Hooray! Your little one is on the move and you are starting to think about ways to help him or her walk! You’ve probably seen your friend's children speeding around the house in a walker or pitter-pattering along with a push toy. Adorable, right?! You’re probably wondering if you need one or both of those to help your child as he or she learns to walk. The short answer is you do not necessarily need either device, however babies love to move and its fun for them! So which one should you get for your little pre-walker? Let’s discuss!
Push toys are great even if your baby is not ready for supported standing or push-walking activities. They can be fun for your little one to explore while working on tummy time, sitting balance, transitions between various positions, hands-and-knees, tall kneeling, half kneeling, and pulling to stand. All of the mentioned activities are important skills for your baby to master before thinking about walking. These skills are foundational in building strength, balance, and coordination needed for higher level skills such as walking. What I love about push toys is that they allow freedom of movement, allowing them to really master their motor skills.
So when is your child ready to start taking steps and pushing the push toy? If your child is sitting independently, performing transitions such as moving between sit and hands-and-knees, tall kneeling with hands on a surface in front of them, pulling to stand, cruising along furniture, and showing interest, he or she is likely ready to start trying with your help! What I don’t recommend is rushing your child as he or she will show you when they are ready. If your child is not yet sitting independently, pulling to stand, standing while holding onto a surface, or working on cruising, I would suggest working on those skills first before jumping to taking steps with a push toy.
Check out these photos to see the variety of positions and transitions that push toys allow your child to practice!
So what about baby walkers? Between the two choices, I would suggest a push toy every time! While walkers are a fun way for your child to zoom around chasing your pup, they do not support the skills needed to progress to independent walking. How is that possible if the baby is taking steps in the walker? Walkers have a supportive saddle that allows babies to relax into, leading to decreased core and hip muscle activation. Less core muscle activation means that the movement comes from other muscles, such as the calf muscles. This cascade effect can possibly lead to future delays in walking or the possibility of toe walking. Walkers also allow babies to rest their arms on the tray. In contrast, while using a push toy, babies are actively pushing down through a handle, which activates their wrist, forearm, shoulders, and core muscles. This strengthening may seem insignificant in the moment, but all of those muscles are essential for future activities such as climbing, throwing, and hand-writing, to name a few. Finally, walkers restrict movement. While in the saddle, your baby is not given the opportunity to freely transition between positions or explore the environment at various levels, lowering themselves down to the ground or pulling up to stand to reach for toys at higher levels. As mentioned above, that freedom of movement is crucial in developing strength, balance, and coordination needed for higher level skills.
So in summary, I would gift your baby with a fun push toy that can be enjoyed for a while and skip the walker!
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