Summer is finally here and with it comes the promise of long, lazy lunches outside in the garden. But if you’ve got a baby or toddler, the idea of eating alfresco and actually getting to enjoy your meal can feel like Mission Impossible. Your highchair’s just too big and awkward to move outside or, even if you can manage that, your child gets bored and restless as soon as they’ve eaten – while you’ve barely made a start on your own meal. Sound familiar?
But enjoying the outdoors as a family doesn’t have to be this way: with a light, portable and adaptable highchair, like the Stokke Clikk (pictured in its green colour way, above), and some genius ideas to keep your baby happy and busy while they’re strapped in, alfresco dining can actually be a family-bonding breeze…
Here are 5 clever ideas for keeping your baby entertained while you eat outside
1. Lay on a baby picnic
Even if you’re more of a spoon-feeder than a baby-led-weaner, your child will still love having a selection of finger foods to explore (and you can always top up with some spoonfuls of puree if you want to). The bonus is that self-feeding takes way longer than spoon-feeding – and obviously doesn’t need you to dish out the mouthfuls – so you can eat at the same time as your baby for a change.
Carry your highchair out into the garden – weighing only 4kg (and taking just 1 tool-free minute to put together), the Stokke Clikk High Chair is brilliantly portable for occasions like this. Or, if your family meal is more of a garden picnic, you can pop off the Clikk’s tray and put it on a splash mat, so your baby can join you at the same height.
Then arrange baby-friendly finger food, such as slices of avocado, stems of steamed broccoli, pitta-bread fingers, a sliced hardboiled egg and cubes of cheese.
A choice of finger foods to taste and try (and yes, probably mash into the highchair tray a bit) gives your baby the chance to practise some fine-finger control and also to be in charge of what they eat when, boosting independence. It’s also a great way to introduce them to lots of different food textures and tastes.
Take the Stokke Clikk on your travels
Whether you’re visiting family or friends, or heading off for a well-deserved holiday, it’s so easy to take your Stokke Clikk High Chair with you. With just a few simple clicks, it can be taken apart or put back together – in under a minute, no tools required. You can even buy a stylish Stokke Clikk Travel Bag (pictured, right), £29, to store it safely away for the journey.
2. Create a sensory play table
Fire up your baby’s imagination with some alfresco play! A highchair tray doesn’t just have to be for food; you can turn it into your baby’s very own sensory play tray.
Add water for some splash play, layer the tray with sand and give your baby toy cars to run back and forth on top, or place small mounds around the tray of materials that have a very different ‘feel’ – we like jelly and oats and shaving cream and pasta shapes.
Giving your little one the chance to explore and play with different textures and materials is known to be developmentally stimulating: sensory play helps create new pathways in the brain, and boosts fine and gross motor skills as well as problem-solving skills.
Yep, there’ll be a fair bit of mess – but you’re outside (much less stressful!) and with the Stokke Clikk, you can simply take the tray off when you’re done and pop it in the dishwasher for a clean. Even the Clikk harness can go in the washing machine – hooray!
3. Play kick the bubbles
For guaranteed giggles – and one hand left free to you to eat – bring out the bubbles. Take the tray off your highchair, then blow bubbles at your baby’s legs, encouraging your child to wiggle and kick at the floating wonders. The Clikk 5-point harness (pictured, above) will keep your baby safe and secure as they attempt to pop the bubbles with their legs – brilliant for added peace of mind.
As well as being great fun, this activity is fantastic for developing your baby’s visual tracking skills (where they follow a moving object with their eyes) and helping with their foot-eye and hand-eye coordination.
Trust us, you’re going to want to capture your baby’s bubbletastic smiles on camera during this! And we’re confident your inner Insta shot assessor will thank you for the Stokke Clikk’s smooth, modern lines, on-trend colourways and beautiful Scandinavian design.
4. Go all arty with mark making
It’s never too early to encourage your budding artist and, although they won’t be painting their own masterpiece just yet, babies and toddlers love having a go at mark making. It’s a perfect activity to keep them occupied outside once they’ve finished eating and you’re still enjoying your meal.
Stick a piece of paper to your highchair tray using sticky tape – you can use any old piece of scrap paper or some newspaper from your recycling as an eco-friendly option. Then let them experiment with chunky chalks, wax crayons or water-based, non-toxic paints for a spot of finger painting.
And if you’re worried that you might have to get up every 3 seconds to pick up a crayon that’s been chucked from the highchair, fear not: as with your baby picnic, you can set your mini art station up on a splash mat in the garden, with that easily-removable Clikk tray in ‘drawing board’ mode on the floor.
5. Slice up messy fruit
When you’re ready for coffee and chocs, and your child is ready for something new to do, it’s time bring out a super-baby-entertaining dessert course to ease out those last few mealtimes minutes outside.
You can pre-prepare some lovely, big, ripe slices of mango, watermelon, some rings of pineapple and/or some halves of orange or pomegranate and pineapple for your baby to hold and squish and gnaw on. And you could also place on their highchair tray some quartered strawberries and chunks of banana.
You’ll be ticking all the self-feeding, food-exploration and motor skills development boxes as you did with the baby picnic, only this time there’s extra sweetness – and, probably, a fair bit more juice and dribble.
As you’re now near the end of your meal, it can be a good idea to take off your baby’s clothes and let them eat in just their nappy. That way, you can let them cover themselves in juice without fretting about fabric stains and, when it’s all over, you pop them in the bath for a wipe-down, just like you can wipe down the seat and wooden legs of the Stokke Clikk. Result!
Pics: Stokke/M Clayton; Getty Images