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The most important considerations when selecting a high chair tray are safety for the baby sitting in the high chair, as well as the ease of removal and cleaning. In most cases, the high chair tray will not be purchased separately from the high chair; individuals will only need to purchase a new tray if the original one breaks, or if they are restoring an old high chair. In these cases, it is very important to be sure the old high chair meets current safety standards for babies; the chair should be certified as safe by a government agency.
Most high chair trays are designed similarly, with a raised lip around the edge of the tray to prevent food from rolling off onto the floor, and a flat bottom with a locking mechanism to hold the tray onto the arms of the seat. Any high chair tray must be able to lock onto the arms of the high chair, otherwise it is not safe. In general it is better to choose a tray that lifts on and off rather than one that folds up or down; this is because it can be easy for a baby to accidentally catch his or her fingers in a folding mechanism, which could lead to severe injury. In addition, a tray that lifts on and off is easier to clean.
Ease of cleaning is one of the other important considerations for a high chair tray. It is important to be able to clean and disinfect all areas of the tray, so it is a good idea to choose a fairly basic tray without a lot of crevices to catch foods and liquids. Plastic or wooden surfaces tend to be easier to clean and disinfect, as long as the wooden surface is well sealed. Porous or soft surfaces tend to be poor choices for high chairs because they can potentially rip, cause bacteria to grow, and are much more difficult to clean.
It is also important to remember that a high chair tray is not a sufficient safety measure for keeping a baby in the chair; it is far too easy for him or her to slide out from under the tray and fall to the floor. The belt straps that are provided with a chair should always be used. If the chair is too old and does not include these restraints, it is necessary to purchase a newer, safer model.