A baby walker is a wheeled device made of a plastic or metal frame surrounding a center seat. These devices allow young children who cannot yet walk to move around quickly by relying on the walker’s wheels. Baby walkers can entertain young children, who, with their new-found agility, are free to roll around the room quickly. However, they can also be incredibly dangerous, and anyone who is considering purchasing a baby walker should inform themselves of the potential risks and determine if these risks outweigh the benefits.
Despite being named a “walker,” baby walkers do not help a baby learn to walk. Instead, walkers can actually hinder development by strengthening lower leg muscles but not strengthening the upper leg and hip muscles that a baby will need to walk. In fact, after using a walker, a baby may show less interest in trying to learn to walk because of the ease of getting around with the walker.
The biggest danger of baby walkers, however, isn’t the lessened normal development of your child. Walkers significantly increase the risk of serious injury to a child. With the new range of motion presented by the walker, a child can more easily reach high places that were previously out of reach. The walkers can roll up against a hot oven or a heater and cause burn injuries. Finally, most older varieties of baby walkers can easily fall down step or stairs, or over the edge of decks, patios, curbs, and swimming pools. The wheels of the walker can also easily get snagged or stuck, causing the walker to tip over.
Some walkers have been re-designed to include safety gates to keep a child from injury. However, accidents can still occur if the gates are not correctly closed or if they do not hold up in the event of an impact. In addition, walkers manufactured after 1997 have a protective rubber strip along the edge to protect against falls. If the wheels slip off the edge of a surface, the rubber strip can grip the floor and prevent a fall. Despite the overall reduction in the number of accidents after this safety standard was put in to place, in 2003, there were still 3,200 emergency room cases that involved baby walkers.
If you are considering using a baby walker with your child, make sure to weigh the risks with the benefits before making your decision. If you do decide to purchase a walker despite their dangers, be sure to invest in a new model with extensive safety features to keep your child safe.