Walkers Are Good Toys to Help Babies Learn to Walk. True or False?

I told my son that I had saved his baby walker for his daughter.

Baby in walker.

Baby in walker. 1905 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You mean the death trap?” he asked me.

Apparently things had changed since he was young.

I took it to the dump the next day.

In this mistaken belief, I am not alone among grandparents.

Dr. Amanda Soong, pediatrician, professor and mother of two under four, recently conducted a survey.

She asked 49 grandparents 15 questions related to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Many of them are primary caregivers of their grandchildren and she wanted to know if they had kept up with new findings about childhood safety and nutrition.

They largely flunked, as reported in Moms.today.com.

I interviewed her to find out what the grandparents thought, what were the right answers to her questions and why.

On this one, they flunked big-time, as I would have.

Here’s the question.

Walkers are good toys to help babies learn to walk, True or False?

Here are their answers:

  • True (73.9% of grandparents gave this answer)
  • False (26.1% of grandparents gave this answer)

The correct answer is false.


Why are walkers a problem? Babies love them.

Research into accidents with young children has taught us that:

Walkers present a rolling danger.

They can roll down stairs, off a porch, into a pool or a bathtub, even into a toilet or bucket of water, with, potentially fatal consequences.

Most of the injuries from walkers are broken bones or head injuries from falling down the stairs.

Walkers represent an increased danger from high objects that a baby can now reach.

Babies can pull down hot items by pulling on a tablecloth, such as hot cups of coffee.

They can reach a stove or they can reach poisonous substances that would otherwise be out of reach.

Walkers help babies move faster.

Combined with being able to reach higher, babies can also move faster in a walker.

They can move more than three feet in one second, sometimes too fast even for an adult watching them to stop them in time.

Strikingly, the AAP reports that most walker accidents happen while an adult is watching.

Since 1997, standards for walkers have made them too wide to fit through a door and given them brakes to keep them from going down stairs.

However, while helpful, babies have been able to defeat some of these safety measures by picking up walkers to get them over a threshold, for instance, leaning over the edge of a walker at the top of stairs or pushing through a safety gate and falling down stairs.

Despite a 63% decrease in injuries from baby walkers after the standards were adopted, down from 20,100 injuries in 1995 to 7,400 injuries in 2000, walkers continue to be responsible for injuries that include burns and falls.

39 deaths from walkers were reported between 1973 and 2001.

The AAP says children should not have walkers that have wheels.

Instead, they should have stationary activity centers with no wheels, a high chair, or a playpen.

Don’t They Help Babies Learn to Walk?

My memory is that walkers weren’t just to entertain children.

They were also to partially substitute for walking a baby around holding onto its fingers as it learned to walk.

As it turns out, walking a baby around is the better way because the baby has to support its own weight.

Also, since babies like to move, if they can scoot around in a walker they are less interested in learning to crawl, a pre-cursor to walking.

When you let a baby stand up in a walker, then plop back down and still move by pushing the wheels, learning to walk is actually delayed, while at the same time the wrong muscles are strengthened.

The hip and upper thigh muscles don’t develop as well or as fast in a walker, while lower leg muscles increase in strength.

Instead, a stationary exersaucer or activity center with no wheels or a sturdy push toy they can use to help them stay upright is a better option for safely entertaining babies learning to walk.

What Is Toe Walking?

Common in babies who use walkers, toe walking is walking on the toes or balls of your feet.

Though it can accompany more serious problems, like muscular dystrophy, autism and cerebral palsy, toe-walking tends to run in families and is usually abandoned by the age of three to five.

However, it does tend to shorten the Achilles tendon and sometimes requires stretching exercises to lengthen it.

Dr. Soong says she has had parents in her practice ask her for a letter to convince grandmas not to push for or buy walkers, since the parents knew they were unsafe, but Grandma didn’t.

Consider this your letter from the doctor – no wheeled baby walkers for your precious grandchildren.

Did your children have walkers?

Did you save them for your grandchildren?

Have you had this conversation with your children?

Get more information on how child-rearing has changed with our free report, How to Leap the Generation Gap, as well as our daily blog posts for grandmothers by filling in the boxes below.

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To you and the continued safety of your precious grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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