Strollers are a parenting invention that many mums and dads would be totally lost without.
They provide a safe and easy way of transporting kids when you’re out, meaning, many parents continue to rely on them even when their kids start to get… well a little bigger.
So just when is it the right time to give up the stroller, and what are the negatives and positives of keeping kids in those useful contraptions just a little bit longer?
Why We Keep Them In
For parents in particular, there seem to be a number of very good reasons to keep kids in strollers just a little bit longer. Having your child in a stroller means you are able to cover a greater distance walking than your child might be capable of doing alone. Anyone with young children knows that getting anywhere quickly with a little walker can be a challenge. With the stroller, you don’t have to worry about it, just strap the kid in and go. This makes strollers a godsend for parents during long days running around town or the local shopping centre.
Along with that, there’s the issue of containment. A stroller effectively provides your child with a safe spot, meaning that they know where they’re supposed to be. When a child is walking, it’s very easy to lose track of them, particularly in a crowd. It seems that one second, they’re there, and the next, they are gone, which is a nightmare for any busy parent. With a stroller, kids can be strapped in, or at least entertained in a sitting position that allows their parents to get their jobs done with minimal fuss and no Amber Alerts.
Then there’s the carry conundrum. That being if your three, four or five-year-old gets too tired, is past their nap time, or is generally over being at ground level they need to be carried. But if you have a stroller, you can just pop them in there and let them sleep quite peacefully without any impact on you at all. No wonder parents love them!
Why It’s Bad To Keep Them In
Unfortunately, along with the good stuff, there are a few big reasons that many critics, as well as experts in the parenting world, are arguing against keeping kids in strollers once they can walk. They argue that the continued use of strollers makes kids less curious, less independent, and more overweight.
Dr Martin Ward-Platt, a child development specialist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, England, was quoted as early as 2006 saying that the extended period kids were spending in strollers was “a worrying trend”.
He also added: “It is not doing them any good. One has to bear in mind the pushchair is a recent invention in terms of human evolution. Once children could walk, they were expected to toddle along on their own two feet.”
However, this certainly isn’t the case now, and the effects of this might be more far reaching than parents think, particularly in a world where children already spend less time being active, and more time being sedentary in front of screens. The doctor agrees.
“Anything that reduces exercise in young children, broadly speaking, is not a good idea. Anything that is allowing calories to accumulate week after week means you could end up with a problem with weight. Children need to be active as early as possible.”
What Parents Say
Not surprisingly, many parents have pretty strong opinions on the whole ‘big kids in strollers’ debate, particularly when it comes down to being judged by others on their own habits.
Some mums believe you should leave them until they’re ready. Others said that it was when the child could easily unbuckle themselves that a stroller shouldn’t be used. Mums who didn’t drive or own their own car noted that it was much easier for them to keep their kids in strollers as old as four or five, particularly for outings that required long walking distances. At the same time, other mums said they would have to positively wrestle their older children into the stroller, because they were so independent and happy to walk.
It seems pretty clear that, as in all things, mums and kids have pretty individual ideas about when stroller use is no longer the right thing to do. While it is certainly a personal choice, always remember that exercise is beneficial for a child’s mental and physical wellbeing, and don’t forget to check the weight limit on your stroller!