A Montessori View on Baby Walkers
If you have a child at or around the same age as mine (7 months) you might be tempted to use a baby walker. In some families, baby walkers and bouncers are essential baby items. So what is the issue?
- The child must be placed in the walker and cannot get in or out of it independently. This takes away the child's right to free movement and independence.
- Not developmentally appropriate, most often these are used before the child is ready to walk, forcing the child into an unnatural position and cause unnecessary pressure.
- Don't support natural development.
So how about a Baby Walker Wagon (like pictured above)?
- The child decides when and how to use it.
- Can be used independently.
- Provides a stable base for the child learning to walk.
- Can boost self-confidence, often children are hesitant to leave the safety of the couch while cruising, the walker provides a mobile base.
- Promotes free movement and natural development.
"A walker wagon (wooden, not plastic) will provide an opportunity for the child to pull up and practice walking at will, but it will usually require the adult to turn the wagon around when the child reaches the end of the path, and push and pull toys are great fun for the new walker. None of these things rush the child, but they all help give the opportunity for practice at the perfect time." - From Michael Olaf The First Year - Crawling, Pulling Up, Standing.
The Baby Walker Wagon we used with Otis is no longer available and I can't source the Radio Flyer, so I am on the look out for a suitable wagon. Here is what I look for in a Baby Walker Wagon:
- Solid, heavy base. You can weigh the walker down with weights or blocks but you want a nice solid base to begin with. The heavier the more stable the walker will be.
- Width. The wider the walker the more stable it will be. If you have a couple of walkers to choose from, try them yourself.
- Adjustable wheels or wheels with traction. One of the problems with some walkers is there is no traction and even on carpet they move too fast. Many walkers have wheels which can be tightened for the beginner then loosened once the child has improved skills. Wheels with traction are ideal.
- Resists tipping. Some walkers have stoppers other it's in the design, it's important that the walker doesn't tip easily.
- High base. A higher base will make it easier for a beginner to pull themselves up to reach the handle.
- Made from natural materials. It goes without saying natural materials like wood are best, they are often more solid or heavier which is an advantage here and they last longer. They feel nicer for the child and they are often more aesthetically pleasing too.
- Are simple, don't offer distracting and unnecessary features such as a busy board.
What Baby Walker Wagons would I recommend or suggest looking at?
- Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon at Amazon (US).
- Toddler Push Wagon in Swedish Red at The Wooden Wagon (US) similar at Mercurius Australia (Australia).
- Toddler Push Wagon / Walker at The Wooden Wagon (US) similar at Mercurius Australia (Australia).
- Baby Walker with Pastel Wooden Blocks at JoJo Maman Bebe (UK).
- Push Wagon at Nova Natural Toys (US) and Honeybee Toys (Australia).
- HABA Walker Wagon at Amazon (US) and Babi Pur (UK).
- Push Cart at Community Playthings (US) (not pictured).
I am trying to find some more UK options. These are all really solid and long lasting walker wagons, they are good quality and in approximate terms cost the same as a mainstream toy store walker and jumper combined. There are lots of other ways to provide an environment that supports your child to walk including:
- Lots of uninterrupted free play on the floor.
- Less or no time in baby entertainment devices such as bouncers or jumpers.
- Use only unrestrictive clothing and bare feet if possible.
- Place large floor cushions/foot stalls/ottomans in or near the child's movement/play area.
- Place step stalls or heavy based child's chair, like a weaning chair, in the child's environment.
- Create an environment that supports freedom of movement including a weaning table and chair and floor bed, lots of opportunities for movement.
- A Montessori style pull-up bar.
- Try not to prop the child up or force them into walking, allow for natural development.
Recommended further reading:
- Helping your baby learn how to walk at Nduoma - Laying the foundation for a good life.
- Montessori Philosophy and Practice, The First Year - Crawling, Pulling Up, Standing at Michael Olaf.