Children’s physiotherapists and many other health professions do not recommend the use of baby walkers. By this I mean the walkers on wheels where a baby sits in the middle and can scoot around, usually before they have begun to walk or even sit and crawl. Children will enjoy sitting in them as it gives them the mobility they often crave and it gives parents another option of keeping baby busy.
The reason we urge parents not to use walkers are twofold.
Firstly they are dangerous, a baby walker can move up to 7mph; over 4000 injuries from baby walkers are reported each year, this includes, burns and scalds , head injuries, falling down steps and stairs and getting limbs trapped.
Secondly they do not help a baby walk and research shows they can hinder normal development. Children need to move through the normal stages of development before they walk; rolling, creeping and crawling, kneeling to stand and cruising. This will give them the strength and coordination they require. Research has also revealed that the trays restrict a baby’s view of their moving legs and this deprives them of visual feedback that would help them learn how their bodies move through space. Additionally, they can also cause a child to start walking on their tip toes which they may then continue to do when independently walking.
It is far more beneficial for a child’s development to give them time to play on the floor in a safe environment. Children need to spend time on their tummies, pushing up on their arms to play with toys, playing with their feet, learning to roll and being given the opportunity to move. When they are starting to stand and want to take steps, a push-along walker is more beneficial. This needs to be sturdy so it won’t tip over or speed away and played with under supervision.
In the busy world we live in babies spend less time on the floor and more time in ‘equipment’ , but you can help your child’s visual, sensory, gross and fine motor and cognitive skills by allowing and helping them to explore their surroundings by themselves.