Written by Dr Jane Williams
Are you thinking about purchasing a baby walker for your baby? At GymbaROO and KindyROO we would like to help you decide against such a purchase, and here’s why….
Will a baby walker help my child’s development?
The simple answer is – no. It can actually have the opposite effect – it can delay your baby’s motor and milestone development and also hinder your child’s mental and learning development.
Research has found that those who use baby walkers are generally slower to crawl, stand and walk than babies who are left to develop the skills naturally.1 Recent research adds to this, finding that walkers ‘impair infant’s motor and mental development.’4
One of the problems with baby walkers is that a baby can move around without carrying their own body weight. The muscles and bones of the upper body, back, tummy and legs do not gain strength in the normal way and this, in turn, affects posture and balance. It also means that the nervous system is deprived of essential sensory information required for good fine and gross motor coordination, body control and for right and left-hemisphere development of the brain. This development is normally and naturally acquired through the movements of tummy time, crawling, creeping and cruising.
A study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics recently reported that babies who were placed regularly in walkers showed delays in memory, language, and learning4, adding more weight to previous findings that babies who had been in walkers did not perform as well in simple mental tests.2
At GymbaROO and KindyROO we maintain that babies who do not crawl and creep are less likely to inhibit all the primitive reflexes of infancy, nor develop strong postural reflexes. This can have long term, ongoing implications for both physical development and learning ability.
Paediatricians and physiotherapists have other specific concerns about walkers:
- Walkers may contribute to difficulty with feet because they often cause babies to walk on their toes or roll their feet in onto their arches. Watch our free video on great activities for baby’s foot development here.
- Walkers may force babies into an upright position before they are naturally ready. This in turn can cause them to scrunch forward or arch their backs – both of which impede breathing and development.
- Babies who arch their backs because of walkers may suffer from back pain in adult years.
Using a baby walker also greatly increases a baby’s risk of injury from falling, burns, poisoning and drownings.3
Several countries have totally banned baby walkers.
We also advise against Bumbo style ‘baby seats’. Read why here: https://www.gymbaroo.com.au/articles/the-bumbo-and-baby-seat-devices/
For more important information on baby development enjoy our free online series, our wealth of parent articles and come join the fun and learning at GymbaROO / KindyROO.
Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO. Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development.
1. Garrett M., McElroy A.M., & Staines, A. (2002). Locomotor milestones and babywalkers: cross-sectional study. BMJ 324:1494(22 June).
2. Siegel A.C. & Burton R.V. (1999). Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 20:355–361.