Cushy or Colorful, Metal or Swivel, the Best Kids’ Desk Chairs Are Top of the Class
They’ll support your child’s dynamic schedule.
Published Dec 21, 2021 1:02 AM
A good desk chair with great back support is a key element in any workspace. But a great desk chair? It provides not just strong lumbar support but has that elusive element: style. Whether they’re bold and colorful or techy and almost futuristic, an ideal desk chair ties a home office together while helping you be your best professional self.
And, yes, the same goes for kids’ desk chairs, but with a few notable differences. The importance of ergonomic elements—armrests and backrests, tilting seats, and adjustable heights—are usually lost on petite bodies and active minds. Compared to adults, kids typically have a more dynamic schedule (how many times do they jump up or settle down in an hour?!) and engage in a broader range of activities. “Kids don’t tend to need hard-core ergonomic design with added lumbar support and all the bells and whistles that some adult office chairs come with,” says California-based Megan Dufresne of interior design firm MC Design. But with that said, children do still need a comfy seat that provides at least some degree of support, so we searched the market for the best kids’ desk chairs, from easy-to-clean metal to comfy and cushioned. (Note: All dimensions are given as height-by-width-by-depth.)
- Best cushioned: Crate & Kids White Horse Kids Desk Chair
- Best colors: Ferm Living Little Architect Chair
- Best metal: Pillowfort Metal Desk Chair
- Best wheeled/swivel: West Elm x Pottery Barn Kids Modern Slope Swivel Task Chair
- Best plywood: Nuki O Flex Children’s Chair
- Best retro: Les Gambettes Little Suzie Chair
- Best value: IKEA Orfjall Chair
- Best wood: Domino x Crate & Kids Wood Desk Chair with Metal Legs
Best Cushioned: Crate & Kids White Horse Kids Desk Chair by Leanne Ford
Material: Polyester bouclé fabric, solid beech, and engineered wood | Dimensions: 25.5-by-20.5-by-19.5 inches | Additional features: Cushioned seat
What we like:
- Thoughtful midcentury-inspired design is appropriate for all ages
- Clear lacquer coating on wood protects against wear and tear
- Solid beech construction
- Appropriate for children ages 3 and up
- Legs protrude out from back of chair
Why we chose it: Mid-century design and a comfy, cushioned seat make this wood and bouclé desk chair an instant favorite.
It’s all clean lines and comfy fabrics when it comes to this armchair from Crate & Kids’s collaboration with designer (and mom) Leanne Ford. A curved back and round wood arms and legs create a sense of playfulness and movement, and the back legs are splayed out for a fun and unexpected touch. The seat, made of a chunky cushion upholstered in a cream-colored textured bouclé fabric, has a great tactile quality to it for kids, but its neutral, solid color keeps it from overstimulating the eye. The chair works well when paired with both wood and painted furniture, and we think it’s so elegant that you could pull it out for extra guests, and tween or teenagers will want to keep it around.
Best Colors: Ferm Living Little Architect Chair
Material: Solid ash wood and ash veneer with MDF core | Dimensions: 20.5 -by-13-by-12 inches
What we like:
- Available in eight fun and playful colors
- Solid ash-wood construction
- Coordinates with other pieces in the Little Architect collection
- Seat height of about 12 inches is sized for children under the age of about 8 to 10
- Does not provide lower-back support for longer hours of sitting
Why we chose it: It’s got all the benefits of a solid wood desk chair, with the fun of eight different colors, ranging from zippy, bold hues to refined neutrals.
We’re suckers for the clean lines and color options of Dutch design purveyor Ferm Living and its Little Architect line of furniture, which includes a table, desk, bench, and chair. The collection has been designed so that the pieces (and colors) can be mixed and matched, thanks to their consistent proportions and palette. This chair is available in eight colorways: bordeaux red, dark green, dark blue, rose pink, medium gray, taupe cashmere, and poppy red. It has a bar back and no arms, making it easy to slide in and out under the matching desk or table.
Best Metal: Pillowfort Metal Desk Chair
Material: Powder-coated steel | Dimensions (overall): 26.5-by- 20.5-by-21 inches | Additional features: Wipeable surface
What we like:
- Great neutral colors to choose from (black, moody dark blue, and white)
- Durable powder-coated metal finish
- Clean and minimal design
- No integrated cushion at seat
- Seat at 18 inches means it’s sized for older children
Why we chose it: A lightweight, sturdy frame of powder-coated steel makes this a desk chair that’s both supportive and scrubbable.
From Target’s Pillowfort collection, a collaboration with award-winning children’s book illustrator and author Christian Robinson, comes this kids’ desk chair that is light and durable thanks to its powder-coated metal body and seat. Available in three neutral colors (white, black, and a deep moody blue), its simple, sleek form means it works in just about any space, whether that’s a bedroom, playroom, or dedicated study area. Its armrests provide elbow support if needed, and we love how easy the glossy metallic finish is to clean. Make it matchy-matchy with a coordinating desk from the same line, switch it up with a different color, or pair it with something else entirely.
Best Wheeled/Swivel: West Elm x Pottery Barn Kids Modern Slope Swivel Task Chair
Material: Steel, polyester | Dimensions (overall): 37-by-34-by-27 inches | Additional features: 360-degree swivel and adjustable height
What we like:
- Great back support
- Seat height adjusts with hydraulic lever from 19 to 22.5 inches high
- Sturdy steel base with smooth-rolling casters that rotate 360 degrees
- Not ideal for messy kids; seat and back are both upholstered
Why we chose it: This chair’s 360-degree swivel ability and adjustable height won us over before a single spin.
You might think that the benefits of a swivel chair—switching from side to side of a large desk, moving from computer monitor to computer monitor—might be lost on a kid, but we’re here to tell you that the functionality of a swivel chair is for everyone. “Although younger kids will benefit more from the stability of a fixed chair, older children who are starting to multitask will benefit from a swivel chair,” says Mark Cutler of Los Angeles–based interior design firm Cutler Schulze. We love this chair’s swivel and the adjustable height that lets the chair grow with your child. Oh, and we’re also big fans of the two colorways available: a light feather gray that works as an easy neutral and a funky dark horseradish that adds some flavor to the mix.
Best Plywood: Nuki O Flex Children’s Chair
Material: Birch plywood | Dimensions: 22-by-16-by-12 inches | Additional features: Handles on either side
What we like:
- Available in white or natural finish
- Sturdy construction of plywood coated with clear water-based lacquer or nontoxic paint
- Coordinates with other pieces from Nuki, including a desk, bed, swing, and more
- No cushioning
- Nonadjustable legs or seat
Why we chose it: Exposed edges reign supreme for this kids’ desk chair that plays up its plywood construction.
They say design is in the details, and that’s definitely the case for this kids’ desk chair designed by Polish brand Nuki, which specializes in minimalist children’s furniture made out of birch plywood. All of the corners on the chair are curved, avoiding sharp edges and creating a kid-friendly, smooth surface—not to mention an optical illusion! From the front or back, the chair appears simple and uniform in material and silhouette, but the view from the side emphasizes its plywood assembly, outlining each of the chair’s surfaces with an exposed edge that reveals the layering of the birch plywood. The chair, like its matching desk, is available in the natural palette of plywood, but we love the graphic nature of the white version.
Best Retro: Les Gambettes Little Suzie Chair
Material: Beechwood, steel base | Dimensions: 23-by-12-by-14 inches | Additional features: Wipeable surface
What we like:
- Eight color options: white, blue, coral, lemon yellow, khaki, mint green, powder pink, pearl gray, peacock blue
- Compatible with the Régine Children’s Desk
- Black detailing, including floor gliders
- Seat sits at about 12 inches off the ground and was designed for kids ages 3 to 6
Why we chose it: We were swept away by the charm, colors, and cuteness of this 1950s-inspired kids’ desk chair.
If retro is your style (we mean, ahem, that of your kid), look no further than this adorable seat from the French duo behind design company Les Gambettes (literal translation: “little legs”!). Like many of its pieces, the Little Suzie chair is designed with a vintage flair that is inspired by classic schoolhouse desk chairs of the 1950s and is constructed out of colorful laminate applied to sustainably harvested wood, all sitting on steel legs. We’re particularly big fans of the proper back support it provides. And rest assured if you love it—the company does indeed make a similar chair sized for adults!
Best Value: IKEA Orfjall Chair
Material: Steel (seat and frame), polypropylene and polyurethane foam (seat pad), polyester fabric (seat cover) | Dimensions: 33-by-21-by-21 inches | Additional features: Cushioned seat, 360-degree swivel, height adjustable
What we like:
- Adjustable seat, caster wheels, and swivel ability
- High-quality density foam in the seat for ample cushioning
- High back provides good lumbar support
- Recommended for ages 6 to 12
- Nonremovable cover
Why we chose it: Homework just got a little more bearable, thanks to this adjustable swivel chair at an affordable price point.
For the serious sitters in your life who can draw for hours, we recommend something that swivels for maximum efficiency. This chair from IKEA offers flexibility with its adjustable height and swiveling seat, not to mention the comfort of the cushioned seat and back. Its simple, airy shape keeps it from feeling too techy and grown-up, and its three colorways (light blue, light pink, and light gray) work in a variety of spaces and color palettes. If you’re concerned about the chair rolling away, know that the casters have a safety mechanism that keeps it in place. It will also automatically release when your kid sits down. Phew.
Material: Engineered wood with ash-wood veneer (seat), polyester and acrylic bouclé fabric (cushion), powder-coated metal (base) | Dimensions: 33-by-21-by-22 inches | Additional features: Cushioned seat
What we like:
- Thoughtful mixture of materials
- Good back support and cushion for comfort
- Gender-neutral color works in a variety of spaces
- Price point is on the higher end
- Seat is not sized for very young children
Why we chose it: A joyful pop of color and mixed materials enliven this kids’ desk chair.
There’s something about the mix of color and materials that feels just right with the desk chair we designed with Crate & Kids—and we’re not just tooting our own horn here. We think it nails the Venn diagram of comfort, back support, style, and durability, with a seat made out of engineered wood covered with ash veneer (easy to clean!) and a bouclé fabric covering the seat cushion (oh so cozy!). The high back provides that necessary support, and the slim metal legs are coated in a bright, citrusy orange tone, giving the chair an unexpected but much appreciated bit of personality. (It even looks good from the back.) We could picture it tucked under a wood desk, in multiples at a craft table, or even alone in a corner next to a good book.
How We Chose These Products
Design and aesthetics always play an important part in our decision-making. In fact, when we vetted our selections for the best kids’ desk chairs, these two factors were just as important as the practical side of things, like proper back support, durable materials, and easy-to-clean surfaces. Color palettes, budget, and adjustability were also top of mind, balancing affordability and appearance. And our experts, from educators to interior designers, agree: It’s not form over function but instead form and function when it comes to the best workspaces for your child.
Design and Shape
If you’re looking for the best desk chair for your child, you might initially think that you need a mini version of your own. But our experts caution that’s not quite the case. Elements such as armrests, which provide critical elbow support when spending the day typing away at a computer, might actually prevent a child from sitting properly. “A desk chair that does not have armrests allows a child to tuck it all the way in, ensuring good posture and proper back support,” says interior designer Becc Burgmann of Becc Burgmann Interior Design, who also has a background in education. And on the topic of good back support: Make sure the chair has a high, sturdy, and comfortable back for them to lean against.
When it comes to aesthetics, a desk chair should go with a room’s overall design in terms of both style and color scheme, recommends Jessica Welling of Jessica Welling Interiors. “Kids’ chairs come in a lot of fun colors, so I often try to choose something that will stand out but still fit in with the room’s color scheme,” she adds.
Material and Overall Quality
Durability is the way to go when it comes to this category. “I tend to navigate toward strong materials that will withstand some wear and tear and work with the overall design for the space we are creating,” explains Megan Dufresne, principal designer at MC Design. Look for materials like wood and powder-coated steel that fit the bill in terms of both longevity and ease of cleaning. And for desk chairs that have upholstered seats, our experts recommend wipeable surfaces like vinyl, faux leather, or performance fabrics designed to stand the wear and tear of art projects and lots of movement.
“Kids don’t generally spend hours on end sitting in one position at their desks,” Wellington points out. “They get up and move around a lot more than adults.” With that in mind, ergonomics is still important. You’ll want to make sure that the depth of the chair is appropriate for your child so that they can sit with their back against the back of the chair and their knees off the edge. That way, they have the appropriate lumbar support they need, and their feet can hang down toward the ground or even reach it, depending on their size and that of the chair. If you’ve found a chair that fits them properly, “sitting well and comfortably will help a kid focus and learn better,” comments Cutler. What’s more, “it’s never too early to start teaching your kids about posture!” he adds.
If there’s anything that all kids do, it’s growing. And so the desire for a desk chair (and clothes and beds and shoes…we could go on!) that grows with them is normal. “A desk that can adjust in height is amazing because it can lead to better posture and ultimately make the desk more useful over a longer period of time,” says Cutler. While that’s certainly the case, not all chairs are adjustable, so make sure you’re checking in every so often that your child is sitting comfortably. If their feet touch the ground and their knees are at less than 90 degrees (like when you’re riding a bike that’s too small and your knees feel like they’re in your neck!), it’s time to size up.
Despite their mobility, interior designers and educators generally do not recommend using folding chairs as long-term solutions for kids’ desk chairs because of their lack of durability and ergonomic form. Most folding chairs are designed to be lightweight and relatively flat for space-saving purposes, so they’re not exactly designed to accommodate a human body for extended periods of time (comfortably, anyway!). If you’re worried about saving space, “a chair without arms that can be tucked under a desk when not in use isn’t going to take up much space at all,” advises Burgmann, and there are plenty of kids’ desk chairs that have wheels or are lightweight enough to pick up and move.
Q: Does my child really need an ergonomic chair?
“Children don’t spend as long at a desk as adults (at least they shouldn’t!), so I don’t think spending money on an ergonomic chair is necessary,” asserts Burgmann. However, she adds, “their desk chairs do need to be set at the right height, be comfortable, have a back for support, and be easy to use.” Kids (and adults, really) should be taking regular breaks where they stand up from their desks, she points out. It can be helpful to encourage children to do specific tasks like homework at their desk, but then suggest they read curled up on the couch or tummy-down on the floor to stretch their bodies and strengthen other muscles.
Q: In the era of remote schooling, which type of chair is best for long periods of sitting?
Most professionals we spoke with acknowledged that it’s not ideal for children to be sitting in the same spot for extended periods of time, but that’s not always an option if they’re attending school remotely. You’ll want to find something that has good back support, for sure, but also a chair that has a cushioned seat: one with firm padding, says interior designer Shana Francesca, founder of Cincinnati. A seat that’s not hard but firm, she notes, will be more supportive. “Really soft cushions collapse and condense after 15 to 30 minutes of sitting,” she points out, so go for something that has a balance of giving and firmness.
Q: Are swivel chairs safe for children?
Swivel chairs get a bad rap for being unsafe for children, but our experts are on the same page: They are generally fine for most kids, depending on their age. “Younger kids will benefit from more stability of a fixed chair, while older ones who are starting to multitask will benefit from a swivel,” explains Cutler. Instead we recommend avoiding a chair with wheels for young children (“You know it will be used as a toy!” warns Welling) and setting boundaries for older kids. The novelty of a chair that moves will eventually wear off.
The Last Word
If you’re looking for the best desk chair for your child, you’ll want to think about how they’ll be using the seat: Is it a place for short spans of time devoted to crafts and coloring or is it the locus of learning for hours at a time during remote school? Depending on their activities and their age, different features like a cushioned seat, a wipeable surface, or adjustable height might be just what they need. But regardless of what you’re looking for, lumbar support and a touch of personality are key, and these chairs hit all those marks.
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