Before I start the article, let me define what a walker is. A walker is typically a seating with space for 2 legs, using which a child is presumed to walk around easily. It’s been a common household item at homes that have young babies, and is also utilized as a gift too, by lots of people visiting parents of young kids.
Perception: Why are walkers needed?
- Parents feel comfortable putting their kids on walkers so that they can complete their other operational chores/household activities, while the kid enjoys the walking part.
- It is presumed that with the help of walkers, kids may walk better and perhaps earlier than their counterparts
- A child in a walker feels more comfortable, and is able to explore things around him better
Reality: Why using walkers may not be the best idea?
- Injuries – While it may be presumed that walkers are safe, unfortunately the fact is they aren’t, in absence of adult supervision. Walkers give the child a free access to places where s/he might not have been able to reach otherwise. They can now reach the stairs, main door of the home much easily with the help of walkers. As a result, they become more prone to injuries.In the absence of adult supervision, usage of walkers may result in fall leading to head/spine/bones/tooth injuries. Injuries may also be caused to child’s hand getting stuck in between the walker and the wall/doors
- Burns – A child on a walker has an easy access to electrical connections, hot tea/coffee kept on the dining table, iron box etc. Hence, it may result in burns if not supervised
- Poisoning – A child on a walker also gets an access to deodorants, medicines and may taste them unknowingly, leading to poisoning
While there are rare cases of death of kids while using a walker, around 8,000 walker injury cases per year are reported in the US
Do walkers actually help in walking?
- A child follows a natural process for walking. It starts with sitting, crawling and eventually leading to walking. Parents generally perceive that by putting the child in a walker, they may walk quickly, but the fact is that it delays the process of learning walking by a month at least.
- It has been noticed that kids who use walkers have a lower “Baileys Motor Scoring” than their peers who don’t use them.
- If the walker is given at an early age, when the child is physically not ready to walk, it may result in cramps
- When the child is put on floor, s/he is able to explore things at the right pace. The brain cells accordingly get stimulated in a balanced manner and desired IQ is achieved/maintained, which may not be the case while using walkers
American Academy of Pediatrics recommend non-usage of walkers, especially under the absence of adult supervision (which may not be possible always). It may be noted that walkers can achieve a speed of up to 3 feet/second which is dangerous even in the presence of an adult.
Hence, if you wish to use walkers at all, ensure that they meet all the desired standards (width etc.), are introduced to your child at the right time, and are used under adult supervision