The moment your little one steps into the world, your thoughts and emotions brim with new ideas, priorities, and a pathway filled with milestones.
I can’t wait to see my child walking back and forth to explore the world!
These sentiments often resonate with you whenever you encounter a new walker or a toy designed for your little one.
However, advanced-tech toys can instill fear in new mothers. Being a mother myself, I, too, faced this anxious situation! While I may not be considered old-fashioned, technologically advanced equipment always gave me that artificial feel.
So, when I had my early pregnancy days, excitement filled me. Yet, I questioned – “Are these hazards, or am I being paranoid?“
Nevertheless, these easy-going infant walkers and wagons provide great support but are not entirely foolproof. Let’s dig in to know why!
Table of Contents
What are Baby Walkers?
Originally, humankind invented this device to make walking easier1 for new generations. It is represented as fun equipment used for infants between 4 and 12 months of age worldwide.
They are even marketed as the go-to tool for your child to walk sooner. However, it’s crucial to consider the safety aspects of these infant walkers.
Are Baby Walkers Safe?
While baby walkers can offer support and a sense of independence, relying on them exclusively can be dangerous. Professional research reveals a different perspective that we must consider.
I mean, what could go wrong with a toy that teaches your kid to walk? Well, there’s plenty.
According to research, baby walkers are not safe, and did you know that they’re banned in Canada? Why? Because these devices can pose potential threats to your curious little one.
With that, it brings another question here – why are baby walkers bad for babies?
The new limbs, vision, and senses start experiencing an unknown feeling when they touch the ground. They’re so energetic about exploring that it makes them roll pretty fast. (It can be less than three seconds, ha-ha!) That being said, babies can’t distinguish between the good or bad of movement. They’ll just move along and grab whatever sparks their minds.
That’s why new mothers remain alert!
Potential Threats Associated with Baby Walkers
Despite finding it cute to see your little one rolling, the reality check is different.
Here are the potential threats that you can have from baby walkers.
1. Brings in Injuries and Drowning
A study states that from 1990 to 2014, nearly 230,000+ children under 15 months visited emergency departments due to baby walker injuries2. Most injuries involved the head, neck, and limbs. There were even cases in which babies quickly rolled into pools, heaters, or fireplaces.
The biggest fear is that a baby can’t get out of the walker if such a mishap takes place. So, new mommies, be extremely careful when you have a walking session with your kid!
2. Closer to Danger
Other common injuries that were recorded the most are burns, cuts, and others. Walkers can make walking easier for your babies. But, it also adds some height. That way, they can reach higher places and grab things! (Remember: the curious mind!)
And while they’re at their exploration, they can pull over hot beverages or grab sharp objects. Hence, parents are advised to supervise walking adventures closely.
Now that you’re aware of two major threats, you may also have another question – Do walkers delay walking?3 Let’s talk about it.
Do Baby Walkers Delay Walking?
Just like a coin has two sides, baby walkers can have different effects depending on how they are used. There is a chance that prolonged use may lead to poor walking habits. How?
Interestingly, back in 2016, three doctors (Shervin Badihian, Negin Adihian, and Omid Yaghini) conducted research by investigating the huge databases of Medline, EMBASE, Scopus, and Google Scholar.4
Here’s a summary of their findings:
- They took twins in one study5. One used a walker for a few hours each day. The other didn’t use one at all. They didn’t find much of a difference when they started walking.
- They looked at more twins in the next study6. This time, they were only 4 months old. They still didn’t see a big difference in when the babies started walking.
- In the next study7, 66 babies ages 8-12 months took part. Some used an infant walker a lot. Others used one only a little. Some didn’t use one at all. The babies who used a walker a lot learned to crawl just a little later. But, it didn’t affect when they started sitting or walking.
- Another study8 was with 185 babies. Some babies used a walker and some didn’t. They used a test to see how well the babies were developing. A few walker users had some delays. They were mostly in their gross motor skills (like crawling and walking).
- They also had a study with 190 children9. They found that the more a baby used a walker, the later they learned to crawl, pull up, and walk. So, it looked like using a walker a lot could delay a baby’s development.
- Then, there was a new study10. They compared how soon babies could walk. And they also looked at how well babies were doing with some physical tasks. One group of babies used walkers. A different group didn’t. They found that babies who used walkers did start walking a little earlier.
So, in a nutshell, based on the scientific evidence we have at this moment, it is safe to say that baby walkers can delay parts of a baby’s development, but it’s more of a mixed bag than anything.
Regardless, we can think of all this as more proof of how baby walkers might not be the best idea.
Alternatives to Baby Walkers
Then how can you make your little one walk? Here are some ways.
Get Going with Push Walkers/Walker Wagons
“Are push walkers good for babies?” – This might be a question you have. But these push walkers are incredibly different!
Push walkers offer much more than just aiding in walking. They follow a Montessori perspective, enabling a child to actively move from the floor to a standing position. The push walker is useful not only for walking but also for encouraging skills like tummy time, step-taking, and moving into squatting positions from or to the floor. It’s also beneficial for initiating and supporting balance. As your child progresses in locomotion through motor practices, push wagons can also boost confidence in standing and stepping. Moreover, you can create a DIY wagon or use cardboard boxes as makeshift push wagons.
Sitting on a Stool
When your little one can sit unassisted, encourage the use of a baby-sized stool that provides no support. While doing this, ensure you stay close by for safety. The child’s feet should touch the floor, allowing them to push against the stool. Once accustomed, you can move the toy or stool further away to increase their reach and distance, thereby strengthening various muscles. This exercise is excellent for enhancing the strength of your baby’s legs, back, and shoulders.
An exciting method to help your child learn to walk is by ‘cruising’ back and forth alongside a bench. Here’s how to do it – position your child next to the sofa, letting them hold onto you for balance support. Then, gently move back and forth along the furniture, practicing walking. Soon, your child will start to let go of your hand, becoming more engaged in the activity. For added motivation and interest, place your child’s favorite toy nearby.
Parental Reactions to Infant Walkers
Amidst their children’s walking and learning escapades, many parents have become experimental. Before these tools were banned anywhere, several parents used walkers for kids to stand on. My parents, for instance, had a walker and heavy cardboard that my siblings and I used for pushing and learning to walk.
Some parents, including us, couldn’t bear the aftermath of accidents and stopped using the walker following a tragic incident. One parent recounted, “My older one was quite traumatized after witnessing his little buddy being taken to the ER.”
On the other hand, a few parents opted for a blend of walking and natural exercises. They shared:
Walking time was one of our favorite daily activities. Every day, as my wife and I took turns, we both discovered new things. Our kid was learning to communicate, becoming more curious and admittedly a bit moody! But once he fully learned, he didn’t stop. It turned into grand playtime and a fulfilling break.
While they were in this, parents faced issues with their babies exhibiting tip-toe walking11. That’s when these parents used walkers and push wagons temporarily to help the babies walk flat and find full mobility.
Conclusion on Baby Walker Safety
Walkers and new toys are fascinating to use.
However, we’re not fully in a phase where we can completely rely on these. Therefore, I would encourage you to avoid using baby walkers considering all the safety issues.
In my honest opinion, babies don’t need anything special. You can extract even the best from a leftover box!
But, if you’re still considering walkers, read the reviews and test them thoroughly. While using these, don’t overlook physical exercises. Such exercises are essential for strengthening bones and muscles and maintaining a healthy body.
That’s all! Hope this article helps you find the right fit for your little one!
References and Footnotes:
- https://doi.org/10.1136%2Fip.7.3.223 ↩︎
- https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01957011 ↩︎
- https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/bjcn.2002.7.11.10889 ↩︎
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5703622/ ↩︎
- https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1977.45.3f.1323 ↩︎
- https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1982.55.3f.1201 ↩︎
- https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-8749.1986.tb03929.x ↩︎
- https://doi.org/10.1136%2Fip.3.1.63 ↩︎
- http://hdl.handle.net/10400.15/3774 ↩︎
- https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282834953_The_influence_of_baby_walker_usage_in_the_sensory_motor_motor_development_of_children_at_schools_in_early_childhood_education ↩︎
- https://journals.eco-vector.com/turner/article/view/6106 ↩︎