Strollers: friend, or foe?

By admin
22 April 2014

There are few challenges quite as daunting as tackling a shopping mall with a young child. Between ticking off things on your shopping list and braving the hordes of people, you also have to control your tearaway toddler, and threats, entreaties and raising your voice don’t always work. That’s why many mothers simply put their kids in strollers – where they can sit still and not make a noise. But experts warn against children spending too much time in strollers, saying it could hamper their coordination and development. We look at the facts.

There are few challenges quite as daunting as tackling a shopping mall with a young child. Between ticking off things on your shopping list and braving the hordes of people, you also have to control your tearaway toddler, and threats, entreaties and raising your voice don’t always work. That’s why many mothers simply put their kids in strollers – where they can sit still and not make a noise. But experts warn against children spending too much time in strollers, saying it could hamper their coordination and development. We look at the facts.

What does science say?     

  • British neuropsychologists say children’s attention span, balance and coordination are developed in the first 36 months of their lives, and therefore they should move as much as possible during this period. Spending too much time in a stroller could hamper this development.
  • Canadian paediatricians found in 2011 one in two kids spent more time being pushed around in a stroller than they did outdoors, which contributed to childhood obesity.
  • Researchers in Scotland say strollers that face forward limit contact between mother and child and thus hamper interaction and communication.

But what do our experts say, and how long is too long?

The age at which a child should no longer be in a pushchair is a bone of contention among mothers and experts and it depends on when individual parents think their kids should walk on their own. Local paediatricians say kids who can walk shouldn’t be pushed. Other signs your child is too big for a stroller is the fact their arms and legs no longer fit comfortably into it.

Are there exceptions?

While it’s always better to allow your child to move on their own as much as possible, there are times when it’s easier to transport them in a pushchair, such as when you’re in a hurry or have more than one child who requires your attention.

Find the balance:

  • If possible, choose a pushchair which faces you instead of forward. This will allow you and your child to still communicate.
  • If you do have to push your child around in a stroller, compensate by finding more time to allow them to play outside and indulge in physical activities.
  • If your kids are in a stroller which faces forward, talk to them regularly to encourage communication.
  • Teach your child safety rules so even if they’re pushed in a pushchair sometimes, they won’t be afraid to travel without it.
  • Take your child out of the stroller when you reach your destination so they don’t remain sitting in it.

The advantages of pushchairs:

  • They give the mothers of active children peace of mind that they’re safe.
  • They’re handy for excursions where children are required to walk far and may get tired.

The disadvantages of pushchairs:

  • Your child moves around less.
  • You’re cut off from your child if the pushchair faces forward.
  • It can hamper your child’s independence.

Not everyone’s laughing their heads off

American Laura Miller has started a blog where she makes fun of mothers who allow older kids to ride in pushchairs. Her blog, Walk, contains photographs of moms with children who are clearly too big for their strollers, accompanied by witty captions.

But some moms don’t find the blog funny and feel they have the right to decide for themselves when their children are too old for pushchairs. Click here and decide for yourself what you think of her pictures.

-Mieke Vlok

Extra sources: whataboutthechildren.org.uk, ctvnews.ca, apartmenttherapy.com

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