A baby walker is a device with a wheeled base which holds a seat with leg openings for a baby to sit in.
Walkers enable babies to move around while they’re learning to walk.
Some baby walkers have a plastic tray and are equipped with toys and a mechanism which allows the baby to bounce.
Are Baby Walkers Dangerous?
The use of baby walkers has been a controversial topic for a long time. Some claimed baby walkers help support a baby’s development. Others see baby walkers as a means of keeping a baby entertained in one place, rather than allowing the baby to have floor time for example.
So, are baby walkers dangerous or not? Here are 2 important things to know about baby walkers.
#1: Baby Walkers Increase Injury Risk
Baby walkers allow children to move around the house quickly. This increases the chance of children getting to hazards before their parent/caregiver realises and increases their risk of injury.
The most common injuries due to use of baby walkers include:
- Falling, often down stairs or out of the walker
- Burns or scalds due to children moving to get to hot drinks, kettles, heaters or ovens
- Choking on toy attachments
- Finger injuries from baby walkers collapsing
- Poisoning due to children moving to get hold of and consuming poisonous products such as cleaning products or medications.
#2: Baby Walkers Increase The Risk Of Delayed Walking
It’s a myth that baby walkers help children learn to walk. In fact, associations have been found between the use of baby walkers and delays in gross motor skills such as crawling, standing independently and walking. This may be because use of baby walkers can lead to less time spent on the floor.
It’s important for children to develop their muscles in order to crawl, stand and walk. Floor time is an important way to naturally help develop their muscles and hence their gross motor skills. Rolling, crawling, sitting and pulling up to stand are all important pre-walking skills and floor time assists in developing all these skills.
Use of baby walkers can lead to a reduced variety of movement experiences and reduced ‘practice’ movements which are all important aspects of learning to walk. Baby walkers may actually increase the risk of inappropriate movement and balance strategies.
Given this information, perhaps it’s not surprising that the sale and ownership of baby walkers has been made illegal in Canada and also the Australian Physiotherapy Association and Royal Children’s Hospital (Melbourne) advises against their use.