Dining Chairs and Kids: Lessons Learned

It's probably not super encouraging to start off in January talking about things I regret, but I really hope that these Lessons Learned posts will help you guys avoid some of the mistakes I've made and give you points to consider as you make decisions about your own homes. Last time, I wrote what I've learned about painting wood white. This time, I'm talking about choosing dining chairs with kids in mind. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Lesson Learned: In our house, dining chairs with fabric seats were not a good idea.

Let's go back in time to 2011. We had recently finished our kitchen and we needed chairs and counter stools. Ben and I did not have children yet. I did not understand how grimy the whole mealtime-with-kids situation can be!

I chose white wood chairs with fabric seats. Chairs with fabric seats often have a bit more cushioning, so that is nice. The chairs came with a tan-colored seat fabric, which I promptly recovered with colorful fabric (a teal pattern for the dining chairs and a red pattern for the counter stools). I'm trying to remember exactly why I chose these chairs, but I think they appealed to me because I could add color by changing out the fabric on the seat cushions.

Dining Chair with Aqua Fabric
Counter Stools with Red Fabric

I bought the fabric at Calico Corners and Hancock Fabrics, and I thought I was being practical by using outdoor fabric. It would be easy to clean, right? Even if our kids spilled?

Not exactly. Yes, outdoor fabric is somewhat stain-repellent, but fabric is fabric—when it gets spilled on a lot (part of life with kids), it just starts to look yucky. (For the record, the teal fabric from Calico has held up better than the red from Hancock. Higher quality for sure.)

With our girls, we have favored boosters over high chairs, and my favorite is the Healthy-Care Booster Seat by Fisher-Price. The price point is great, it can be adjusted up or down as the child grows, you can easily take it with you, and the seat itself has relatively few nooks and crannies so it can be wiped down easily. As a booster, it sits on top of an existing dining chair. And that's where the fabric chairs were just not a great idea (think pureed peas and drippy jelly). I tried to clean up the grime quickly and for a while, we put a towel under the booster, but again, things just got gross.

When my sister offered to pass along some wood chairs, I jumped at the chance to have non-fabric chairs in our kitchen!

Dining Area with Red Wood Chairs

So now we put our booster on one of these red chairs for little sister. The wood seat is easier to wipe down. Big sister usually sits on one of our counter stools pulled up to the table—the height is just about right. But yeah, the fabric on that chair she sits on is pretty stained from those little drips and spills here and there. You know.

Counter stool at table

It is a bit of a conundrum, because fabric seats offer the comfort factor. But in my experience, and if I were going to do it again, I would not purchase chairs with fabric seats as our everyday chairs. I bought extra yardage of the fabrics so that I could recover them as they needed it, but at this point, I just wish I had chosen different chairs.

Now, there are some ways around this. If you have your heart set on fabric seats, some fabrics are super wipeable (like vinyl) and could be better options for you. I saw an HGTV show where the designer covered the fabric seats with a shower curtain! That would definitely be durable. Or use washable slipcovers! Going a different direction, you could purchase a separate high chair or dedicated child's chair. I've always thought the Stokke Tripp Trapp is a beautiful thing, and apparently, it transitions from childhood to adulthood. You could also try a youth chair, such as the AGAM at IKEA.

As I was writing this post, I started to think about what does make for a good, kid-friendly chair. I've started to pull together some solid options and I'll share a roundup post soon. Thanks for reading, everyone! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts, experiences, or questions on this topic!