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 stroller time?
How Old is Too Old for Strollers?
It seems this question has been a subject of debate for many years and it will likely continue to be so. There are no set guidelines, but the general opinion leans toward kids over the age of 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 think about the following:
1. Kids Need to be Active
There are guidelines for how much exercise our kids should be getting every day. One report has indicated 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 to avoid extended periods in the same position (2).
Healthy exercise levels for the under 5’s is suggested as at least 3 hours a day. We’re not talking about hitting the gym with your toddler. It could be 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:
- 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 they walk beside you holding the other hand.
Also, why is it, when all you want is an elevator, the stairs seem to appear everywhere? 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 their ride.
For parents, using a stroller to make things easier is one of the main plus points (6). Our busy mom lifestyles might mean time is limited. A stroller should get you and your child to 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 equals 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 they need the break that 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 paraphernalia you can’t leave home without.
There are times when having eyes in the back of your head is not enough. Opting to use a stroller could provide protection.
Losing sight of your child is possibly every parent’s nightmare. The trouble is youngsters are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. When buckled up, you know where they are at all times.
I had a personal experience with a two-year-old who was safer in a stroller than walking on his own. Some friends and I took him and his brother to a playground for a few hours of playtime. When it was time to leave, the two-year-old wanted to walk rather than sit in his stroller.
His mother, however, insisted on him sitting in his stroller for the walk back home. This persistent toddler then proceeded to have a temper tantrum, complete with dragging his feet onto the ground to impede stroller-pushing. Half-way through our walk, his mother decided to take him out of the stroller so that he could walk with us.
As soon as the stroller straps were released, he took off running, first down the sidewalk, then between two parked cars, and finally toward the street. Fortunately, the driver of an oncoming car saw his mother running to catch him and stopped. His mother was able to catch him just before he ended up into the street.
Editor's Note:Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
3. Not All Kids Are Created Equal
Children develop at different rates. You may have a 4-year-old looking more like a 6-year-old or vice versa. So who is to say whether either of them is too old for a stroller? Likewise, their physical ability can vary — some may find coping with distance an issue.
For some children, a stroller could be their only option for getting around — those less fortunate who might have a medical condition or a disability. The British Medical Journals discusses the mobility needs of children with disabilities.
Unfortunately, in this world, people are too quick to judge on appearances without knowing the facts.
The Consideration Continues
There is little doubt, even for big kids, there are situations when strollers are appropriate. 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 — 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. That being said, no one knows their child better than you do. If you feel they need more time, don’t be pushed into ditching the wheels.