Although the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of baby walkers, they are still commonly used. While they seem to offer some benefits, baby walkers can be dangerous, especially when a child is left in one unsupervised. In addition, they may cause serious developmental side effects. It is a parent’s job to consider future consequences of the objects a baby uses to ensure he develops properly.
According to DrGreene.com, children between the ages of 6 and 12 months may desire self-transportation. Baby walkers can aid a child in staying upright and enable her to maneuver around the room unassisted. A child in a walker can be entertained for many hours, allowing a parent time to attend to household tasks or a quick shower. Walkers may also help strengthen the lower legs.
According to the Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service, a baby needs to spend time on the ground to learn how to crawl, roll, sit and walk. Because of this physical need, baby walkers may cause delays in a child’s ability to walk, crawl and balance. In addition, DynamicChiropractic.com warns that a baby walker may cause spinal development complications, such as asymmetry of the spine or even an imbalance of the muscles.
If parents do decide to let their child use a baby walker, the Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service warns that several safety precautions must be taken. Parents should not continue to use a walker when a baby can sit up or walk on his own, and the child should only use the walker for short periods of time. Because baby walkers allow babies to be more mobile, babies must be supervised and kept away from such hazards as electrical cords, cleaning products, stairs and hot beverages.
ConsumerReports.com explains that baby walkers come in a variety of shapes and styles. A traditional walker has a frame molded of plastic or metal with a seat that suspends from the center. Wheels located at the base provide a quick way for the baby to travel. Other styles, sometimes called “mobile activity centers,” are commonly rectangular in shape and include toy bars and snack trays. However, they can also come in the shapes of familiar objects, such as cars.
Instead of using a baby walker, Dr. Alan Greene suggests an exersaucer. This device allows a child to be upright while bouncing and spinning, but it does not have wheels for mobility. Exersaucers are considered safe for a child’s development. In addition, push toys, such as vacuum cleaners, cars or wagons, help a child strengthen the correct muscles needed to walk. Parents should choose a toy that includes a bar to hold onto and that is sturdy enough to prevent tipping over.