Comparison of Walking Devices

My baby is standing and ready to walk.  There are so many choices, which one should I choose?

Let us take a look:

Seated walkers and exercisers.  For these options you are able to lift your baby and place them in a seat that is surrounded by an outer frame.  This way your baby can move from full standing to partially standing (the body weight is distributed between the seat and their legs.)  If your baby is walking then they get some more movement throughout their legs and trunk.  Watch carefully, your baby’s natural movement for walking is being limited by the seat and overall frame of the toy.  These options also provide lots of bells and whistles to help keep your baby entertained while they are contained in this type of toy.  Research has also shown that prolonged use of a sling seat walker/exerciser may also lead to hip dysplasia (abnormal formation of the hip joint) and dysfunction can lead to delayed motor development.

Seated jumpers.  This option is typically hung in a doorway/frame or a handle bar that is physical held by an individual.  A sling seat is affixed to straps that hang down from the overhead structure.   Seated jumpers seem like a great way to allow your baby to be contained and exercise by jumping up and down.  However, most babies’ legs are not ready for the additional force that is applied to the legs when jumping.  Research has shown excessive stress on the bones can cause little breaks know as stress fractures.   This is why in nature we learn to walk and progress to jumping.  Not jump before we walk!

Pushed wheeled walkers.  These fun toys work well once a child is independently walking.  All babies love to push things.  However, if a baby is not independently walking a push wheeled walker is difficult to access and control.  A baby learning to walk needs help with their stability and balance.  A baby learning to walk with a push wheeled walker has a tendency to move too fast and begins to loose their balance.  In an attempt to stabilize their body a baby will hold onto the grip bar for balance.  However, the increased holding/pushing of the grab bar tends to make the wheeled walker move faster forward causing the baby to fall.

Little Balance Box.  A fresh new approach to assisting a baby develops their balance and walking skills.  The little balance box was inspired by babies leaning to walk as they pushed chairs and moved furniture.  A baby wants to be able to freely move and explore their environment.   The little balance box was designed with the baby in mind.  No seat to restrict their whole body movement.  No crazy lights and sounds.  The entertainment comes from being able to move, interact and learn about their environment.  No rolling wheels.  Springs in the feet ensure the little balance box stays with your baby.   A baby learning to walk will lean more on the top surface of the little balance box.  The increased pressure on the top causes the springs to compress increasing the contact between the feet and the floor.  The increased contact creates a braking/slowing mechanism.  This unique feature works with your baby.  As your baby becomes more stable and proficient with walking they lean less on the top surface.  Therefore, creating less contact between the feet and floor.  The springs in the feet also allow the little balance box to be used safely on carpet, tile and wood floors.

Which walker/exerciser is the best choice for your baby?


Shannon Davis PT, DPT

Toe Walking vs Heel to Toe Walking

Toe walking is a common occurrence in toddlers.  As the baby grows and develops, their walking technique should normalize.  A normal walking pattern includes the heel strike as a step is taken.  Then, as the toddler places their foot flat their body weight transitions over their foot.  The final stage occurs as the heel begins to lift off the ground and the toddler’s weight is transitioned into the toes for push off.  Taking a step requires a harmony of balance, strength and coordination.

It is important to be mindful of these foot dynamics as your child is developing and learning to walk.  Seated walkers create an increased tendency for toe walking and decreased opportunity to practice normal heel to toe walking.   The little balance box facilitates a natural heel to toe walking pattern by allowing the baby to move freely.

Shannon Davis PT, DPT

Container Baby or Safe Baby? Do you know the difference?

As a mother and physical therapist I loved having options for my babies to use while I was running around the house trying to get things done.  I often relayed on baby gear to keep my baby in place.  However, I quickly realized I was actually hindering my baby’s development and growth.  When a baby is strapped in or on something they are limited in their abilities to practice their motor skills.  Yes, the arms and legs are moving around.  But whole body coordinated movements are not occurring.

A “container baby” surrounded by baby gear appears safe.  However, a baby restricted multiple times a day and/or for prolonged periods of time has limited opportunity to practice their coordinated whole body movements.   The decreased practice opportunities can lead to delays in growth and development.  Therefore, a “safe baby” is a baby who has developed the strength, endurance and coordination to scoot, crawl and walk safely in their environment.

Shannon Davis PT, DPT