High Chair Activities to Occupy Your Baby
Easy high chair activities that will occupy your baby and will help you to cook healthy meals, without the stress.
How do you juggle cooking dinner and keeping your baby entertained? I really enjoy cooking from scratch. But for a long time, I struggled to cook anything decent because my little one would often shout and get bored when he was in the highchair. I found myself quickly throwing dinners together and we ended up eating the same things every week.
After a bit of trial and error, I can now keep him occupied and cook a nice homemade dinner from scratch. The ways I keep him entertained are also great learning opportunities so it’s a win-win. Here are some of our high chair activities that work well. Hopefully, you can use these ideas to occupy your baby whilst you’re cooking too.
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Watching you cook
Being in the kitchen is a great sensory experience for your little one. They will be able to hear the sounds of you cooking, see, smell, touch, and in some cases, taste what you’re making.
Having your baby watch you cook, while you talk to them about what you’re doing, is sometimes enough to keep them occupied. It’s a great way to help them learn new words and develop their language skills. Cooking with your baby as they get older, will help them to develop healthy attitudes towards foods. It may also make them more willing to try new tastes.
I pull K’s high chair up to the countertop so he is sitting next to where I’m standing. His high chair tray sits just in front of the counter. This means he is unable to grab anything I’m using, like sharp knives. I then chop vegetables and prepare the food alongside him. He can also see our hob from this position, so I turn on the light above it so he can clearly see what’s in the various pots and pans.
Try setting up messy play for your baby, whilst they’re sitting in their high chair. A decent bib will help to contain the mess and prevent it from being walked throughout the house. Jelly, cooked pasta, or a mixture of cornflour and water are fantastic for messy play.
Jelly is an activity that can be used every day for a week. All you need to do is pour the jelly into different containers and let it set. Then take out a container each day and let your baby play with it. You can add a bit of a variety to this idea by hiding things in the jelly. Check out my 11 month old activity ideas to see some of the things we have used. Babies benefit from returning to an activity and you may see that they end up playing or using the jelly in different ways by the end of the week.
I was getting fed up of having to scrub the floor after every meal and snack time. So I bought a Food Catcher Bib. It’s waterproof and prevents food from falling onto the floor. Lots of things manage to stay on it when K purposely tries to drop them. It’s so easy to put on and clean. All I have to do is use a kitchen towel to scoop up the majority of the mess. Then I wipe it clean so it’s ready for the next time. So far I’ve used it to let K play with jelly.
Food to Eat
Giving your baby a snack using things you’re cooking with will satisfy and keep them busy for a while.
Some snack ideas include:
- Tomato (chopped)
Different foods will work for babies of different ages. If your child is still unable to chew, try giving them some cooked vegetables to eat and play with. Broccoli works well for this.
It’s much easier to give a baby that can chew, different foods to try. It gives them new experiences of tastes and textures. I often give K carrot sticks or I will peel or grate them. It’s great for developing fine motor skills and he doesn’t eat much, which means he won’t spoil his dinner. Harder foods also help when he’s teething.
K is currently at the age where he loves to drop things. As annoying as this can be, it’s perfectly normal. One of the best things to do is to make a game out of it. You can also use it to teach your little one a phrase such as ‘uh oh.’ However, using the Food Catcher Bib makes it harder for them to drop things on the floor all the time!
Food to Play With
Exploring, rather than eating food is another great sensory experience for your baby. This is where the Food Catcher Bib also comes in handy. Children of all ages learn best when they are physically doing something. So the more they explore their food, the more they learn. Your baby will also enjoy feeling the different textures of dried food and it’s easier to sweep or vacuum up.
Some dried foods you can use include:
I find that K enjoys playing with certain dried foods more than others (oats, cornflakes, and pasta). We haven’t done this for a while because now he’s a bit older, I’m finding that he wants to put things in his mouth more to test them out.
The simple, repetitive nature of the songs will help to develop your baby’s communication and language skills. Using actions with songs is one of the ways you can help your baby understand the words. Between 8 to 20 months, your baby will be able to move their whole body to the sounds they enjoy. This is part of their listening and attention development.
Bloom Baby Classes sensory songs are a favourite of ours. The songs are catchy and you can add actions to them. I have found that they often calm K down when he’s waiting for his food. They distract him and stop him shouting for it!
Using toys is one of the more obvious high chair activities to occupy your baby. However, babies have short attention spans, which means most things don’t occupy them for long. Squigz are one of the only toys, I have found that keep my little man occupied. They are silicone suckers that stick to almost anything. They stick well to the highchair or Food Catcher Bib. They’re great at developing fine motor skills and strengthening muscles in the hands and fingers.
Please note: I bought our Squigz and used them when K was around 9 months old (It’s 3 months on and he still loves them). The manufacturer’s recommendation on Amazon says 3 months. However, the Fat Brain Toys website says 3 years old due to choking hazards. Since finding this out and reading the comments on Amazon, I have since taken away the smaller piece and let him play with the rest. If you’re concerned about this, Fat Brain Toys also make a bigger version of this toy called pipSquigz. They come in a pack of 3 and are suitable from 6 months onwards.
Everyday items in the kitchen cupboard
Babies are naturally curious and playing with objects is how your baby explores and learns about the world. So try using what you have in your kitchen to create high chair activities. You might be surprised at some of the things they take an interest in.
Finding everyday items for my little one to play with is one of my favourite ways to help his learning and development. I’m always amazed at the things that hold his attention and fascinate him. He loves to play with lids. Especially big red one from one of my spice jars.
Your baby is never too young to be read to. They learn so much from listening to your voice and hearing the different sounds so the earlier you start the better.
Did you know?
Kids whose parents talk and read to them often know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to. And kids who are read to during their early years are more likely to learn to read at the right time – Kidshealth.org
Try using the time your baby is in their high chair to read a book to them. You can also let them explore it too. You don’t have to read all of the book. You can dip in and out of reading it when you have a few free in-between moments. Touch and feel books and sound books are particularly good at grabbing babies’ attention. Check out my baby board books blog post for other book recommendations.
Stick some strips of tape onto the high chair tray and have your baby try and pull them off. This is a great activity for fine motor skill development and it will keep them occupied for a while.
I’ve found that masking tape or Washi tape works really well for this. Washi tape is better because you can use different patterns to keep them interested.
The best thing about this activity is that you can make it harder or easier for your baby. For younger babies, folding over some of the tape will give them somewhere to start pulling. For older babies, sticking down the whole strip of tape and using longer strips will mean they have to work harder to pull it all off.
15 more activity ideas
For even more high chair activities to occupy your baby, check out Emma Owl. These 15 high chair activities require a bit more preparation. But they’re fun and engaging for babies and toddlers. They include magic sand, playdough, and an ice sensory bag.
Sometimes you have to put your baby in a highchair to be able to cook a decent, healthy meal. Making the most of this time by providing them with high chair activities and play opportunities will help their learning and development. It will also keep you sane! Ultimately, anything that keeps your baby or toddler entertained without using a screen is a great activity.
You don’t always need to create fancy looking activities for your baby to learn and have fun. In fact, my little one enjoys playing with everyday items more than most of his toys. Using everyday items from the kitchen also means minimal preparation for you but maximum enjoyment for your baby.
Bear in mind that containing your baby for long periods of time restricts their movements. So be wary of the amount of time they spend in a sitting position.
How do you keep your little one entertained whilst you cook dinner? Let me know in the comments section below.