Turn a Highchair into a Baby Activity Center with These Ideas
Sometimes, mama (or daddy) just needs a minute to get something done! If you need to keep your baby or toddler occupied while you work, cook, or finish a project, we’ve rounded up ten highchair activities that keep little ones both busy and happy. The best part is that everything on our list gets attached to the highchair—you won’t need to constantly pick things up off the floor.
From ice cubes to masking tape to toy cars, these baby activity center ideas are all made from things you already have in the house. These activities are both no cost and no mess, as well: you won't pay for 20 minutes of entertainment with an hour-long clean-up. These baby and toddler activities are also great for helping your little one explore all five senses, learn colors, and figure out cause and effect.
Looking for more baby activities? Check out our list of 99 Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids of All Ages, plus tons more activities for little ones in our At-Home Guide for Families.
1. Dig and Scoop Edible Activity
When it comes to baby or toddler activities, there’s nothing more fun than scooping and digging. Using a cardboard box, some sand toys, cups, and pantry items, you can create an awesome highchair activity.
Start by taking a small shoebox and use masking tape to secure it to the highchair tray. If you have a baby bowl that suctions to the highchair this will work great as well. Fill your box with Cheerios, oatmeal, Goldfish, puffs, or your baby’s favorite snack.
Give your baby some small cups, shovels, or spoons. Let your baby scoop and pour to their heart’s content. You can also give them toy cars or paper towel rolls to pour food down. The best part about this activity center is that it’s all edible. As your baby scoops, she can also enjoy a little snack. Just make sure to wash any scoopers or toys beforehand.
Sandy oatmeal and cold cubes make for a contrast in both texture and temperature.
2. Texture Sensory Play
Babies love to learn by touch. This highchair sensory activity gives your little one a safe way to explore different textures and temperatures. To make this easy activity center, you only need a few plastic sandwich bags, some pantry items, and ice cubes.
To start, fill plastic sandwich bags with the material of your choice. Consider both wet and dry ingredients to give your baby the experience of different textures and temperatures. Rolled oats, cereal, sugar, and flour are great for your dry bags. Use ice cubes in another bag so that your little one feels the cold of the ice through the bags while exploring how the ice melts and moves under their fingers. Lay the bags flat on the highchair tray. (Use masking tape to keep them attached to the tray, or the bags may start flying!)
Someone save Woody—he's stuck!
3. Toy Rescue Center
For a quick and easy activity center, all you need are some of your child’s favorite toys and a little masking tape. Choose several toys to tape to your child’s highchair tray. Using masking tape to make sure the toys are secured tightly to the tray. Your little one will need to try and rescue the figures, animals, or toy cars from the highchair by pulling the tape off.
4. Color Block Activity Center
Using food coloring and a few plastic bags you can create a quick sensory activity your baby will love. This one even comes with a color lesson.
Start with four sandwich-sized plastic bags. Choose four different food coloring drops and place three drops into separate bags. Fill them halfway with water. Seal the bags and lay each bag flat on the highchair tray. Use masking tape to secure them to the tray. Let your little one squish the bags and hit the different colors.
Gushy, squishy, and colorful hair gel makes for mess-free fun.
5. Hair Gel Sensory Bags
Hair gel is a pretty cool product for a kid to play with. While you wouldn’t give your baby hair gel during free play, this is a fun and safe way for little ones to enjoy it.
Start by filling plastic bags with hair gel. (It's not going near your hair, so the dollar store variety is perfect.) Put beads, or small toys inside the bags and use masking tape to secure them to the highchair. Add food coloring for an extra pop of color and fun. The food coloring will make streaks in the gel. The toys or beads inside will float and squish around like a lava lamp.
All-natural ingredients make this baby science experiment edible.
6. Whip Cream Baby Activity Center
For this activity, you only need to look in your refrigerator. Using whip cream and sandwich bags, you can give your little one some soft and sweet-smelling sensory bags to play with.
Fill two plastic bags with whip cream. Add raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries to each bag. Use masking tape to attach them to the highchair tray. When your baby smashes and hits the bags, the berries will explode in the whipped cream. Your little one will love seeing the colors shoot out of the berries and swirl around the bag. If you don't mind them getting messy when you're done working, you can open the bags for snack time!
Color, density, and even noise play a part in this activity.
7. Water Play Activity Bottles
Use empty water bottles as the base of this mess-free activity center. To start, grab three empty water bottles and food coloring. Fill each bottle with a different color, some water, and small water-proof toys. (Pennies, beads, pencils, or anything that fits in a bottle works!) Your baby will love watching their small toy float back and forth as the bottle shakes up and down.
Use a ribbon to tie the bottle to your highchair or tray. Each time your baby drops the bottle they can quickly grab it and pull it up.
8. Noisemaker Sensory Play
Using more empty water bottles and a few pantry items, you can create quick noisemakers. Fill two water bottles with beans, oatmeal, or something loud and crunchy from your pantry (like cereal or granola). The more noise it makes the more fun your baby will have shaking and rolling the bottle around.
Using another bottle fill it with beads, small jingle bells, buttons, or cotton balls. Your baby will notice the difference in sound depending on the material used. Cotton balls, for example, are light and fluffy, while jingle bells and buttons create a nice tune.
Again, you can use string or ribbon to attach it to the tray or a leg of the highchair. Otherwise, they might learn how to play "Mommy fetch," which is a terrible game!
Who knew hitting developmental milestones could be so much fun?
9. Pipe Cleaner Pincer Grasp Activity
The pincer grasp is a crucial skill for a baby to master. Using this grasp they start to pick up their own food, grab small objects, and eventually use a spoon and fork. To help your little one with this important developmental milestone, we have an easy highchair activity.
To start, grab a colander from your kitchen. Give your baby a few different pipe cleaners and show them how you poke them into the holes in the colander. If you don’t have pipe cleaners, paper straws may also fit. Your little one will stay busy pulling the pipe cleaners in and out of the colander.
10. Quick and Easy Toy Activity Center
If you have some ribbon, you can create a quick and easy activity center in just a few minutes. Grab some of your baby’s favorite toys. Rings, teethers, and baby keys work great for this because they are easy to tie.
Use your ribbon to tie several toys to your child’s highchair. Your baby can shake, drop, and pick up the toys while you get a few minutes of hands-free time. Older babies and toddlers may even try to get the toys off the ribbon, keeping them even busier—just be sure to tie your knots extra tight!
All photos are by the author.