The secret of restaurant high chair straps

It seems like every restaurant uses a different, impossible-to-operate high chair. Here's Kat's discovery:

This falls under one of those "I can't believe I didn't realize this sooner" moments for me, but if it saves another frustrated new mommy from making a scene at a restaurant, I'll share!

Many times, when using (or trying to…) those wooden high chairs at a restaurant, I couldn't understand how freakishly small the last kid must have been to allow the straps to actually buckle together. Something had to be amiss, but what?

FINALLY, I saw another mom pull the straps straight up through the opening at the back of the chair… NOT up around the sides like I was doing, and had seen waitresses and others also do when trying to help me figure out why the straps that had been long enough for everyone else weren't long enough to go around my kid's lap.

An added bonus is that having the straps come from behind your kid leaves much less wiggle room than the other way, preventing the all-too-common (at least, with us) mid-dinner escape.

Related: Lots of kids-in-restaurant hacks


  1. Tony Bullard says

    That’s if you find a seat with a working buckle. Ifind that only about 50-60% of the ones I use are even in proper working order.

    My solution? Bring a big belt with you.

  2. rowe says

    ooohhh… THANK YOU for posting this discovery! It would have taken me another year to figure out!

  3. Tommy Tuesday says

    Good hack. Can’t count how many times I’ve had to flip the straps from side to back, which tells me a high percentage of parents can benefit. I caught on long ago, but only because our hand-me-down high chair at home is that same wooden style popular at family restaurants.

    This also has made me realize how disgusting the nook/cranny between the center strap and the seat gets, even after a single meal. A nearby Red Robin has a sign on their hostess podium that says “closer must clean the high chairs EVERY NIGHT” which induces a shudder. It oughta be after every KID!

  4. none says

    Our kids never liked sitting in those high chairs. They always wiggle out. We keep a portable booster in the trunk of our car and bring it with us to restaurants. It straps on to any chair.

  5. eko says

    YEP, I got this (years back) with my first, but it took me forever too! I guess people who eat out 7 days a week would know this as a common sense thing ;P

    What rude/nasty people to say DUH – or such things. This is a help site, not the say mean things site. That’s at:

  6. chris says

    We eat out for business lunches waaaay too much (stay-at-work parents w/ extremely well behaved toddlers in tow – we own the company though). What we figured out is there are TWO styles of highchair strap even though every chair looks identical. Stick your hands under and check it out. Half the restaurants have straps that go up over the sides, half have them come up from the back.

  7. Parent Hacks Editor says

    c: No DUHs please — do you know how many hacks I get that start with, “I’m not sure if this is too simple to be considered a hack, but…” Where else will someone tell you this stuff?

    I remember when I visited India for the first time as an adult, and I had to ask my father about the finer points of using the toilet. Thank God for my dad, because my trip would have been a lot more uncomfortable were it not for his help. Parenting is like that. You think you SHOULD know stuff, because supposedly everyone else knows it, and you feel too dumb to ask, so you struggle along needlessly.

    Seriously, that’s one of the basic tenets of this site. No one should have to do that.

  8. nathalie says

    I LOVE this site because I feel it generally opeartes under the “no stupid questions/hacks” assumption. I agree that one of the biggest challenges as a new parent is the feeling that my “common sense” got checked at the hospital door. So, thanks, to those who don’t respond rudely and to those who did … bet you’re feeling kinda bad right about now but surely having all the answers must make up for it!

    Also this – I use one of those cushy covers to put my baby in high chairs and shopping carts because he is GROSS and licks everything and I’ve worked in restaurants and know a nightly cleaning is a goal not a reality!

  9. SWN says

    Sad to say, I didn’t figure this out until child #2. I think it was the biggest “DUH” moment I’ve had as a parent.

  10. projectcadmus says

    In the past, I’ve used a sweatshirt as a substitute for the broken high chair strap. I suppose the belt on my own pants would have been another improvisation.

    I’ve also used a sweatshirt or blanket to scoot my kid forward in the chair and minimize the chance that they’d escape through the front of the chair.