This guide to eating with a footrest has been provided to us by Dr. Kyla Smith of Baby Mealtimes.
Has your little one got adequate support in their eating chair?
Most highchairs on the market DON’T have good foot support. Either the child’s legs are dangling, or the foot support only ever suits them at the short time when their legs are a perfect length to reach the bar.
Why is this a problem?
Babies and toddlers (and even adults) don’t want to fall on their head. It’s a basic survival thing. So we do whatever we need to to keep ourselves upright. Also, children can’t develop fine motor skills like using a spoon, biting and chewing if they don’t have stability in their body. They need to feel safe and supported. Sitting in a chair without support can be very tiresome. This means that kids either wriggle a lot, or they want to get out pretty quickly. When little ones spend lots of energy holding themselves up, it means there’s less energy to spend on eating. Think of yourself on a high bar stool- how comfortable are you with your feet dangling in the air? How much attention can you pay to the meal in front of you? How well can you spoon feed yourself when you’re using your arms to prop you up and your legs to grip on to the chair? Lots of this leg swinging in the video is to work out where they are in space, but also to engage their tummy and trunk muscles to hold them up. You might also notice your little one starting to wriggle, or even lean or slump to the side when these muscles are getting tired. For kids who struggle to sit for a reasonable period in the highchair, I’d suggest starting with their posture.
Ideally, we want their back resting on a firm support, without them having to lean back. This might mean that you need to push them forward in the chair with a rolled towel or highchair insert behind their back. Their shoulders need to be in line with their hips- with a very slight tilt in their hips so their leaning forward towards the tray.
The chair needs to be at a height so that their elbows easily clear the tray or table. You may find you need to put something underneath their bottom to boost them up a bit. We want their knees to naturally bend at a 90-degree angle over the edge of the chair. Most kids are too far back in the chair meaning their legs stick straight out. And finally, we want their feet to rest on a stable platform, without dangling. Ideally their feet need to be directly under their knees. There’s a couple of ways you can go about achieving this posture. Firstly, use a highchair or child’s chair that offers adjustable support so that it grows as your child grows.
If you already have a basic IKEA, Kmart or Target highchair then consider purchasing an attachable foot rest to go with it. I particularly like the Footsi from Nibble and Rest (www.nibbleandrest.com). It straps on and produces a stable rest point for feet, aligned under their knees.
Dr Kyla Smith
Mealtime Building Blocks