The pros and cons of baby exercisers and walkers

Baby toys and products such as exercisers and jumpers are becoming quick favourites with top spots in "best of" awards for baby toys, but they’ve also come under fire for not being safe. What’s the deal? What are the pros and cons? Here’s what you need to consider before buying a baby exerciser or before placing your child in one.

The pros and cons of baby exercisers and walkers

Why it’s becoming a top favourite

Many people have seen their baby react positively to being upright. Some feel safer when they leave the room for a little to attend to something else while baby sits happily in the exerciser. Providing your child with more upright time may also seem like a good idea (intuitively) if you want to help them learn to walk. However, there are things you need to know as these good intentions may be doing them more harm than good.

Too much upright time can lead to slower development

A baby’s position in a jumper or walker is supported by a hanging harness. Held at the hips, the child will develop lower leg muscles, but those aren’t the ones most important for walking. Muscles at the thigh and hip level will aid more, while core muscles help for balance.

Also, too much upright time will keep your baby from getting important tummy time. It’s true that some children aren’t huge fans of staying on their tummies, but it’s a crucial stage in their development. It strengthens their back muscles, which they’ll need when they start pulling themselves up to a standing position, as well as to keep their balance. Crawling, creeping, and scooting freely are all important elements of an infant’s development.

Skipping these steps can delay their cognitive abilities and motor skills development, as it keeps them from learning in the ways they need to for that age. A little time in the exerciser won’t hurt, but too much can. Child development experts suggest no more than 20-30 minutes per day in 10-15 minute increments only.

Unsafe if unsupervised

Many parents feel that keeping their child in a walker is safer for when they need to step out of the room for a moment, but it can be very unsafe for the child. Babies have been injured by spending unsupervised time in exercisers as it can give them access to objects that they could not normally reach. The wheels allow them to access dangerous parts of the house where they could fall like stairs, the bathtub, or the pool. As a result, any time spent in an exerciser should be supervised.

Everyone needs a bit of time to tend to other tasks. A better alternative to keep your child safe for a few unsupervised minutes is to place them in a high chair (seated safely and properly) or a play pen when they can enjoy some tummy or sitting playtime.

All in all, exercisers should be considered a toy with a time limit, only to be used under parental supervision. Keep lots of tummy time for discovery to ensure your child develops their cognitive abilities and motor skills. For a bit of unsupervised play, stick to the play pen as it will be much safer.

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