Are you finding it difficult to let go of the stroller? Do you feel everyone is wondering why your child is riding instead of walking?
While it can be a lifesaver for parents, there comes a point when your child has to stand on their own two feet — and get walking. This is where guidelines become cloudy, and why many wonder how old is too old for a stroller?
- Kids over 4 to 5 years old should generally transition out of strollers.
- Encourage children to be active to support motor skills, cognitive development, and overall health.
- Strollers can be convenient for parents and provide safety in certain situations.
- Be mindful of stroller overuse, but trust your instincts as a parent.
How Old is Too Old for a Stroller?
It seems this question has been debated for many years. There are no set guidelines, but the general opinion leans toward healthy kids over 4 to 5 years being stroller-free.
The transition should start at about 3 when your child is able to walk confidently and understand your directions.
This might take a little patience and perseverance on your part — your child may not take to it right away.
A gradual process of short walks combined with time in the stroller could help your youngster adjust to the change — with your sanity left intact.
Reasons to Retire the Stroller
If you’re still wheeling your child around, you may want to consider the following:
1. Kids Need to be Active
There are guidelines for how much exercise our kids should get daily. Reports indicate that spending too much time sitting during a child’s formative years can lead to obesity later in life (1).
Experts consider the length of time a child sits in a stroller comparable to watching TV — it should be limited. They advise only strapping them in for a maximum of 60 minutes and avoiding extended periods in the same position (2).
If your child is under 5, they should be active for at least 3 hours daily to stay healthy. We’re not talking about hitting the gym with your toddler. This could include activities like dancing, swimming, a walk in the park, or even playtime in your backyard — anything that gets them moving (3).
These levels of activity can help a child do the following:
- Develop motor skills — they’ll move more fluently.
- Improve cognitive development — memory, thinking, and problem-solving ability lays the foundations for academic achievement (4).
- Maintain a healthy weight (5).
- Develop muscles and bones — building strength.
- Learn social skills such as interacting with others through play.
Knowing the benefits of exercise for your little one may encourage you to use a stroller less often.
2. Strollers Can Hinder
For moms, trying to navigate a stroller could have its downfalls — stores with narrow aisles and busy shopping malls may test your patience and skills.
How often have you pacified your super-active youngster by letting them out of the seat? You’re left steering an empty stroller one-handed while trying to maintain contact with your child.
Also, why do the stairs seem to appear everywhere when all you want is an elevator? If your big kids are on foot, holding their hand is less hassle than collapsing a stroller every five minutes.
3. Parents Underestimate Walking Capabilities
If your child looks confident on their feet and shows no interest in wanting to ride in the stroller, then why use it?
Although they have shorter legs, many kids are able to cover greater distances — albeit at a slower pace — than parents give them credit for.
Reasons For Using a Stroller
Now, let’s consider why you might be reluctant to give up your child’s ride.
For parents, using a stroller to make things easier is one of the main plus points (6). Our busy lifestyles might mean time is limited. A stroller should get you and your child places faster than on foot.
I’m sure most moms have faced the cries of “I’m tired” or “My legs ache.” Then there is the youngster who sits down and refuses to take another step. In these scenarios, scooping them up into a stroller gets you mobile again.
For the big day out with the kids, a stroller is worth its weight in gold. When walking all day around a zoo or theme park, long distances add up to tired little legs. The wheels offer them a break while keeping you both on the move. This is the ideal use for a stroller in older toddlers. They may be perfectly fine walking for a few hours but need the break a stroller can provide. During warm weather months, a shaded stroller can also prevent overheating.
Plus, not only is it great for your kiddie to enjoy what’s going on from their comfy chair. It’s also a handy place to store all the gear you can’t leave home without.
Sometimes, having eyes in the back of your head is not enough. A stroller could provide protection.
Losing sight of your child is every parent’s nightmare. But youngsters are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. When buckled up, you know where they are at all times.
3. Not All Kids Develop at the Same Pace
You may have a 4-year-old who looks more like a 6-year-old or vice versa. So who is to say whether either is too old for a stroller? Likewise, their physical ability can vary. Some may find coping with distance an issue.
For children with a medical condition or disability, a stroller could be their only option for getting around. The British Medical Journals discusses the mobility needs of children with disabilities.
The Consideration Continues
There is little doubt that there are situations when strollers are appropriate for big kids. They’re a convenient way to get your kids from point A to B — particularly when time, distance, and safety are concerned.
However, placing your child in one for too long can eat into their precious activity time — which is essential for health and development.
While it’s all too easy to become dependent on this mode of transportation, stroller overuse is an issue in our society and something to be mindful of. However, no one knows their child better than you do. Don’t be pushed into ditching the wheels if you feel they need more time.