As a parent, you want the best for your child, which includes making sure their bodies have healthy development at certain stages.
Walking is a critical factor in whether or not your toddler will develop adequate muscles.
If your child is still being pushed around in a stroller, they may be losing out on critical opportunities to develop their lower body strength.
Although, every mom can attest that their child may not grow at the exact same rate as others.
When rolling your kid around, you may want to consider a few different factors.
One of which is knowing how old is too old for a stroller.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Stroller Past Age 5
A child may not fully understand that getting out of the stroller is good for their health.
Critical muscle growth, interpersonal skills, and fine motor movement are formed within the first year of growing.
If your child is stuck in a stroller, they may not be getting the stimulation they need to grow.
Plus, there comes a time when a mom has to make a choice to force their toddler to do things on their own.
However, as a parent, you want to ensure that it’s the right time to transition from a stroller to walking.
Here are a few reasons we’ve found as to why you shouldn’t be using a stroller anymore.
1. It hinders muscle growth.
Depending on how old your child is, there will be different guidelines on how much physical activity they will need per day.
According to a Canadian study, children between the ages of one and three should get at least one hour of physical activity each day.
This is the minimum recommendation and should be followed strictly.
However, other countries recommend that toddlers should get up to a maximum of three hours of physical activity per day to stay healthy.
Having your child in a stroller for most of the day is comparable to having them sit in front of the TV. It’s not good for their back or their lower body.
Lack of movement can lead to poor muscle development and, eventually, to other problems, such as obesity.
2. It reduces hand-eye coordination.
Another significant benefit of being out of the stroller is the fact that your child can interact with their environment more.
Children who aren’t able to interact with objects or the world around them tend to have poor motor skills.
A few minutes a day can make a huge difference in how the child learns to interact with toys and people.
Being able to gauge how far an item is from them can also play a considerable role in motor skills once they begin schooling.
3. It stunts skill development.
A lot of other daily skills tend to tie into physical activity, including social and emotional development.
Lack of physical movement can also hinder your child from being able to socialize and move around.
This, in turn, can cause them to be anxious, frightened, or startled by movements.
Additionally, the social aspect means that they will also be behind their peers.
4. It reduces problem-solving skills.
Again, one major benefit of being able to move around out of a stroller is interacting with their environment.
Kids who stay in strollers tend to be less likely to problem-solve.
While they can still spectate what’s happening around them, they won’t be able to figure out how to mimic the movements.
A big part of problem-solving is being able to see how adults and other kids interact with their environment and then be able to mimic what they are doing.
A child who is kept in a stroller for too long will only be able to view what’s happening around them and not be able to practice problem-solving skills.
5. It leads to a lack of mental development.
There’s a balance between physical and mental development. Infants a year or younger can get away with being in a stroller for most of their day.
It’s critical that they move around on the floor, but not interact with their surrounding environment. However, that all changes when they hit the age of one.
Toddlers from ages one to two have a significant increase in psychosocial health.
Being restricted in movements impairs their self-efficacy, self-esteem, and pro-social behaviors.
Aside from that, there can be negative impacts on their temperament, aggressiveness, and social functioning.
How Old Is Too Old for a Stroller?
The best stage to transition out of a stroller is around three years of age.
This is where their developmental stages begin, and it’s imperative that they get enough mental and physical stimulation.
Although, if you were to ask the American Academy of Pediatrics, they don’t have official guidelines of when to stop using a stroller.
Every child is different, and we understand that some may feel a sense of attachment or even fear when transitioning.
It’s essential to start at a minimum of age three so that there’s enough time given for the transition.
If not, a child may be unable to support themselves and even risk injury.
However, if you’re heading to a busy place or doing daily chores, you can still use a stroller. The key is to get your child situated using both the stroller and walking.
Using a stroller past age five isn’t recommended. Still, some mothers find that a stroller is easier to use when being out in public.
As long as your child is getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day, it’s not too much of an issue.
A pediatrician should see children who are struggling with daily movement. This way, you can be sure there aren’t any other underlying problems.
How to Encourage Physical Activity
Proper methods to encourage your child is to have them be physically active outside of using the stroller.
Some children find that playdates are very motivating, as is playing with interactive toys.
Others may find floor-based play and crawling are more effective methods at first.
1. Play Dates
Aside from play dates with peers of the same age, children also enjoy interacting with pets and adults.
Scheduling a few hours every day can help encourage children to step outside their comfort zone and get physically active.
We suggest having the parents or siblings be the first playdates, as attention from family is very motivating.
After the child gets comfortable with moving around with family, you can then transition them to play dates.
It’s no secret that every child loves to interact with toys. Having something that they can physically touch and move can help encourage them to move around.
One of the best toys that encourage walking is activity walkers.
Babies who are having a hard time transitioning to crawling or walking will enjoy these interactive toys.
The walker encourages your child to move around but still provides lower body support. This can be good for children who are behind in development or who get bored and don’t move around.
3. Floor-Based Play
The most effective method of getting your child to switch from a stroller to walking is to have them engage in floor-based play.
This is where you take the child out of the stroller and have them either walk or crawl. Floor-based play is highly encouraged for ages two and up.
To get your child involved in floor-based play, you can follow these additional steps:
- Baby proof the room and remove any objects that may be harmful to your child. This includes moving furniture and plugging outlets.
- Take your child and place them directly on their tummy and allow them to get adjusted to being on the ground.
Do not rush this step. Otherwise, it can trigger dependency on being held or being in a stroller.
- Once your child is familiar with being on their stomach, you can then get down on your hands and knees and allow them to crawl.
It might be challenging at first, but having them transition in small increments each day will add up.
- Using toys or other toddler safe objects can also help encourage them to walk around.
Try and fit in at least an hour or two of floor play each day.
A stroller is definitely a mom’s best friend in the early stages of raising their children, but how old is too old for a stroller?
The quick answer is that it depends on the child and the circumstances.
What you should keep in mind instead is that relying on a stroller too heavily can have negative impacts on your child’s physical and mental development.
Just as it's not good to have imaginary friends or use a binky past a certain age, walking is just as important.
Every child is different, but it’s still good to follow recommended guidelines for stroller use.
If you notice your child is having problems transitioning from using a stroller, we recommend getting them checked out by a pediatrician.
When it comes to keeping your child safe, it's better to be aware of the possible risks when using a stroller.