A walking ring was once considered a must-have accessory for parents; however, the avoidance of its use is on the rise. It is still widely available in major infant stores, so that raises the question, are the bad reviews warranted?
Child experts are unanimous in their views that a walking ring is a no-no, for the following reasons:
IT IMPEDES MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT
Putting your child in a walking ring enables mobility before they are mentally ready for this milestone. Their muscle development follows a sequence and their mental development and coordination should match this. A walking ring makes your baby mobile before he is mentally ready for it so their muscles fail to develop in the correct sequence for later mobility. Being in a walking ring forces your baby to bear more weight on their legs than what should be at this stage and deprives your little one of floor time which limits hand exploration which is imperative at this age.Standing, falling and getting back up is very important for your baby’s development. This can be stunted using a walking ring.
THE ACHILLES TENDON IS AFFECTED
Dr Karin Van Niekerk, who is a paediatrician at the Mediclinic in Milnerton points out that the walking ring can harm an infant’s Achilles tendon which is the ligament at the back of the ankle. It shortens as your little one spends time in the walking ring, which could result in your baby tiptoeing instead of walking normally when older.
Unfortunately walking rings can be very dangerous. If they get to a flight of stairs or come across electrical cords, the chances of the walking ring wheels catching, or locking are high and could lead to a nasty bash to the skull. Most walking rings are created with the most basic of wheels that only really work on flat surfaces. They can very easily stick, hook or break. Being in a walking ring also puts them at a new height level which could mean your baby reaches and touches places they normally couldn’t, and this could result in cuts or burns which would result in a trip to the hospital.
While walking rings may be a quick-fix for keeping a little one happy when you urgently need both hands free, there is something else to consider: a complaining baby is a developing baby. It is very hard work for a baby to coordinate his arms and legs and then to lift the entire body and propel forward which causes frustration due to wanting to move but his body saying, “not yet”. Research shows that moaning and groaning stimulates brain growth. The brain has infinite potential which lies dormant until there’s a need. When a baby has the need to move, the brain responds by creating the right neurochemical pathways to fulfil the need. These pathways prompt muscles to develop in sequence from head control, rolling, sitting, grasping, crawling, pulling oneself up, cruising and lastly walking.
“You didn’t learn to walk just because you were at the right developmental stage to stand up and walk. Your desire to get across the room, to run into your mom’s and dad’s embrace, or play with your sister or brother, charged you up with an intense enthusiasm to learn how to walk” – Dr Deborah Sunbeck.
Walking rings are deemed unsafe by the experts no matter what the brand is. Even limited use of a walking ring hinders development.