I'm not a lover of keeping our toddler confined to her highchair during the day (though I'd absolutely LOVE it if she would last a whole night in her cot), but there are times when I need to keep our little trouble-magnet in her chair just for a short while. Meal times, for example, or when everything is going crazy and I just need ten minutes where I know she's in a safe place while I keep stirring that risotto....
I've tried different highchair toys to keep her amused during these moments, and they all did the job for a short while before they were, usually forcefully, rejected. Then one day it occurred to me that the tray on T-Bird's Ikea Leopard highchair was a lovely chalkboard-esque matt black, and so, in a hallelujah moment, I handed her some chalk.
This is quite possibly the laziest Ikea hack in the world - with absolutely no effort at all, I had instantly created a toddler blackboard on which T-Bird could doodle away to her hearts' content.
Best of all, it can be wiped off again just as quickly with a wet wipe or a bit of damp kitchen towel. And as the clean up is almost as much fun as the mess-making, T-Bird is happy to do that bit for me too!
For a variation on the fun, I'll cover the board in chalky colours and then hand her a damp paintbrush, or a dry brush and her sippy cup for sprinkling water. Hey presto, it's now a chalk-paint canvas
So highchair time no longer feels like it's time to lock up my daughter; now, it's time for her to have easy-clean messy play. She's mark making, expressing herself, practicing fine motor skills and learning her colours, keeping her happy and occupied for at least twice as long as before. Which means I can actually focus on the stove or ironing or other toddler-unfriendly tasks with a clear conscience. Hurrah!