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Do walkers help or hinder a child's develoment?
Q: I am considering getting my son a walker that looks like a flying saucer, the wheeled, low, round-table with a hole in the centre from which a seat is suspended type of thing. But I'm getting the impression that type of walker would jeopardize his physical development. Is this true?
Siwiga Bangkok, Thailand
A: Siwiga, it’s good that you’re looking into the safety of baby walkers before you buy one. The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other child safety experts recommend that baby walkers be banned because they are unsafe and not helpful for children’s development.

Many parents think a walker will help their baby learn to walk, but studies have shown that is not true. In fact, children who spend extended periods of time in walkers may miss out on time that they could be crawling, developing their arm/leg strength and coordination, and exploring their environment up-close, which many experts believe is important to children’s development.

Parents may also think that walkers are a safe way for infants to entertain themselves. But, in fact, walkers are a leading cause of serious injury among infants. Most of the injuries even happen when parents are watching their babies. A baby in a walker can move more than three feet in a second, and adults can’t respond fast enough to prevent an injury. The injuries include: head injuries and broken bones from the walker rolling down the stairs; burns from reaching up to the stove, heater or fireplace; drowning by falling into a pool, bathtub or toilet; poisoning by getting into cleaning products and medicines in cabinets; and pinching fingers and toes between the walker and furniture.

Instead of buying a baby walker, consider trying other safer alternatives: a play pen, high chair, or play table (which is like a walker but without the wheels). Make sure these products meet safety requirements and continue to supervise your baby while using them. And try to use them for only short stretches of time—playing with your baby is what’s best for his development.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician