, so there's that. I'm sure the kid gets plenty of time to move his body outside of family meal times. There are times for moving one's body and times for settling down.

I agree.  I cannot even imagine.  My 3 year olds were still eating a lot of their food with their hands...how does it even work to let a preschooler run around the house, periodically popping by to shove a bite of lasagna or stir fry in their mouth before darting off again?  Oy vey, what a mess of dribbled food and sticky finger prints!!

For us every meal starts with everyone (even little ones) setting their places at the table, then we eat with everyone sitting in their chairs, and at the end everyone clears away their dishes and immediately washes their hands.

Meals are times to talk about our days and practice patiently listening to others, practice good manners and using silverware neatly, model healthy eating, etc.  They are a labor of love that someone (mostly me) has put a lot of time and effort into preparing to healthfully nourish our family, and even young children are taught to show a modicum of respect by sitting with the family for 10-15 minutes (and normally longer because we tend to keep meals upbeat and fun).  At our house, though, most of this learning happens around 18 months.  By 3 years old the kiddos are well versed in how things are done in this family and don't really fight against sitting at the table (even if the food choices are not entirely to their liking).  They are still strapped because they are incredibly impulsive and need the physical reminder that it is time to stay seated, but they aren't actively trying to escape the buckles.

Wendy

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10 hours ago, wendyroo said:

They sell safety covers to go over car seat buckles to prevent kids unbuckling.  You could look to see if any of those would work on the booster seat buckle. 

I'd keep one of these on hand. The car seat buckle is likely next. 

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4 hours ago, kbutton said:

I'd keep one of these on hand. The car seat buckle is likely next. 

 It might not work for a "Houdini" though.  

I tried using one of these for my adult daughter with autism because after all these years she has just started unbuckling her seatbelt while I'm driving. 

The one I bought from Amazon is made by eZtotZ.  These are intended to be used only for carseats, but I was desperate and ordered one.  The first time I used it my daughter was out of it after only a few minutes...she didn't even push something into it to unlock it...she just slithered out of the seatbelt itself and the device was still locked on when I checked.  So buyer beware...and read the reviews because parents of little ones report that their kids figured out how the thing works pretty quickly.  

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9 hours ago, wendyroo said:

I agree.  I cannot even imagine.  My 3 year olds were still eating a lot of their food with their hands...how does it even work to let a preschooler run around the house, periodically popping by to shove a bite of lasagna or stir fry in their mouth before darting off again?  Oy vey, what a mess of dribbled food and sticky finger prints!!

For us every meal starts with everyone (even little ones) setting their places at the table, then we eat with everyone sitting in their chairs, and at the end everyone clears away their dishes and immediately washes their hands.

Meals are times to talk about our days and practice patiently listening to others, practice good manners and using silverware neatly, model healthy eating, etc.  They are a labor of love that someone (mostly me) has put a lot of time and effort into preparing to healthfully nourish our family, and even young children are taught to show a modicum of respect by sitting with the family for 10-15 minutes (and normally longer because we tend to keep meals upbeat and fun).  At our house, though, most of this learning happens around 18 months.  By 3 years old the kiddos are well versed in how things are done in this family and don't really fight against sitting at the table (even if the food choices are not entirely to their liking).  They are still strapped because they are incredibly impulsive and need the physical reminder that it is time to stay seated, but they aren't actively trying to escape the buckles.

Wendy

To the bolded Shudder.

I agree,  I really don’t think it is too much to ask of a 3 year old to sit for a meal.   

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No suggestions, but add me to the list of people who didn't tie my kids down once they were past the "might fall out of high chair onto head" age.

Teaching them to stay put would be like any other thing you teach preschoolers.  "Sit nicely and eat your food."  When they are done, "you may be excused."

If they are really impossible for others to eat with, then maybe feed them separately for a while, until they can understand what is expected of them at the table.  Or they could eat a full meal like an hour before dinner time, and then when the whole family eats, they can eat what they want and be done quickly.

I assume your house is reasonably safe for a 3yo to putz in while the family finishes eating.  Or you could require your 3yo to remain in an adjoining room where you can see him while you eat.

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I don't think anybody is suggesting that they actually let their kids grab food and run off. Unless I missed a comment or two, I think that's rather overstating what people said and what's more likely is that they let their kids decide whether or not they're going to eat, and if the kids are not going to eat than they can leave the table at will.

Whether or not anybody here agrees with this rule for their own home and their own children, it is possible to have a rule "you have to sit at the table if you are eating food" and not have a rule "you have to sit at the table for the whole of mealtime". It's also possible to say "If you've touched food with your hands, you have to wipe your hands upon leaving the table".

When my kids were that age, no booster seat (honestly, we just never got around to buying one, or a high chair - they sat on laps until they were big enough to stand on their chairs) but the rule was "once you get down, we clear your plate". That worked for us to stop them from going up and down and up and down, because they learned pretty fast that if they left, the only thing left to eat was fruit, and that only if they sat down again at the table. But every family is different, of course.

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The justification I hear seems to be:

*Unless you've had to restrain a child in a chair for meals, you don't have a child who needs to be restrained in a chair for meals. "

Which I disagree with, whole-heartedly. As a mom, no meal is important enough to restrain a child. It is a parenting decision, not a *child behaves thusly* decision.

I also have said I would never fight/argue/coerce with a child over food And eating...And have received unrestrained vitriol and the same justification from board members...unless you've fought/argued/coerced a child over food or eating, you don't have a child that needs to be.

I find the justification ridiculous in both instances and it also goes down a very dangerous road, IMO.

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5 minutes ago, unsinkable said:

The justification I hear seems to be:

*Unless you've had to restrain a child in a chair for meals, you don't have a child who needs to be restrained in a chair for meals. "

Which I disagree with, whole-heartedly. As a mom, no meal is important enough to restrain a child. It is a parenting decision, not a *child behaves thusly* decision.

I also have said I would never fight/argue/coerce with a child over food And eating...And have received unrestrained vitriol and the same justification from board members...unless you've fought/argued/coerced a child over food or eating, you don't have a child that needs to be.

I find the justification ridiculous in both instances and it also goes down a very dangerous road, IMO.

I imagine this is like most things.  It's true in some cases and not in others.  Some kids really are much more difficult to manage AND some parents really aren't great at establishing order with NT kids.  You just don't know unless you're in that family.  If buckling the kid more securely means that mom and dad can sit and eat for twenty minutes like a person and focus on their food and children rather than chasing a toddler, I don't think it's an extreme solution for that family.  

Some toddlers are feral despite intelligent, consistent parenting.  Most grow out of it, but for a season, that family will do whatever works.  Setting them free during a meal might not be worth it in some cases.  An effective safety buckle on a high chair doesn't seem over the top to me and no more traumatic than buckling them into their carseat.

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We don't fight over food or typically force our kids to do anything.  But our housing when my MDD was young was often temperorary and not really safe for highly gifted fearless small person with ADHD.  She could not toddle off and amuse herself safely while we ate.  Strapping her in something was a requirement for my sanity.  I believe OP has several hard children a house that is not baby proofed and not the world's most helpful spouse.  If securing her 3 yr old for a few minutes during meals makes her life easier than I don't think anyone should begrudge her that.

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We didn’t fight over food either.  I don't think requiring a 3 year old to sit while the family eats a meal is the same as fighting with them over food.  
 

Regardless, this OP has made the decision for her family that this child needs to be restrained for the meal.  I think she did get some great ideas on that.  

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18 hours ago, Scarlett said:

To the bolded Shudder.

I agree,  I really don’t think it is too much to ask of a 3 year old to sit for a meal.   

I agree. I’ve worked with kids for years—as a teacher, nanny, my mom taught pre-school. I don’t understand why the two options are run around the house or be restrained. Are there consequences to not sitting at the table?  I love the meal ends suggestions. Have you practiced sitting at the table at non meal times ( upping it one minute a day or so with rewards?)

I do get that some children have severe ADHD and can’t sit period, but the vast majority of three year olds (and two year olds) can sit at the table for ten minutes.

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14 hours ago, freesia said:

I agree. I’ve worked with kids for years—as a teacher, nanny, my mom taught pre-school. I don’t understand why the two options are run around the house or be restrained.

To speak to this.  The word "restrain" gives a very negative connotation which, in the reality of *our* family situation, was not there at all.  

There was no screaming or fussing or corralling. Rather, "the seatbelt at the dining table" phase was a gentle, passive reminder to an active, forgetful, happy young boy, that "we stay seated when eating" just like when driving in a car "we stay seated and buckled."    And it also meant one less thing for my husband and I to do (repeatedly reminding him to stay seated) while busy with feeding and enjoying dinner with our four OTHER children.  

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12 minutes ago, vmsurbat1 said:

To speak to this.  The word "restrain" gives a very negative connotation which, in the reality of *our* family situation, was not there at all.  

There was no screaming or fussing or corralling. Rather, "the seatbelt at the dining table" phase was a gentle, passive reminder to an active, forgetful, happy young boy, that "we stay seated when eating" just like when driving in a car "we stay seated and buckled."    And it also meant one less thing for my husband and I to do (repeatedly reminding him to stay seated) while busy with feeding and enjoying dinner with our four OTHER children.  

Exactly. It isn’t some big traumatic thing.  I like the long scarf idea tied around the waist to the back of the chair.  

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I kept my kids in the Fisher Price Space Saver high chair until 3.5-4.5 years old.  Not because they were really all that bad at meals, more for safety.  I found when the younger kids went to a normal chair they would fall off it a lot.  So I like to have them in that.  We did it with the tray attached.   It also got them used to sitting for meals for longer.  I hate when they make the change, because there is a lot of reminders all during the meal to sit down.  

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7 minutes ago, mommyoffive said:

I kept my kids in the Fisher Price Space Saver high chair until 3.5-4.5 years old.  Not because they were really all that bad at meals, more for safety.  I found when the younger kids went to a normal chair they would fall off it a lot.  So I like to have them in that.  We did it with the tray attached.   It also got them used to sitting for meals for longer.  I hate when they make the change, because there is a lot of reminders all during the meal to sit down.  

Same here.  My son was in a high chair until he was 3...feet practically dragging the ground. He didn’t get out of the chair until I had washed his face and hands with soap and water.  

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