With their innate curiosity and unquenchable thirst for knowledge, babies are tireless explorers. But with limited mobility, getting around can be tough. If your little one is raring to go and crawling just isn’t cutting it, you might be considering purchasing a baby walker.
Despite concerns about improper use leading to accidents and developmental delays, baby walkers still remain one of the most popular baby products around. And it isn’t hard to see why. For babies, the sensation of walking “on their own” can be exciting, liberating, and immensely entertaining. Think your little one is ready for their first set of wheels? Read this article to find out how to safely choose and use a baby walker.
Considerations when choosing baby walkers
Types of baby walkers
Just about everyone is familiar with traditional seated baby walkers — odds are, you used one yourself, once upon a time. Now you can choose from more than one walker style. Let’s take a quick look.
Seated: Arguably the most popular baby walker type, seated walkers typically have a fabric seat attached to a frame and a base with wheels. This design allows younger babies who are still somewhat unsteady on their feet to practice standing and scooting themselves along, with the seat acting as a safety net should they falter. Most also have a dashboard that doubles as a feeding tray or entertainment console.
Seated walker prices: On average, these walkers cost between $40 and $80.
Push along: Also known as sit-to-stand walkers, this type has an upright design with a wide frame for stability, four wheels, and a handle for babies to hold. Many have a play center on the front, and some of these can be removed so that younger babies can still enjoy playing with the toys on the floor. Push along walkers don’t have seats, so this type might be best for little ones who’ve at least started to practice standing.
Price: Push along baby walker prices typically range from $20 to $50.
Convertible: Some baby walkers can be transformed from seated to push along. One of these might be a good option if you’re looking for a walker that will grow with your child. However, because these have larger frames to accommodate seated use, convertible walkers can be bulky and a bit difficult to maneuver when used as a push along walker.
Price: Convertible baby walkers cost between $40 and $80.
Your freewheeling baby probably won’t be able to resist maxing out the speed limit and pushing the boundaries to see just how far her new vehicle can take her. Thrilling for tots? Absolutely! But this can also be dangerous for little ones and nerve-wracking for parents.
Aside from supervising your cruising cutie at all times and making sure that your baby walker is used in a safe area of your home (well away from stairs, corners, edges, and breakables), there are a few features that can help boost safety:
Wide base: This will keep the walker stable and act as a bumper at the same time.
Harness: This can help prevent active babies from attempting to climb out unassisted and taking a nasty tumble in the process.
Brakes: These are a valuable tool when you want your baby to remain stationary for feeding or wiping up spills, or when you need a minute to clear roadblocks.
Variable speed settings: These allow you to slow things down if necessary. It’s not uncommon for even the most timid of tinies to morph into speed-racing daredevils when test-driving their new wheels.
Day-to-day life with a baby can be full of surprises, but if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s mess. Spills, leaks, spit-up, and sticky hands are part and parcel of babyhood, and it’s wise to choose a baby walker that can easily be wiped down. And don’t forget a removable seat cover for fuss-free washing — diaper blowouts can happen when you least expect them!
Baby walker features
While simply being upright and moving might be entertaining enough, a few colorful toys will offer a little extra stimulation. Engaging play stations will also help hold your little one’s attention when it’s time to apply the brakes. And, of course, toys, music, and buttons are just plain fun!
In seated walkers, a removable activity center allows for both play and snacking, while a removable entertainment console on a push along walker can be used independently of the walker. Furthermore, some babies might outgrow the walker’s entertainment options or simply prefer their own toys. Either way, being able to remove and add toys is a plus.
Adjustable height will enable your baby to enjoy the walker even as he grows. Although just about all seated walkers offer at least three height settings, check the minimum height setting before you buy so you can be sure your little one will be able to use it from the get-go.
Q. Are baby walkers detrimental to my baby’s development or safety?
A. Many experts are concerned that the overuse of seated walkers can cause developmental delays. This stems from the fact that most babies use their toes to propel themselves rather than using all the muscles necessary for balance. This means that many little ones end up learning to walk on their toes, a habit that can compromise stability and be hard to break. If this is a concern but you’d still like to use a baby walker, limit length of use to no more than 20 to 30 minutes a day. Alternatively, you could try a push along or sit-to-stand walker, which allows for a more natural range of movement at around eight or nine months of age.
In terms of safety, any type of baby walker can be dangerous in the wrong environment or if little ones are left unsupervised. Stairs without safety gates, suddenly being able to reach areas that were previously inaccessible, and colliding with breakable furniture or ornaments at high velocity are just a handful of hazards you’ll need to be prepared for.
Q. What can I do to enhance baby walker safety?
A. There are many ways to make your child’s experience with a baby walker a safe and happy one.
Survey your home for potential hazards.
Equip stairs with safety gates.
Block off or cover pools and other large bodies of water
Secure tall, heavy furniture with furniture straps.
Store glass coffee tables or other breakables out of the way for the time being.
Limit use of a seated baby walker to about 20 to 30 minutes, and encourage standing and walking while holding your baby’s hand.
Never leave a baby unsupervised in a walker of any kind.
Q. Will a walker actually help teach my baby to walk?
A. Unfortunately, pediatricians and developmental experts agree that seated baby walkers will not, in fact, teach your baby to walk. However, that’s not to say that they won’t gain confidence and have oodles of fun while cruising around. Push along baby walkers, on the other hand, might be more helpful in giving your baby a little support while she learns the basics. The good news is that, with or without a baby walker, little ones will learn to pull themselves up, stand, and take those first few heart-stopping steps by themselves sooner or later.
Baby walkers we recommend
Best of the best: Joovy Spoon Walker
Our take: An exceptionally well-made baby walker with a sleek ergonomic design that makes cleanup a breeze.
What we like: A plus-size tray with a removable dishwasher-safe insert makes this a great option for feeding or play. Rugged and durable. The seat is well padded for comfort and — best of all — fully removable for washing.
What we dislike: It’s a bit pricey. Some form of entertainment would have been a nice touch.
Best bang for your buck: VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
Our take: With a design that encourages natural development and includes loads of fun toys for entertainment, this sit-to-stand walker is an option that both parents and babies can appreciate.
What we like: The activity panel is jam-packed with fun and educational features, and it can easily be detached for seated play. Solid construction can take a beating. Promotes proper muscle and motor skill development.
What we dislike: Designed for use from nine months and up; younger babies won’t get to experience much walking fun for a while to come.
Choice 3: Safety 1st Dino Sounds and Lights Discovery Baby Walker
Our take: This budget-friendly baby walker is ideal if you’re looking for a model that will cruise on carpets as well as hard flooring.
What we like: Offers loads of fun in the form of a dinosaur-themed entertainment console. Rolls well on carpets. Removable seat is easy to clean.
What we dislike: Even the lowest setting is a little too tall; some babies might have to grow into this one.
Erica van Blommestein is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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