There are many infant “entertainers” out on the market today – from stationary activity centers and exersaucers to jumpers, bouncers, walkers and walk behinds, it can be a tough decision to discern which one(s) are best suited for your family’s needs, especially with any of the negative press that some of them receive. For those parents that like the idea of a baby walker but are afraid of the potential safety and developmental concerns involved in using one, I have composed an extensive list of tips. If you keep these safety precautions in mind when using a baby walker, you can fully enjoy its use and avoid most, if not all, the proposed bad situations from occurring.
Before settling on a walker, please keep these tips in mind:
- Purchase only new walkers that meet the current safety standards. Look for JPMA certification.
- Check CPSC to ensure that the walker has not been recalled.
- To prevent tip-overs, look for a walker with a wider and longer wheelbase than its frame.
- Especially if you plan on having doors open in your home while using a walker, check your interior door widths against the width of the walker. When possible, the walker should be wider, so as to avoid the baby passing through.
- As tempting as it may seem and convenient as they are, keep in mind that walkers are not babysitters or pacifiers. They are not intended to keep infants entertained so that parents can occupy their attentions elsewhere. Though children should always be supervised on any equipment, playards and stationary activity centers would be better suited for caregivers looking to get a few things done while baby is entertained.
- They are not intended to be used for extended periods of time.
- Discontinue usage when the child can lift the device, climb out, or walk on their own.
- Many walkers state that you can start using a walker at 4 months of age, but children develop at different rates. I go a step further and say that one should not use with an infant that cannot sit upright unassisted and has not started to show interest in pulling up (to standing position) or cruising. I tended to err on the cautious side with my own kids, and did not allow them to use it until they were capable of cruising.
- Avoid using walkers on upper levels of homes.
- Most accidents happen around the kitchen, bathroom, stairs or outdoors (decks, patios, streets), so avoid using a walker in these locations.
- Keep all stairways inaccessible or adequately blocked.
- Better yet, keep all doors closed, so that the baby is somewhat confined.
- Install heavy-duty, bolted baby gates at stairways (the momentum of a baby walker can actually knock-down spring-loaded gates).
- Constantly supervise your child, avoiding common distractions like phones, computer devices, television, etc. Make sure you can always view your child.
- Take the time to childproof the area before each usage. Get down and see things from baby’s perspective. Use outlet plug covers, get rid of dangling cords, (or at least sufficiently hide them) close doors, pick up objects and small rugs from the floor, cushion sharp corners, install latches on drawers and cabinets, remove breakables, etc.
- Use the walker only on smooth surfaces.
- Keep the baby away from heaters, stoves, and other hot surfaces and sources.
- Never use a walker around sources of water – toilets, pools, creeks, ditches, etc.
- Prior to use, inspect the walker for broken or loose parts. Make sure the friction strips are not worn or dirty. If they are dirty, clean them. If they have considerable wear and tear, replace them or purchase a new walker.
- Never remove the friction strips.
- Never allow baby to spend more than 30 minutes in the walker. Also, make sure that your child gets plenty of floor time to practice crawling, standing, cruising and walking.
Following these suggestions and guidelines will not prevent every injury from occurring, but it can certainly reduce the likelihood considerably and ensure a fun time for baby and more peace for the caregiver. However, if you are still not convinced that a baby walker would work in your family, there are plenty of alternatives (some without wheels), like Kolcraft’s stationary Wonderbug activity center or a Push n’ Pull 2-in-1 walker (also known as walk behinds). A baby needs to master certain skills to be able to use the mobile features of a Push n’ Pull (plus he can’t move as fast if he is doing the pushing), creating a safer usage environment for baby.
Please remember that no entertainer should be a substitute for good old-fashioned parental interaction, stimulation and supervision.
Product was supplied in exchange for a post, but this did not affect the opinions expressed nor the topic of this post.