Do Baby Walkers Affect Development?
What is a baby walker?
There are primarily two styles of baby walker. A sit-in baby walker with wheels that babies scoot around in and a push-along baby walker that babies can use to support themselves as they learn to walk.
If you look online you will see loads of articles warning of the possible negative developmental effects of using a baby walker as well as safety issues involved.
These articles refer to the sit-in style baby walkers with wheels that your baby can use to scoot around the room.
How does a baby walker affect development?
Developmental effects of baby walkers include muscle, bone and joint problems and the evidence is convincing enough that Canada banned them in 2007.
Because a baby walker holds your baby upright they don't develop the ability to balance on their own which has shown to lead to delays in their ability to walk and stand on their own. Holding your babies hands, giving them furniture or toys to pull themselves up on and bouncing them up and down on your knees are all better ways to support balance.
Evidence also shows that being kept upright delays or even prevents a child from learning to crawl which is a vital part of their brain development as well as physical development. Being in a walker can also limit babies opportunities to develop perceptual skills such as distance and depth. This means that time in a baby walker should be limited and combined with lots of time on the floor.
Being in a baby walker teaches a child to scoot across the floor using their toes which develops the wrong muscles and can have a negative impact on joint development, and can affect the way they learn to walk leading to long term problems. Hanging from the crotch can also affect the spine and hips. Again limited use shouldn't do any harm but to learn to walk babies need to be on the floor, pulling themselves up and learning to balance.
Safety issues also arise from using a baby walker. Suddenly your child can move at great speed so require constant supervision. They're also much higher giving them access to hot, sharp or other dangerous items that they would not normally have. Hot drinks and burns are a particular hazard.
Babies natural development process
Naturally babies need to spend a lot of time on the floor developing their physical and cognitive development as part of the process of learning to walk.
They start off with tummy time, learning to roll around and shuffle themselves towards things they want. They learn to sit, developing their core strength, and then move on to bum shuffling, scooting and crawling.
As they get bigger they start to pull themselves up to standing with the help of furniture or toys and gradually begin to navigate around these objects and will eventually have developed the balance, stability and coordination required to take their first unassisted steps.
Spending too much time sitting in a baby walker can prevent babies from developing and practising these skills. However, a push along walker or activity centre can encourage babies to want to sit, crawl and stand, and help keep them steady as they are learning to take their first steps.
Are push-along walkers bad for babies? Find out more here.