Studies Show Kids that Use Tray Walkers are Delayed in Mental and Motor Skills
This article provides helpful information about tray walkers and your child’s development. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Checklist also included below.
It’s amazing how some of the simplest milestones during your child’s development can become some of the most critical for their learning development down the road. Most of them we don’t even notice or think of when our child is a baby. Whoever would have ever thought crawling could be tied to reading and writing or how babbling is a precursor to a child developing effective social and communication skills? Such simple developmental milestones we often take for granted, but they can have some of the most profound affects as the child gets older and begins school.
A child learning to walk is yet another milestone that we often don’t give much thought to during our child’s development. For most children, it comes naturally. When you see your child pull themselves off the floor or walk along the couch (often called cruising), we get excited and cheer them on to reinforce their steps toward walking independently.
Because they are doing so well, why not continue to prod the child’s walking development along with say a device like a tray walker? Tray walkers are made better today than they were a few years ago and they can only encourage my child to walk more, right? Wrong!
Many parents tend to love infant walkers because the child can cruise wherever they want around the house, giving them easy access to different rooms and other environments. However, not only can walkers be a hazard, research now tells us, contrary to some parent beliefs, that they can also “impair – not foster – and infant’s motor and mental development,” according to an article in the New York Times.
Not only can tray walkers delay your child’s motor and milestone development, they can also hinder your child’s mental and learning development as well.
What are Tray Walkers?
So what are tray walkers? Tray walkers are seats hanging from frames allowing a baby to sit upright, bounce, and cruise around the house while letting their feet dangle and touch the floor. A tray is placed in front of the child with wheels at the base.
You may tell yourself, “my child has a newer tray walker, which is better than the old tray walkers for development right?” Wrong again!
Children with old tray walkers actually still out perform those kids that used the newer tray tables made today. Why is this? The new tray walkers prevent the child from viewing their limbs and feet, which help the child visually guide their legs across the floor. A child’s visual-motor skills are critical for the child’s development of depth-perception and visual processing needed for tracking words across a page, moving their eyes from paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence. It also prevents the child from using their natural movement needed for cross-laterality, which is important for right and left-hemisphere development of the brain, fine motor skills, balance, posture and language skills.
“A study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reported that babies who use the latest ‘tray-style’ walkers learned to sit up, crawl, and walk later than those who never used walkers or who used the older models that allowed the child to see their legs. The authors connected the use of these walkers to delays in memory, language, and learning; they also note that problems with balance and alignment were especially prominent among babies born prematurely or who were developmentally challenged. Furthermore, the authors found that babies who never used walkers had the highest scores in mental development, followed by those who used the older-style walkers. Children who used the newer walkers had the lowest scores.” (Brandes, Symphony of Reflexes)
Is there a difference in my child’s academic development when using a Tray Walker?
Researchers found that children who did not use tray walkers not only crawled and walked on their own earlier than their counterparts, they also developed better mental skills. “Mental scores averaged 113 for those using walkers that blocked the views of the feet, while babies who did not use walkers had an average score of 123.” (New York Times)
How do I know if my child is delayed in their development because of Tray Walkers?
If you used tray walkers when your child was a baby and notice some delays in their development, there are a few signs you can watch for in your child. Here is a checklist you can use to determine if certain delays may relate to tray walkers used as a child.
To print a copy of this checklist for your child, please complete the information below:
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02 Mar 2017 - Development