In my last article, I talked about why you shouldn’t buy baby walkers. Before we begin exploring alternatives to baby walkers, let’s begin by recapping the reasons behind this advice:
- Baby walkers have emerged as a significant cause of injuries in infants. According to a recent study, between 1990 and 2014, over 230,000 children under 15 months required emergency department visits due to injuries associated with baby walkers.1
- These devices place your little ones perilously close to potential hazards. Instances have been reported where babies rolled into hot stoves, heaters, or pools while using walkers.
- Finally, there has been a mixed debate regarding the potential delay in children’s walking abilities caused by baby walkers. However, researchers often advise against their use.2
- Canada3 has taken a stringent stance on this issue, completely banning baby walkers due to concerns related to infant development and safety.
Therefore, you may be wondering, “What are the safer options then?” In this article, I will present six safer and more effective alternatives to baby walkers, and I will also assess their efficiency in promoting your little one’s growth.
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Safer and Effective Alternatives to Baby Walkers
Baby walkers often seem to be safe for babies, but some potential threats come with their use. These walkers have wheels that increase speed and might hurt your babies. Plus, they raise heights that potentially allow them to reach dangerous objects or burn themselves.
Given the injuries and risks associated with their use, both parents and medical professionals are voicing their concerns and advocating against them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has gone as far as saying “Baby walkers are never safe to use, even with an adult close by.”4 Additionally, some countries have gone as far as to ban the manufacturing of these products.
However, as a parent, you may still be looking for ways to help your baby learn to walk or to improve mobility for your little one. Fortunately, there are several substitutes for baby walkers that you can consider.
Here’s a compiled list in descending order, from the most effective to the least.
1. Baby Jumpers
Similar to a baby walker, at first glance, a baby jumper is a device that is used by infants to exercise and play. This device consists of hoops suspended by an elastic strap and your baby just sits on this.
Baby jumpers have a sturdy base made of hard plastic. The jumper comes with a sitting frame of a suspended fabric seat with two leg holes. A few jumpers additionally come with trays to hold toys.
Here’s a cute video of some kids enjoying their time while sitting in baby jumpers.
It is a perfect alternative for active babies who are at their early walking stage. However, the downside to baby jumper stations is that they’re difficult to store. They are not easily collapsible and take up a lot of space.
The shape of the seat is almost identical to that of the walker. Unfortunately, it doesn’t entirely support your baby and the prolonged use may cause discomfort.
Yet, it is a great alternative as the design and feel are comfortable. The jumpers have an added safety factor of being stationary. This means, there is a lesser risk of accidents.
There are two versions of jumpers:
- Freestanding jumpers
It’s an all-in-one structure with straps that attach the jumping gaps to in-built rods. It’s comparatively bigger and can be placed anywhere around the house.
- Doorway jumpers
These are the sling ones that clamp to the top of the doorway. Although such jumpers take less space, they can be inconvenient when placed along a regular pathway.
2. Baby Activity Centers
Activity centers come in many forms. One of the typical ones is an ExerSaucer. The design is a combination of both the baby walker and stationary jumper. What sets it apart is its unique base.
The activity center comes with a baby entertainment package that reduces your worry about moving here and there. As they’re typically fitted with a tray, you can use them effectively during tummy time.
Unlike baby walkers, activity centers do not provide as much freedom of movement. While some seats may offer a slight bounce, it may not be sufficient.
Still, the activity center is an attractive alternative for infants who are just beginning to explore the world of toys.
3. Push Walker or Toys
A push walker toy is a standing tool that lets your baby stand behind and pull up to standing. Such walkers become convenient when your child is ready. Not only that, but a push walker also encourages your child to coordinate their movement.
The right push walkers are useful for skills such as tummy time, sitting practice, pull-to-stand, and more. Additionally, the walkers help in building confidence in standing and stepping for some children.
When using a push walker for your child, it’s important to supervise. Sometimes, a push walker may move quickly on surfaces, resulting in the child’s toes rising or leaning forward.
Tip: You can use a weight strapped to the bottom front to slow down and maintain control.
Also Read: How to Get Baby to Sleep in the Crib
4. Play Mats or Baby Play Gym
These are essentially flat foam or padded fabric-safe surfaces for baby playtime. These activity mats5 offer a safe and hygienic space that contributes to toddler development. They even include various materials, toys, and activities to promote a baby’s developmental benefits.
In addition to facilitating walking, play mats promote cognitive growth6 in babies and encourage actions such as interaction and play.
Additionally, parents can also teach visual perception, grasping skills, self-awareness techniques, and basic motor functions. Hence, play mats are the safest baby walker alternatives without wheels.
Furthermore, parents can use play mats to teach visual perception, grasping skills, self-awareness techniques, and basic motor functions. Therefore, play mats serve as the safest baby walker alternatives without wheels.
5. Ride-on Toys
Another way to add a twist to your baby’s regular walking routine is by using ride-on toys. These toys entertain and enhance motor skills, sensory intelligence, and social skills for your little one. They promote gross motor skills by encouraging balance and coordination. Moreover, ride-on toys boost confidence as they help toddlers navigate independently.
Ride-on toys foster independence among toddlers, enabling them to propel and steer themselves. As your little ones figure out how to mount their toy, they can navigate around obstacles or get moving again when they’re stuck. This way, toddlers actively engage in problem-solving.
You can even use these toys outdoors, such as in parks or play areas, to develop social skills. Some toys you can use include:
- Toddler Scooters
- Toy Cars
Your little one learns to share, cooperate, and engage in play scenarios that nurture interpersonal skills and empathy.
6. Walking Rings
When your little one reaches the developmental stage, you, as a parent, might need a short break from the busy walking training. However, we don’t suggest you take your eyes off your baby’s activities. Walking rings can be a good alternative.
Walking rings encourage toddlers to walk on their toes and eventually reach a developmental milestone. Through walking, your little one develops strength in the arm and shoulder muscles, which are crucial for fine and gross motor skills.
These toys also help establish sequencing, increase hand and finger strength, and aid in developing sensory skills.
However, most doctors and pediatricians don’t recommend7 using them with younger kids or relying entirely on walking rings, as they are advanced toys that can disrupt natural growth.”
Recommended Reading: How To Make Your Crib Mattress Comfortable
Safety Considerations While Choosing Alternatives to Baby Walker
While baby walkers have been a popular choice for many parents, their safety is questionable. According to a CPSC report, in just 2019 an estimated 3,000 children were treated in the emergency room for injuries related to baby walkers.
Fortunately, there are now more alternatives to explore for your child.
Here are some points to consider before choosing the right alternative:
- Baby-proof your home to provide a safe space for your little one to explore and play.
- Read reviews and check CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) recalls to ensure safety.
- Since most walkers are larger than average toys, select an alternative that isn’t an eyesore and fits nicely in your home.
- Seek recommendations from fellow parent communities when choosing the proper alternative.
- Consider the materials, educational, and entertainment value included in such toys, as they come in diverse and easy-to-use options.
- Examine features like sensory play and their environmental impact, as they help strengthen your child’s language, fine motor, cognitive skills, and gross motor skills. Plus, they make walking enjoyable!
Parental Perspectives on Baby Walker Alternatives
Among the myriad of alternatives, different parents choose options based on their circumstances. These choices are influenced by factors such as personal preferences, budget constraints, and more. Some parents have expressed a preference for push toys over walkers.
But you know what? I took a slightly different approach! DIY cardboard served as my baby’s walking companion during our journey through parenthood. However, my child was so excited that I quickly switched to a sturdier one! (haha)
A few parents8 have had lengthy discussions with their in-laws about the use of walkers. They shared their experiences:
I had to thoroughly explain to my in-laws why walkers can be unsafe! Thankfully, they’re understanding people and respected our choices. They come from the perspective of ‘we used them, and our kids turned out fine!’
While some parents engaged in extended conversations with their in-laws, others took the initiative to explore the right alternatives based on recommendations from friends.9 They allowed the search to take its course and shared:
We never considered buying an expensive walker or a lavish toy. Our primary concern was teaching our kids to take their first steps and promote their motor development. So, we reached out to several friends and purchased a push walker. Now, my child cruises and runs with it, leaving both of us tired but secretly fit, haha!
Final Takeaway on Alternatives of Baby Walkers
Much like smartphones and electrical gadgets, baby products are continuously advancing. Therefore, exploring and relying on various options can be highly beneficial.
These alternatives promote physical growth and enhance sensory awareness, allowing babies to become more attentive and begin developing cognitive abilities early on.
However, different alternatives affect babies differently. Therefore, it’s crucial to supervise and use trial-and-error methods to find the right fit for your little one!
References and Footnotes:
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30224365/ ↩︎
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5703622/ ↩︎
- https://recalls-rappels.canada.ca/en/alert-recall/health-canada-warns-cylele-mgg-and-vagilo-baby-walkers-may-pose-risk-injury ↩︎
- https://publications.aap.org/patiented/article-abstract/doi/10.1542/ ↩︎
- https://www.smallsmart.co.uk/blogs/news/what-is-a-play-mat ↩︎
- https://www.famokids.com/en-ca/blogs/community/developmental-benefits-of-using-a-baby-play-mat ↩︎
- https://clicks.co.za/baby-advice-blog/view/Should-you-buy-your-baby-a-walking-ring ↩︎
- https://www.reddit.com/r/NewParents/comments/yjn2az/to_get_the_walker_or_no_walker_alternatives/ ↩︎
- https://www.reddit.com/r/BabyBumpsandBeyondAu/comments/11qo4n6/activity_centre_walker_recommendations_outgrown/ ↩︎