What’s a parent to do when they want to enjoy the weather but don’t want to carry a heavy toddler in their arms? If you’re like us, hiking trails are a regular activity during the spring and summer months. Sure you can use a stroller, but that can be such a hassle.
This can get problematic when you have an extra 30 pounds to tow around that likes to complain of tired feet. So how can you prevent this? Babywearing is the perfect solution and in this guide we’ll cover the best carriers for toddlers.
There’s plenty of research on the benefits of babywearing, but what about when your child reaches toddlerhood? Contrary to popular belief, toddler wearing can still be beneficial to both you and your baby.
Before we go any further, let’s take a minute to debunk a few myths.
- Your child is too old to be carried: This is purely an opinion. They don’t know the story of you or your family. Maybe your child has severe attachment issues, or you’ve adopted them from a neglectful home.
- Wearing your toddler will delay their ability to walk: This is one of the most popular excuses I hear. In reality, your toddler will probably want to run and explore. However, their legs are little and they do get tired.
- You’re going to harm their hips doing that: The only time your child’s hips will be harmed is if you have a carrier that doesn’t fit correctly. Carriers meant for newborns will be more narrow while toddler carriers allow more space for legs (1).
- Wearing your toddler is going to spoil them: Giving a child love and attention isn’t spoiling them. You need to do what’s best for you and your child. If that involves carrying them, then so be it.
Different Types of Carriers
There are a few different styles to accommodate carrying your toddler. Each one has its own benefits and there isn’t one that is universally better than the other. It all comes down to your personal preference.
Personally, I like buckle carriers more because they’re much less complicated than slings and wraps. Here are your options.
- Standard buckle carriers: These are probably the most common carriers you’ll see used. They’re fairly easy to set up and come in both plain and printed designs.
- Backpack carriers: These are the more heavy duty carriers you might see while hiking. They’re meant for outdoorsy families as they come with lots of storage to hold snacks and other necessities.
- Wraps: Wraps are the most difficult, in my opinion. They take practice to get a tight fit, especially if we’re talking toddlers because they weigh more than infants and can shift more. These are long cloths that you wrap around yourself strategically and then tie off.
- Slings: Slings are similar to wraps, but they’re worn around one shoulder rather than around both.
While wraps and slings are more complex than buckle carriers, there are plenty of how-to videos to help you learn.
Things to Consider
Before you go shopping, it’s good to keep a few things in mind. These are going to ensure you’re getting the best product for your dollar. Some may seem obvious, but others are things you may not have thought about.
1. Weight Restrictions
Pay close attention to the weight restriction of each carrier. There are carriers geared specifically for infants as well as ones that can grow with your child.
This shouldn’t be an issue considering many carriers are built to support weight up to around 45 pounds. However, some are only suitable up to approximately 35, so check out the weight restrictions before buying.
2. Comfort and Support
When I say comfort, I don’t just mean for baby. After all, you’re the one who is wearing the carrier. To successfully carry your toddler, you need to have proper support.
When you’re shopping, look for wider shoulder straps that come equipped with extra padding. You’ll also want to check that the carrier’s straps are adjustable. This will help fit the carrier to your specific body.
To make sure your toddler is comfortable too, make sure to choose a carrier with a wide and supportive seat. This will guarantee proper leg placement to avoid any hip issues.
If you didn’t wear your toddler as a baby, the idea of toddler wearing can seem intimidating. If you aren’t confident in your wrap or sling skills, it may be wise to stick to a standard carrier.
Beyond that, you need to factor in the climate you live in as well as your everyday lifestyle. If you live in a warmer climate, stay away from thicker carriers with dark fabrics. If you’re a family who hikes regularly, a backpack carrier is the best option for you.
4. Cleaning Instructions
One of the biggest deciding factors for us when it came to carriers was how easy it was to clean. Babies and toddlers are messy so dirt and other stains are inevitable. Consider finding a carrier that can easily be thrown in the washing machine.
The Best Toddler Carriers of 2020
You have the information you need to make an informed decision now. But which toddler carriers are the best? We scoured the internet and came up with a top five list for you.
1. Tula Baby Free-to-Grow
For parents looking for a general carrier, this should be your top contender. It’s a fully adjustable and ergonomic buckle carrier so it’s easy to navigate. The carrier also comes in plenty of design options so you’re sure to find one in your style.
Because this carrier is good for newborns, infants, and toddlers, there are three different adjustable seat widths. It can be used until your child reaches 45 pounds. This should give you plenty of time considering my 3-year-old hasn’t quite reached 35 pounds yet.
You can carry your child facing you as well as backpack style too. The manufacturer notes this particular style of carrier isn’t meant to be worn on the front facing outward.
The carrier is just under 2 pounds and the fabric is breathable. This makes it perfect for warmer temperatures.
It’s also good for neck and shoulder comfort as it has dual-adjustment shoulder straps with plenty of padding too. The waistband also has a wide support band with padding to provide extra support to you while carrying.
- Adjustable design.
- Lightweight, breathable fabric.
- Removable hood.
- Machine washable.
- May dig into the skin.
Why We Love It
An adjustable design guarantees comfort for both mom and baby. If you have a carrier that doesn’t fit right to your body, it can deter you from the whole idea. We like this one because it allows you to cater to your specific body.
Lightweight, Breathable Fabric
You’re going to want something both lightweight and breathable. After all, you’re already going to carry an extra 30-plus pounds. Do you want to add a bunch of extra weight to that?
The carrier is made from 100 percent breathable cotton as certified by OEKO-TEX. Having breathable fabric is increasingly important in the summertime and warm days. It’s going to prevent your baby from overheating.
While the hood is mainly for infants, it can still come in handy if your toddler wants some coverage on sunny days. It can also prove beneficial if Mother Nature decides to sprinkle a little rain unexpectedly.
Having a machine-washable carrier is a must. It makes cleaning so much easier and less work for you. You don’t need to worry about accidents and stains because the washer does the hard work for you.
Keep In Mind
May Dig Into Skin
Parents have mentioned that the straps may dig into your shoulders and at baby’s legs. This could be due to improper adjustments, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
|Material||100 percent cotton|
|Weight limit||45 pounds|
|Unique features||Removable hood|
|Carry positions||Back and front carry facing inward|
2. Lillebaby Six Position Carrier
If you’re a Midwesterner, I suggest considering this standard carrier. It’s optimal for all seasons so if you live in an area where the weather changes from day to day, you’re covered. It has a zipper panel that reveals breathable fabric for when it’s hot outside.
Like our previous choice, this one also grows with your child. You can use it starting in infancy, but it can accommodate up to 45 pounds. There are six different carrying positions, four of which are good for toddlers.
You can face your toddler ergonomic outward, on your hip, facing inward, or on your back. The fit is customizable with two-way adjustable straps, an extendable back panel, lumbar support, and an adaptable seat. This allows for a more comfortable carry for both you and your baby.
The straps can be worn parallel or crisscrossed and the carrier can be machine washed on a cold cycle. Keep in mind, though, the carrier should be air-dried. It also comes with a slim zippered pocket so you can store your phone or other small necessities.
- Great for all seasons.
- Comfortable fit.
- Six ways to carry, four for toddlers.
- Storage for keys and phone.
- Bulky straps.
Why We Love It
Great for All Seasons
As a midwestern mom, you’ll need outdoor baby gear that is versatile for the weather. It can be sunny and high 70s one day with a chance of snow the next.
Having a carrier that can adapt with the seasons is going to save you time and money. The included air panel could come in handy in regulating your toddler’s temperature as well.
A comfortable fit is a must. If you want to enjoy the wearing experience, having an uncomfortable carrier is going to get in the way of that. Luckily, this one comes with full support including the lumbar belt.
The straps can also be worn in two different ways. This is nice so you can experiment and figure out which is better for you.
Six Ways to Carry, Four for Toddlers
Having multiple carry options at your disposal helps in a toddler-wearing experience. You can find what’s most comfortable for you and your toddler. The more comfortable you both are, the more enjoyable it will be.
Storage for Keys and Phone
Storage is good for keeping your hands free. The storage pocket can come in handy if you don’t want to carry a bag but need your main necessities.
Keep In Mind
While extra padding is great for added comfort, bulky straps can make you feel awkward. Depending on your body type, these straps may tuck under your arm. This can cause you to lose the ability to put your arms at your sides.
|Material||100 percent cotton, breathable mesh lining|
|Weight limit||45 pounds|
|Unique features||Zipper pocket for storage|
|Carry positions||Six ways to carry, four for toddlers|
3. Clevr Country Baby Backpack
Finding a good, supportive carrier is especially important for families who enjoy hiking together. This is where backpack carriers come in handy. This carrier, in particular, is super lightweight and can accommodate your child up to 33 pounds.
The seat is adjustable in three ways and comes with movable foot stirrups for your child. There’s also a drool pad, but that’s more geared toward small babies who are still teething.
The metal frame folds flat, which is convenient for storage and comes with a kickstand to easily stand it up. The shoulder straps are thick and padded to offer optimal support while you’re carrying.
The carrier comes with a canopy that can be removed or folded back if you don’t want to use it. It also comes with multiple pockets to hold your hiking essentials and includes two special water bottle pockets.
- Folding metal frame.
- Super lightweight.
- Adjustable seat and foot stirrups.
- Plenty of storage.
- Only accommodates up to 33 pounds.
- Zippers may break easily.
Why We Love It
Folding Metal Frame
With a carrier as big as this one, compactness and storage can be a concern. To help with that, it comes with a foldable metal frame so it can easily be stored in the closet.
This carrier is only 5.5 pounds, which is nice because you don’t need to worry about unnecessary extra weight. This comes in handy if you’re hikers because you’re already going to be carrying a lot.
Adjustable Seat and Foot Stirrups
The adjustable seat is nice because you can change it to accommodate your child’s height and weight. This will ensure a proper-fitting carry and maximum comfort for your toddler. The foot stirrups are nice for keeping their legs in an ergonomic position.
Plenty of Storage
Since this is a backpack, it comes with a lot of storage. You won’t need to lug around a separate bag because you can store most of your hiking essentials in this.
Keep In Mind
Only Accommodates up to 33 Pounds
Unlike other carriers, this one only holds up to 33 pounds as opposed to 45. If you have an older toddler, you might not get much use out of it.
Zippers May Break Easily
Parents have complained that the zippers on this carrier break easily. While this isn’t technically a safety issue, it can prove to be inconvenient. You’re not going to want to check the pack every five seconds to make sure everything is still there.
|Material||600d Oxford cloth|
|Weight limit||33 pounds|
|Unique features||Foot stirrups and canopy|
|Carry positions||One (on the back)|
4. Pura Vida Ring Sling Carrier
If you’re pretty confident in your wrap and sling abilities, you may want to consider this luxury sling. Available in a variety of colors, it’s made of super-soft bamboo and linen fabric. They’re also eco-friendly for any of our earthy mamas out there.
With every sling purchased, 5 percent of the profit is donated towards CEPIA, an organization in Costa Rica, on your behalf. CEPIA works with low-income families to ensure children and adolescents get the necessary support they need.
This sling is recommended for children up to 35 pounds and is designed to avoid neck and back strain. Because the sling fabric is long, it’s great for virtually any size from petite to plus. It also supports the natural “M” position, so it’s a good carrier for supporting hip development.
The sling comes with a lifetime guarantee as well and can be sent back if you aren’t satisfied with what you get.
- Supports a good cause.
- Great for any body size and shape.
- Lifetime guarantee.
- Plenty of color options available.
- May need to adjust periodically.
- Fabric wrinkles easily.
Why We Love It
Supports a Good Cause
Any company or brand that actively supports children’s organizations will always get a gold star in our book. We like this brand because they work closely with CEPIA to help give children in Costa Rica a good start.
Great for Any Body Size and Shape
Because this is essentially a long piece of fabric, it’s great for virtually any body type. As long as you know how to tie a sling, you’ll be able to fit it to your body.
Lifetime guarantees are nice because you can return the product at any time without having to jump through a million hoops.
Plenty of Colors Available
Having plenty of colors to choose from is nice too because you can find a color that best fits your style. After all, carriers are basically like another accessory for you. You’re going to want to find one you don’t feel embarrassed about wearing.
Keep In Mind
May Need to Adjust Periodically
The fabric is a bit slippery so it may need periodic adjustments. This can get pesky if you’re still breastfeeding and want to wear the carrier while doing so.
Fabric Wrinkles Easily
The fabric has also been known to wrinkle easily. This may not seem like a major concern, but it can get frustrating if you don’t like how it looks.
|Material||Bamboo and linen|
|Weight limit||35 pounds|
|Unique features||Aluminum rings|
|Carry positions||One, front facing inward|
5. Moby Evolution
Maybe you want to try out a wrap. If you’re interested in wrapping but you don’t want to spend a ton of money, this is one to consider. It’s recommended for children up to 33 pounds and comes in two different color options as well.
Wraps are generally versatile in their carrying positions and this one is no exception. You can adjust the wrap to fit your comfort level. The wrap evenly distributes weight to carry your toddler on your back, hips or facing you.
This wrap carrier is made of a cotton blend and is breathable to keep baby cool.
It’s also machine washable and can be tumble-dried on low. This is nice for low-maintenance cleanup.
- Easy to clean.
- Comfortable fit.
- Versatile in carrying positions.
- Breathable fabric.
- Requires periodic readjustments.
- Learning curve on how to use it.
Why We Love It
Easy to Clean
As parents, we’re busy people. Having gear and other clothing that requires step-by-step laundry care isn’t the most practical option out there. Luckily, this one is super easy to clean.
You just throw it in the washer and then tumble dry on low.
Wraps also tend to be the most comfortable because they’re made from soft fabric. There aren’t any buckles or rough fabrics digging into your skin. This one is nice because it’s made of a cotton blend for softness.
Versatile in Carrying Positions
With wraps, you have a ton of different ways you can carry your toddler. This is good because you have a better chance of finding a comfortable fit for you and your toddler.
Breathable fabric is especially convenient when you live in warmer climates or are traveling somewhere warm. It’s also a big safety feature. Breathable fabric is going to help prevent you and your child from overheating while wearing.
Keep In Mind
Requires Periodic Readjustments
Parents have reported this one will need periodic readjustments as it tends to slip around a little. This can cause frustration if you’re still breastfeeding and want to do it while carrying.
Learning Curve on How to Use It
Parents have also reported it takes some time to learn how to properly put it on. However, once you do learn, it seems to get easier.
|Material||70 percent viscose material, 30 percent cotton|
|Weight limit||33 pounds|
|Unique features||Dryer safe|
|Carry positions||Versatile, several different positions|
|Product||Award||Material||Weight Limit||Features||Carry positions|
|Tula Baby||Classic & Functional||Cotton||45 lbs||Removable hood||Back & front carry facing inward|
|Lillebaby||A Midwesterner’s Dream||Cotton||45 lbs||Zipper pocket for storage||Six ways to carry, four for toddlers|
|Clevr Country||Great for Hiking||Oxford cloth||33 lbs||Foot stirrups & canopy||One (on the back)|
|Pura Vida Ring||For the Earthy Mama||Bamboo & linen||35 lbs||Aluminum rings||One, front facing inward|
|Moby Evolution||Easiest Cleanup||70% viscose material, 30% cotton||33 lbs||Dryer safe||Versatile, several different positions|
Just Keep Wearing
Babywearing has many benefits to both you and your child and they don’t stop after your child learns to walk. Wearing your child into toddlerhood will help them feel more safe and secure. It will also help you get those rare snuggles that start to dissipate as they get older.
Our favorite toddler carrier is the Tula Baby Free-to-Grow. We like this buckle carrier because it’s easy to learn how to use and comes with several different design choices. We also like that it can hold up to 45 pounds.