This high chair was not provided to me for review purposes; I bought it (on sale) with my hard-earned money so all my opinions are truly and honestly my own.
When Nicky reached high chair age I had fully planned for him to use Gwen’s hand-me-down Ikea Blames high chair. It was secondhand but Gwen had no problems using it, so I didn’t anticipate Nicky would have trouble either. Unfortunately, he HATED the chair. He would throw himself around in it so hard he’d hurt himself and cry too much to even eat, defeating to purpose of putting him in the dang thing in the first place. Even tucking pillows around him didn’t help. I decided he should have his own high chair, something with a higher back, some cushioning and a 5-point harness with shoulder straps to stop him from flailing around quite so much. Something that fit my aesthetic would also be a bonus. In late April I saw that the Skip Hop Tuo Convertible High Chair was on sale at well.ca, and I liked the look of it so I scooped it up.
Obviously, the best thing about this high chair is the look of it. The beechwood legs, the two-tone grey seat and the modern silhouette are all things to love about this chair. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want the things in your space, even baby gear, possibly especially baby gear, to look good to you. For me, this chair was one of those things.
It’s also easy to keep the chair looking good, because most of the parts: the seat, reversible seat pad, tray and legs, made from hard plastic, vinyl, or wood, all wipe clean very well. I was actually a little worried about the seat pad staining, as one side is white, but so far it hasn’t been a problem at all. The tray, with a removable, dishwasher-safe insert, is easy to attach, adjust and remove using one hand. I do wish the tray was a little larger (it’s too small to accommodate even a mini ezpz placemat/plate) but that’s not a huge problem for me.
The outer shell of the seat is hard plastic that so far has been proven durable and strong. In spite of the plastic shell and wooden legs the chair is very lightweight and easy to move- the handle on the back of the seat is a nice touch that makes it even easier- and even lift if, for example, you need to shake it out over the sink.
I also like the fact that the high chair transforms into a toddler chair, so Nicky will be able to use it for longer than just a couple of years, and with such an attractive look to the seat I’m happy to keep it around as long as I can. This also helps to ameliorate the cost, as this chair was not cheap; regular price is around $200CDN, although as I stated above I did get it on sale.
Now, because of this future toddler chair conversion, there are a few aspects in the design of this chair that are a little… weird. I understand WHY they are the way they are, and they are not necessarily dealbreakers, but I don’t have to like them.
Number one on my list of problems is the layout of the harness. In a regular, non-convertible high chair with shoulder straps, those straps would usually attach near the top of the seat back because they go over the baby’s shoulders. On this seat, the shoulder straps attach at the BOTTOM of the seat back, which means that a) they are a little more prone to tangling, and b) they don’t keep Nicky sitting quite as still as I’d hoped. It’s obvious that Skip Hop made this choice so that once converted from the high chair configuration to the toddler chair there aren’t awkward looking holes high up in the seat back. I get it.
Next up in awkward design choices is the tray. Instead of being part of the seat, the post that goes between the baby’s legs to keep them from slipping forward & out is part of the tray, obviously once again to preserve the look of the seat as a toddler chair. However, this means that when you remove the tray you can’t put it down flat and right side up. You either have to balance it on an angle (and I find it falls over quite often) or put it face-down, which, if the tray is dirty, makes a huge mess. You can of course take out the removable insert which would theoretically have the bulk of the mess on it, but pulling the insert out often causes any food scraps to go flying. Additionally it took Nicky only about five weeks to realize he could pull the insert out himself and send it, and everything on it, onto the floor in one fell swoop.
THE FATAL FLAW
I mentioned up above that most of the parts of this high chair were easy to clean. I say “most” because there is ONE aspect that is a true pain to wash: The straps. You can wipe the nylon webbing of the 5-point harness sort of clean, but to get it TRULY clean, every now and then you’d need to remove the harness from the chair, wash it and put it back in. And here’s the kicker: You can’t. YOU CAN’T.
I feel like there are a few different designs for high chair harnesses to make them removable and re-insertable. With this chair, Skip Hop instead made the mind-bogglingly terrible choice of making the straps very very difficult to remove and, once removed, nearly impossible to put back. And like… this is Baby Gear 101 stuff. Fabric parts that get very dirty should be easy to clean, and if they need to be removed to be cleaned, they should be easy to remove. Anything else is pure amateur hour.
For the first few months that we owned the Tuo this wasn’t a huge issue, and I was able to keep the straps mostly clean, although they did develop a few stains. Then, in late August, one day when Nicky was in his high chair wearing only a diaper (something I think is common for a lot of babies to do, especially messy eaters in the summer months) the unthinkable happened: a blowout. A truly nasty and gnarly, wet and squelchy diaper blowout of horrorshow proportions. Poop. Everywhere. Including all over the hard-to-clean and not-really-removable high chair harness! Like I’m sorry if I’m being a little over the top here but I just feel with fecal matter you want to clean it out of fabric a little more thoroughly than just wiping it off, you know? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s how I feel.
Now, since the straps don’t attach to the top of the seat back they do have a lot of slack throughout most of the length and it is possible to put a bowl of soapy water in the seat and soak most of that length to get stains out. I’ve had some luck with this method, especially during berry season. However, the parts of the straps closest to the points where they pass through the seat aren’t soakable in this manner and those were exactly the parts with the worst poo contamination.
Obviously you have to remove the harness in order to do the toddler chair conversion. It’s just really, really, really difficult to do. It probably took me the better part of an hour to work the three back ends of the straps up through the hard shell and styrofoam core of the seat far enough to be able to pull them through the very tight holes of the seat cover. I definitely considered just cutting them more than once, but I still need to use this chair for my baby! It needs to have straps!
Once I finally had the straps out they were a fast and easy handwash and dried quickly, but this was the only part of the process that was fast, easy OR quick. Because next, I had to reinsert the straps into the seat, which is clearly not something that has been taken into consideration with this design. It took at least twice as much time to reinsert the harness as it did to remove it, it required a lot of experimenting with different tools and wasn’t even possible to do without some damage to the interior of the seat. The biggest problem is the channels through the seat that the strap ends have to pass through are not straight down. They run at an angle, and the openings are quite tight, meaning you can’t just drop the strap through. I had to use a butter knife to shove the harness ends through the channels, which somewhat gouged up the styrofoam inside, as well as dislodged some small round pieces of fabric that were inside the the seat serving some unknown purpose. I don’t know what they were for, but they’re gone now. I then needed to use pliers to pull the ends of the straps through the openings in the bottom of the seat, which damaged the fabric of the harness ends somewhat.
If you are considering removing the harness from your SkipHop Tuo high chair to clean it, please please read what I have to say next: DON’T. Don’t do it unless, like me, you have an overwhelming amount of determination and tenacity about not letting inanimate objects get the best of you, as well as an overabundance of free time. This incident took place on a weekend when Taylor and I were both home, but had it happened during the week when we were working I feel like the Tuo would be in the trasho right now. If you’ve already pulled the straps from your Tuo and are now frantically googling “Tuo high chair straps removed how to put back help disaster,” congratulations on finding my blog! Good luck, and godspeed.
In the honeymoon phase of owning this high chair I recommended it to a lot of people, and to any of them who bought this chair or put it on their registries, I would like to apologize. I’m sorry. What happened to us (POOP) was kind of a worst-case scenario but I think there are quite a few different things that could be spilled or mushed or forcefully ejected from a human body onto the high chair that would necessitate a more thorough cleaning of the harness, and I pray this never happens to any of you. Since I was able to get mine back together I am going to continue using this chair but overall I feel I can no longer recommend the Skip Hop Tuo Convertible High Chair unless it goes through a major redesign of the harness straps and the way they attach to the seat.
As one final note, I did try to contact Skip Hop about the problem I was having and I can’t say I was thrilled with their customer service either. Maybe it’s different in the US but in Canada it’s really not great. The contact form on the website has a dropdown menu of subjects you have to choose from and none of them really applied to my situation- there’s no option for “other.” The customer service number on the site is purely for Carters/Osh Kosh B’Gosh and the number I was given for SkipHop (1-877-4-SKIPHOP) was incorrect. When I managed to guess the correct number ((1-877-4-SKIPHO lolol omg), once I navigated the menu system it sent me to voicemail and my call was not returned. I did receive a response to an email sent directly to their customer service email address, but it was a pretty generic “send us a picture of the damaged or defective item” message, and the problem I had wasn’t damage or a defect, it’s an actual flaw in the design of the item. I can’t imagine they’re willing to send me a whole new high chair every time Nicky makes a mess in his so I didn’t bother replying.