Lots of parents look to baby gear options, like walkers, to keep baby entertained and give Mom or Dad a quick break. There are two main types of baby walkers, those with a seat where baby's lower half is surrounded by seat and frame then walks around or those where baby stands freely behind them to walk. Your choice depends largely on personal preference and your baby's age, size and developmental level.
Walkers With Seats
Medical professionals suggest baby walkers with seats should never be used as they can cause injury and don't help babies learn to walk. The American Academy of Pediatrics even goes so far as to recommend a ban on the production or sale of mobile baby walkers, which are the kind with seats attached in the center.
From 1994 to 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports an almost 90 percent drop in injuries related to baby walkers thanks to a regulation update in 1997 that called for a stair fall test on all models. In 2010 the CPSC added requirements for how stair fall and parking brake tests should be performed as a way to further enhance baby walker safety. Today, general CPSC infant walker guidelines require companies prove the walker cannot fall downstairs, won't tip over in any direction when on a flat surface, the seat stays structured to support a baby, and adequate warning labels are used among other criteria.
Baby Walker Safety
Some of the biggest safety concerns and potential dangers include:
- Baby can fall down stairs more easily thanks to the mobility of a walker.
- Being mobile allows baby the opportunity to reach dangerous things.
- If used outdoors, the baby could roll into a swimming pool without a fence.
- It's easier for baby to bump into hot items like heaters and stoves.
Suggested Walkers With Seats
A walker with a seat is typically round or square and features a tray along with the framework to hold four wheels underneath the baby seat. This style allows baby to move freely in any direction with little effort. On the downside, it also means baby can move a lot faster than he might otherwise be able to. These walkers can serve as a stationary seat when you either lock the wheels with a built-in function or seat baby in them within a confined area blocked off from too much movement.
- Romper favor the Joovy Spoon Walker because of its excellent safety features and modern design. For about $100 you get a sleek, folding walker without all the extra toys and features of other brands. The all white folding frame with tray features a unique design around the wheelbase with non-slip stair pads to provide the highest safety for baby. Choose from brightly colored seats like Blueberry and Greenie or darker seat colors like red and charcoal. This walker comes with a two-year warranty and has three height settings to accommodate babies up to 33.5 inches tall. Parents in search of baby gear with high safety standards, high style, and high portability are best suited to this style.
- Parents Need to Know is the safety brake which prevents the walker from cruising too fast. All these great features come at the low price of under $50 which is part of the reason roughly 95 percent of over 175 customer reviewers say they'd recommend this walker to a friend. This mobile entertainment center is more than a walker making it truly fun, but the safety brake mechanism also means potential frustration for baby.
Walkers, where baby holds onto the handle and walks behind the wheeled unit, are also called push toys. Most regulations for "walkers" only include guidelines for the styles with seats.
Baby Walker Safety
Parenting experts suggest push behind walkers won't pose a problem in walking development, but they also don't actually help baby learn to walk. As one pediatric physical therapist explains, these toys promote poor posture and don't allow for the appropriate distribution of body weight needed to walk independently. If you choose to use a sit-to-stand walker, consider adding some weight to the front of it by attaching on a couple bean bags to make the weight distribution better. The other concern with this type of walker is it still allows baby to move more quickly than he may be prepared for. This ability to cruise, rather than walk slowly, can lead to harder falls and more serious injuries.
Suggested Sit-to-Stand Walkers
This type of walker is intended for older babies who are pulling themselves up and walking while holding onto a solid object. At first, the baby may have trouble pulling up if the unit moves during the process. Keep the walker parked against a wall when possible to help stabilize it.
- Amazon. The wide base and four large plastic wheels help baby stay stable while learning to walk. The big handle gives baby plenty to hold onto as he stands and plays with the toys on the back and top or walks while pushing the whole unit. For under $30 you get a walker and complete activity center in one as this model features over a dozen colorful toys in a barnyard theme. One of the great features of this model is you can remove the whole front activity panel to use as a floor toy. With over 1,400 reviews, customers give this option 4.7 out of 5 because it provides hours of stationary and active entertainment at a great price. Parents on a tight budget will get the most bang for their buck with this style where the toys will last long after baby gets bored with the walker.
- KidzGeek Top Ten pick costs about $20. Baby can play with the toys like a musical bear or put their own toys in the stroller then get up and push the stroller around when they want to walk. The soft pastel color palette is more traditionally feminine, but works for little boys who love their stuffed animals too. Even if your baby never uses this style to help with walking, it will still be a great buy as a fun toy.
Safety Tips for Parents
If you think a walker is the right baby gear choice for your family, follow these safety tips every time your little one uses either type of walker.
- Only allow use on the bottom story of a house where there are no stairs or steps down.
- Keep baby in reach or in an enclosed area using a playard during use.
- Limit use to areas without hot hazards like heaters.
- Don't use outdoors or on other uneven surfaces.
- Limit time of use to 15 minutes.
- Use for babies who can sit up well on their own, but can't walk independently.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
While baby walkers aren't recommended by most professionals, many parents still choose to use them. When it comes to buying a baby walker for your little one keep safety information in mind. Making informed choices about baby products like walkers and using them correctly helps keeps baby safer.