At What Age Your Baby Can Use a Walker
Now that your baby is showing rapid signs of growth, you must be keen to see him take his first steps. Walking is an important event in the baby’s life and the parents, too, as it signifies independence. To help your baby along this path of discovery and freedom, you may want to encourage him by bringing home a walker.
While there is no fixed appropriate age for a baby to use a walker, the baby’s strength, development and size will have to be considered before making a decision. Walkers are usually designed for babies between the ages of 4 to 16 months. Apart from this, the baby needs to be able to hold his head up quite steadily and have his feet touch the floor when placed in the walker, to be able to use it.
Advantages of Baby Walkers
Here are a few pros of buying a walker for your baby:
Engaging and Inspiring
Most baby walkers are fitted with simple toys or attractions to keep the baby engaged and busy. They are designed to stimulate mental growth and provide visual stimulation, too. A walker allows you to carry on with your daily tasks since the baby remains engaged with the attached toys.
Encourage Babies to Walk
With support at hand, your baby may be encouraged to take his first steps. It helps the baby understand how the standing pose will aid walking, and he will make attempts to get going on his own.
Children between the ages of 8 to 12 months are keen to explore their surroundings. A walker can provide them with the mobility they need and help them to manoeuvre themselves without any assistance.
Disadvantages of Using Baby Walkers
Here are a few disadvantages related to the use of baby walkers:
Babies using walkers may actually reach the walking or crawling milestones later than others who don’t.
Your baby should follow the roll-sit up-crawl-walk routine for which it is important for him to stay on the floor. This workout helps in strengthening all the muscles needed to stand or walk. A walker may prevent your baby from doing so and impair normal development.
Objects which are out of reach for a crawling baby may come within reach of a baby in a walker, and this could be the cause of injury.
Your baby’s toes and fingers could be injured as the walker’s design may have folding parts or hinges.
A walker with wheels reduces your reaction time if it picks up speed and can lead to an accident.
Does Baby Walker Help Balance?
The natural process of rolling over, crawling, standing, and then walking teaches a baby how to balance himself. When you allow the baby to use a walker, the baby’s position causes him to lean forward from the hip. The child does not have to balance himself in a walker. Whether a baby tips to the side or forward, the walker will prevent him from falling. The baby will need to learn to balance himself, afresh.
Are baby walkers safe?
Experts say baby walkers aren't safe – and they don't help babies learn to walk faster, either.
Baby walkers are circular, wheeled toys with suspended seats. They're designed so your baby's feet can touch the ground while they're seated, so they can propel themself around.
Even as new safety features have been implemented over the years, thousands of babies every year end up in emergency rooms and doctor's offices from falling down stairs or bumping into furniture while in a walker.
Walkers on the market now are required to have "stair-fall protection" – either a gripping mechanism that keeps the walker from going over the edge of a stairwell or a design that prevents the walker from fitting through a doorway. Older walkers (such as those bought secondhand) don't have these safety features.
But even with the extra safety features, experts say baby walkers aren't safe to use. Walkers make babies taller, so they might be able to reach dangerous objects (like hot cups of coffee or knives on countertops) or touch a hot stove. Babies could also tip and fall over objects.
(To find out whether a walker or other baby product you own has been recalled, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's list of recalled products.)
Activity centers and jumpers are much safer alternatives. And baby walking toys – which have wheels so babies can stand in front of them and push them along as they learn to walk – are safe to use.
If you're looking for a toy that you can set your baby in and have a few moments to yourself, activity centers and freestanding jumpers will keep your baby occupied – and stationary, so you don't have to worry about them wandering off. Both offer your baby plenty of opportunities to safely explore and practice their fine motor skills like grasping, grabbing, and shaking, as well as gross motor skills like standing and bouncing.
Experts recommend a 15 to 20-minute limit on time in a jumper or activity center, though, since your baby also needs plenty of floor time to practice their skills independently.
Baby walking toys – also called push toys – are great for when your baby can pull themself up, stand, and even cruise. They give your baby extra support and help them balance. Once they start taking steps, your baby can push the walking toy in front of them.
Just make sure the walking toy is sturdy enough that it won't tip over if your baby uses it to pull themself up. Block off any stairways, as well as rooms you don't want your baby to go in, and supervise your baby while they're playing with the walking toy.