A baby in a beige jacket in a stroller on a walk in the spring Park.

Keeping Kids “Safe” in a Stroller Harness is Actually Hurting Their Development

Here’s just one of the many eye-opening chunks of a study of 5–point harnesses (the kind that go around the waist, between the legs and over the shoulders), by social-worker-turned-movement-therapist Barbara Chutroo:

Infants’ brains have fewer neurological networks than those of adults but they grow rapidly.  This rapid neurological organization of experience occurs in response to sensory and movement stimulation.  Piaget said the child’s first stage of cognitive development (thinking) is sensory motor, meaning that infants think through sensory and movement explorations. As a child receives sensory information, the child organizes a sense of the world and of his or her body.

An infant must figure out “How do I roll over?”  “How do I grasp this ball?”  “What does this sound signify?”  They pay sustained attention to each sensory motor task.  This is the child’s first encounter with problem solving. Learning to sit up, learning to roll over, each task is a problem to solve with time and attention, each solution is linked to a new neural organization of the brain…

In other words, movement and brain development go together in kids. (Maybe in all of us, but that’s not our point at the moment.)

Stifle movement and you stifle the natural urge to look around and start putting two and two together: “That thing making noise is a bird. Birds are in trees. Hmm…”

I interview Chutroo over at Let Grow — here’s the link to our fun Q&A. And here’s a link to her actual 5-page paper on the topic.

This is an issue I really haven’t seen discussed much — the way we have just allowed super-safety/immobility to  infiltrate more and more of childhood without ever questioning whether kids were unsafe without it. Chutroo isn’t talking about car seats, where serious harnesses make sense. She’s talking about strollers and high chairs, even trikes, where kids get strapped in for no real reason, making them “safe” from awareness, agency and curiosity.

Time for us to look around with more curiosity, too!


2 Responses to Keeping Kids “Safe” in a Stroller Harness is Actually Hurting Their Development

  1. Resident Iconoclast April 26, 2022 at 2:30 pm #

    A five point harness in a stroller? Geez…

    Who wants to be the first parent arrested for child abuse by dropping their kid out of a plane (with a parachute) in one of those things? I’m sure little Johnny would love it.

    Can kids even go outside anymore? Gawd.

  2. Reziac April 26, 2022 at 4:03 pm #

    Well, a five point harness might be necessary if your stroller is ball-shaped and you move it by rolling it around… actually, that sounds like it might be fun — for the kid inside! and if you leave off the harness, they could roll themselves!!

    In fact, wasn’t there once a sort of mobile playpen that the kid rolled it around by moving inside it?