Sold as a ‘washable, squashable’ high chair, ‘for babies who lunch’, the award-winning Totseat is a fabric harness that cleverly adapts to fit almost any style of dining chair. It’s light and easy to take anywhere, especially when folded as it fits into a small drawstring bag.
It was designed several years ago by mumpreneur Rachel Jones who was fed up with filthy high chairs being wheeled out in cafes (or none at all). So she started using her cardigan to create a makeshift alternative. She made the first Totseat by cutting up her old wedding dress, (yes her husband was watching, he even handed her the scissors) and then made a second seat with a sheet.
Eventually, after numerous prototypes, she found what she considered to be the perfect product. During her research, the seat was tested out on 900 different chairs and is now the only product of its type to be recognised by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), the UK’s leading child safety charity.
There are other fabric portable chairs on the market, but the Totseat was the first and, they argue, the best and most flexible. It’s the leading portable high chair in the UK, according to their website. But be aware, it’s intended as a travel highchair not an everyday highchair.
Rachel’s inventiveness and hard work has won her and the Totseat a variety of awards including a Gold accolade from Practical Parenting & Pregnancy for the Best Booster/Travel Highchair, a Gold in the Practical Pre-School Awards and the Tots To Travel Just Go awards.
I’ve been offered some stomach-churningly dirty highchairs in cafes more times than I care to remember. Feeding my baby on my lap can be stressful, not to mention messy. And I’ve trashed the straps and seat on my buggy on so many occasions by using it as an impromptu high chair in cafes, with food dribbled all over it.
So I was looking forward to trying the Totseat with my eight-month-old daughter Autumn, especially because she has only recently started sitting up by herself.
The Totseat arrived in a clear plastic zip bag. Inside was a drawstring carry bag, a cummerbund, to provide support on chairs with backs that gape, and the Totseat itself: a harness-like fabric structure made of a sturdy cotton/polyester mix, with a plastic buckle. My Totseat came in a cute retro, red and beige Apple design, which I loved.
What’s in the bag?
- The Totseat
- A Cummerbund
- Drawstring bag
Any additional extras?
Can the Totseat be used on any chair?
Pretty much, it fits any chair with dimensions of up to 53cm wide and 75cm tall, while the chair backrest should be a minimum of 25 cm. The designers have clearly thought very hard: the Totseat is incredibly versatile. I was impressed with the way it adapted to so many different styles of chairs.
The first chair I tied the Totseat to was my vintage wooden ‘ladder-back’ dining chair, which has a curved top, and vertical bars across the back. I decided to attach the cummerbund to provide extra support and comfort. The seat also has velcro to help you secure it easily in place.
How did you find fitting the Totseat to a chair?
It was easy, it slid over the top of the chair my chair without any fuss, being round; this particular chair didn’t have corners, so the instructions recommended I secure it to the chair on each side using a button and length of stretchy elastic with buttonholes.
This was the first time I experienced a glitch: the buttons are rather large and the holes on the elastic rather small, so it was a little tricky forcing the button through. Then I shortened the length of the Totseat to match the height of the chair.
Once you hang the fabric over the seat and if there’s too much overhang, you shorten it by folding back any excess fabric and then, using buttons on the bottom, you secure in place. Again the buttonholes felt small and stiff.
I had to force the buttons through, while Autumn was crying, and tore my thumbnail in the process. I’m guessing the designers made the buttons big and holes tight so they don’t come undone easily, and the product is safe. After a few uses the button holes seemed to ‘wear in’, so this probably wouldn’t be a major problem over time.
How secure is the seat?
It was very secure, I personally like the fact the Totseat’s straps go around the chair, unlike many booster seats, which just tie around the back. When I popped Autumn into the seat, with her back against the cummberband, I brought the Totseat up between her legs, wrapping the straps under her arms and behind the chair. This is a slightly tricky manouevre as you need to keep your baby safely in place while you do up the harness.
I fed the straps through the loops on the back of the Totseat and fastened the plastic clasp, tightening and adjusting the straps so Autumn was upright and comfortable, but not too wedged in.
How did you find Totseat during feeding time at home?
Autumn is still on the small side, and her outstretched feet didn’t quite reach the edge of the chair. But she looked happy, and gurgled and giggled through lunch: partly I think it’s the novelty of being on a chair the same height as mummy.
How does it differ from other feeding chairs?
This isn’t a highchair or booster seat; your baby is low down and not at table height. There’s no padding either, but Autumn didn’t seem bothered: she’s used to a hard plastic seat on her usual highchair.
How does it compare to other travel seats you’ve used?
My other travel high chair is a hard, rather ugly, not to mention a bulky, plastic booster seat, which straps onto the seat of most dining chairs. It has a fold-back tray, which while handy, can be fiddly to detach for washing. While reasonably easy to use and clean, it takes up valuable boot space, especially on camping or weekend trips – so the temptation is often not to pack it at all.
The Totseat, on the other hand is more versatile and can be used mealtime but for playing, drawing etc (if you can find a surface that matches baby’s height, that is) – in the way you might use a Bumbo.
Will parents be able to use the seat as their child grows?
Yes, and I think parents will get more use out of it as their child gets bigger. The seat is designed for babies who can sit up unaided, aged from around 8 to 30 months. I can see that as Autum gets bigger, it will get easier to use, as she is slightly swamped by it currently
The Totseat doesn’t have a tray, how did you find that?
I found it a little problematic, it makes things even messier than usual. Autumn dropped broccoli all over the chair seat and floor. Mushed-up fish pie ended up smeared over the seat, chair and her toes: Autumn couldn’t resist playing with her feet so temptingly spread out in front of her!
I found I missed having a tray to put finger foods on, and Autumn was too low down and far away to use the dining table. I don’t think you’d want to use this on a fabric chair (though this is possibly true of all travel high chairs, unless you have an unusually tidy baby!).
Is it easy to keep the seat clean?
No, but it is easy to wash. The instructions recommend laying a cloth over seats that might stain or don’t wipe down easily, and I’d second that. As it’s made of fabric, the Totseat needs to be washed, whereas plastic chairs can just be wiped down. I washed mine in a normal 40 degree mixed wash and it came out looking like new, and dried quickly.
However, if your baby is at a super-messy stage as mine is, and you think you’ll be using your Totseat a lot, you could perhaps invest in two, so you always have a clean one to hand. You could also invest in some over-sized bibs if you don’t want the washing machine on constantly.
Is the Totseat portable?
Very, I loved the fact I could easily throw it in the car or stash under the buggy. If you’re the kind of mum who’s happy using a sling, you’ll find it a doddle. It’s a great lightweight option for mums, say, who often visit grandparents who don’t have space to store a full-size highchair, or those who frequently travel. I’m definitely taking mine on holiday with me this summer.
How was the Totseat when out and about?
I tried the Totseat in local coffee shops: first on a chunky square wooden chair. By now I had the knack, and managed to get the seat and Autumn in place in seconds. And again Autumn enjoyed being at the same level as me.
I also tried it on a large metal and plastic patio chair in the sunshine; both are broader, deeper seat with arms, but this time the Totseat only just fitted onto the chair’s corners. But the deeper seat meant the fabric didn’t need to be folded back and it felt quick and easy to use.
Made For Mums verdict:
It’s easy to use, once you’ve practiced a couple of times, and feels robust, good quality and hardwearing – in fact, it comes with a lifetime’s guarantee. It fells safe and secure and crucially my baby seemed happy in it. At RRP £24.50, it’s good value and in line with the cost of many other travel high chairs, though some are inevitably cheaper.
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