Why Baby Walkers Delay Motor and Mental Development


A baby walker is a product meant to allow babies who cannot yet walk on their own to move around with ease, while still being supported. According to a study published in Child: Care, Health, and Development, Baby Walkers Delay Motor and Mental Development.[1] Researchers found that by the time the babies in the study were nine months of age, the average mobility score among those who had used a walker was six points lower than the average mobility score for babies who hadn’t used a walker.

As a concerned parent, you want to provide every opportunity for your baby’s healthy development. When your infant starts sitting up on their own and grabbing at objects just out of reach, a baby walker may seem like an ideal way to give them mobility and independence while also keeping them contained and entertained. However, research shows that baby walkers can actually hamper motor and cognitive development. Before placing your baby in a walker, consider how it may impact their growth and delay key milestones. Your baby’s development is too important to take chances with, so make sure you have all the facts about the potential drawbacks of baby walkers.


What Are Baby Walkers?

Baby walkers are devices designed to help infants who are learning to walk. They typically consist of a padded seat surrounded by a rigid frame that moves on wheels. The walker allows babies to move around and practice walking while still providing support. However, baby walkers have been shown to potentially delay motor and cognitive development in infants.

Research studies have found that baby walkers can discourage crawling, cruising, and walking – all important developmental milestones. Crawling, in particular, helps develop core and upper body strength, as well as hand-eye coordination. It also gives babies opportunities to explore the surrounding environment, manipulating and grasping objects. When babies spend prolonged periods in walkers, they miss out on these crucial developmental experiences.

Additionally, baby walkers have been linked to increased risk of injuries. The mobility provided by walkers means that babies can access areas that are not baby-proofed, and collisions with furniture, heaters, and other household items are common. Walkers also do not provide the stability and balance of regular walking, and babies can easily tip over or tumble down stairs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using baby walkers at all due to these safety and developmental concerns.

While baby walkers may seem appealing as a way to give infants more mobility and independence, the disadvantages far outweigh any benefits. For the healthy development of babies, crawling and unassisted walking are best. Baby walkers should be avoided.

Baby Walkers Delay Motor and Mental Development
Baby Walkers Delay Motor and Mental Development

Why Baby Walkers Delay Motor and Mental Development

How Baby Walkers Can Delay Motor Development

Baby walkers, while convenient for keeping an infant occupied, can actually delay their motor and cognitive development.

Motor Development

Baby walkers give infants mobility before they are physically ready, preventing them from developing core strength and balance. Infants need “tummy time” and opportunities to freely move their legs to build muscle. Walkers restrict this movement, instead relying on wheels to get around.

Studies show that infants who spend prolonged time in walkers may take longer to sit, crawl, and walk. Their leg muscles become underdeveloped, making it more difficult to transition to walking without support. Prolonged walker use is associated with delays in walking by up to two months.

Cognitive and Social Development

Spending too much time in a walker can also delay cognitive and social development. Infants need opportunities to interact with their environment and explore the world around them. Walkers limit sensory stimulation and social interaction, depriving developing minds.

Infants learn through play, interaction, and experimentation. Walkers prevent infants from fully engaging in play with others by restricting mobility and limiting opportunities for social interaction. Infants can become isolated and detached from human interaction and contact.

In summary, while baby walkers may seem like a convenient way to keep infants entertained, they can negatively impact development. Limiting time in walkers and providing opportunities for unrestricted movement, social interaction, and play is critical for healthy development in infants. Your baby will thrive with your attentive interaction and nurturing care.

Research on How Baby Walkers Impact Mental Development

Research studies have found that baby walkers can negatively impact a child’s mental and motor development. As parents, it is important to understand these impacts to make the best choice for your child’s growth and developmental needs.

Delayed Walking

Several studies have found that babies who spend time in walkers tend to start walking later than babies who do not use them. Walkers give babies mobility before their muscles are ready, depriving them of opportunities to strengthen core and leg muscles needed for walking. This can delay the onset of independent walking by up to one month.

Impaired Mental Development

Time spent in a baby walker has been linked to impaired mental development in infants. Studies found lower scores on tests measuring mental development, problem-solving skills, and conceptual reasoning in babies who used walkers compared to those who did not. Researchers theorize that walkers restrict babies’ ability to freely explore their environment, hampering learning opportunities during this critical stage of development.

Safety Hazards

In addition to developmental impacts, baby walkers pose serious safety risks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 14,000 walker-related injuries occur annually in the U.S. The most common injuries are falls down stairs due to lack of mobility control and collisions with objects that would normally be out of a baby’s reach. Due to these risks, baby walkers are banned in Canada and parts of Europe.

Given the potential for delaying development and injury, pediatricians and child safety experts strongly advise against using baby walkers. For your baby’s optimal growth and safety, floor playtime, sensory activities, and adult interaction are recommended over time spent in a walker. Your baby’s healthy development is worth the investment of your time and patience.

When to Avoid Using Baby Walkers

When to Avoid Using Baby Walkers

Baby walkers, while once a popular item for infants, are now known to potentially delay motor and cognitive development in children. For this reason, many experts recommend avoiding the use of baby walkers altogether.

Walkers restrict a baby’s ability to interact freely with their environment. Instead of crawling on the floor and grasping objects around them, babies in walkers can only access what is in their limited range of motion and reach. This inhibits their ability to strengthen motor skills and hand-eye coordination that comes from unrestricted movement and interaction with surroundings.

Baby walkers also do not properly support the development of balance and posture. The upright position and mobility that walkers provide is unnatural for infants. Babies must first develop strength in their neck, torso, and legs by rolling, sitting, crawling, and pulling up – skills that walkers bypass. Lack of opportunity to build up these muscle groups and balance can lead to delayed walking and other developmental delays.

There is also a risk of physical harm associated with baby walkers. Infants in walkers can move quickly and are at risk of falling down stairs, colliding into objects, or getting into dangerous situations that their motor skills do not yet prepare them for. Numerous studies have found an increased rate of injuries for children who spend time in baby walkers.

For these significant reasons, pediatricians and child development experts strongly advise avoiding the use of baby walkers. Allowing infants to freely move, sit, crawl, grasp, and interact with their surroundings in a safe space is the healthiest way to support proper growth, development, and wellbeing. Only when a baby shows signs of pulling up, cruising, and walking on their own should a stationary activity center or push toy be considered to help build upon skills they have naturally developed.

Alternatives to Baby Walkers for Motor Development

Baby walkers are devices that allow infants to move around before they can walk independently. However, research shows that baby walkers can delay mental and motor development in infants. As an alternative, parents should consider other options that provide mobility in a safer way and encourage development.

Stationary Activity Centers

Stationary activity centers, like exersaucers, provide mobility and entertainment for babies without the risks associated with walkers. These devices surround the baby while allowing them to spin, rock, bounce and play with attached toys. They help babies strengthen leg muscles and practice balance in a contained space.

Play Mats

Thick play mats and activity gyms with overhead mobiles are excellent alternatives. These provide padding for babies to lay, sit, roll and play while engaging with various textures, sounds and sights. Play mats stimulate senses and motor skills without the restrictions and risks of walkers.

Toy Push or Activity Walkers

Once a baby is ready to start walking with support, a stationary push walker or activity walker is a safer option than a freestanding baby walker. These walkers don’t have wheels, so they give babies mobility while still keeping them in one spot. The interactive toys and sounds encourage babies to practice walking, standing, and balance while having fun.

Encouraging Development

The most important way to help babies develop mentally and physically is by spending time with them. Engage babies in interactive play by reading books together, singing songs, stacking blocks, and practicing walking while holding hands. Tummy time, crawling, and supervised explorations of the environment are all activities that stimulate healthy development.

In summary, baby walkers are unsafe devices that hinder development. Parents should avoid using them and instead try stationary activity centers, play mats, push walkers and interactive play to keep babies engaged and encourage mobility, balance and growth at their own pace.

Tips to Encourage Motor Skills Without Baby Walkers

Instead of using baby walkers, there are several activities you can do to encourage your baby’s motor skills development.

Tummy time

Giving your baby tummy time helps build strength in their neck, shoulders and trunk. Start with just 3-5 minutes a few times a day and slowly increase the time. Place some engaging toys in front of your baby to keep them motivated. Tummy time also helps prevent flat spots on the back of the baby’s head.

Reaching and grasping

Provide opportunities for your baby to reach, grab and manipulate objects. Place toys with different textures within your baby’s reach so they can practice grasping and transferring objects between hands. As your baby gets better at reaching and grasping, move the toys slightly out of reach so they have to work to get them. This helps build arm strength and hand-eye coordination.

Rolling over

Once your baby can hold their head steady, help them practice rolling over. Gently roll your baby onto their side while supporting their head and neck, and roll them back. This helps build muscle strength needed for rolling and the core strength to come. Place toys or other interesting objects on both sides of your baby to motivate them to roll over.


Around 4-6 months, most babies can sit with some support. Sit behind your baby and hold their sides to help keep them balanced. Provide toys to grab and bat at while sitting. This helps build trunk control and stability. As they get better at sitting, slowly remove your hands so they’re sitting independently while you supervise.


Crawling provides mental and physical benefits for babies. Once your baby can sit well on their own, place toys a short distance away to motivate them to move towards. Get down on the floor with your baby and demonstrate crawling. Gently move their hands and knees in the crawling motion. Provide tummy time and opportunities to strengthen their core, arms and legs which will all help with crawling.

With patience and practice, your baby will build strength and skills through these activities rather than using baby walkers. Providing a safe environment for your baby to explore on their own terms will encourage healthy development.

Signs of Delayed Motor Development to Watch For

As a baby develops motor skills, certain milestones should be reached by specific ages. If a baby seems delayed in reaching these milestones, it could indicate a developmental issue and the baby should be evaluated by their pediatrician. Some signs of potential motor delays in babies include:

Lack of Head Control

By 4 months of age, a baby should have good head control and be able to lift their head up while lying on their stomach. An inability to hold their head up during tummy time could indicate a delay.

Not Rolling Over

Most babies will roll from their tummy to their back around 5 to 6 months. Rolling from back to tummy typically happens around 6 to 7 months. Lack of rolling in either direction by 7 months is a potential red flag.

Not Sitting Up

Sititng up without support is a milestone most babies reach between 6 to 7 months. If a baby cannot sit up on their own by 8 months, it could signal a motor delay.

Not Crawling or Pulling Up

Babies usually start crawling between 6 to 10 months and pulling up to stand between 8 to 12 months. An inability to crawl, pull up, or stand with support by 12 months should be evaluated.

Lack of Pincer Grasp

The pincer grasp, the ability to pick up small objects between the thumb and forefinger, develops between 8 to 12 months. If a baby past 12 months struggles manipulating small toys or finger foods, it could indicate a fine motor delay.

Not Walking by 18 Months

Most babies take their first steps between 12 to 18 months. A lack of walking by 18 months is a sign that evaluation from a doctor is needed to check for any delays or disorders impacting development.

Early intervention is key for helping babies with delays reach their full potential. Speaking to your baby’s pediatrician about any concerns with their motor development is the first step to getting them the help and support they need.

Activities to Boost Motor and Mental Skills

To boost your baby’s motor and mental development, focus on activities that encourage mobility, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive growth.

Tummy time

Giving your baby opportunities for tummy time helps build strength in their neck, back and core muscles needed for crawling and walking. Start with just 3-5 minutes a few times a day, increasing the time as your baby gains more head and neck control. Place toys, rattles or other engaging objects slightly out of your baby’s reach during tummy time to motivate them to move.

Reaching and grasping

Provide opportunities for your baby to reach, grasp and manipulate toys and other objects. Toys that make sounds, have different textures or move in interesting ways capture a baby’s attention and motivate them to practice grasping and picking up objects. As motor skills improve, introduce building blocks, nesting toys, shape sorters and stackable items.

Crawling and cruising

Once your baby can sit unassisted, encourage crawling and cruising (walking while holding onto furniture) which help develop leg strength and balance. Create an open, safe space for your baby to roam and explore. Place motivating toys a short distance away to inspire crawling and cruising. Supervise your baby closely, especially on hard surfaces.

Language development

Talk, read and sing to your baby every day. Simple books with lots of pictures, especially of familiar objects, animals and people, stimulate language development and cognitive growth. Repeat words, point out and name objects, and engage your baby in back-and-forth conversation using simple words and short phrases. The more words your baby hears each day, the faster their language and mental skills will develop.

Providing developmentally appropriate opportunities for movement, exploration and learning each day through interactive play and communication will effectively boost your baby’s motor and mental development in a safe, nurturing way. Avoid the use of baby walkers, which can delay key developmental milestones and pose safety risks.

FAQ on Baby Walkers Delaying Motor and Mental Development

As a new parent, you likely have many questions about baby walkers and their impact on your child’s development. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding how baby walkers can delay motor and mental development:

Do baby walkers teach infants to walk?

No, baby walkers do not aid in teaching infants to walk. They can actually delay walking by restricting leg movement and balance practice. Infants learn to walk through unrestricted floor play and practice.

At what age can a baby use a walker?

Baby walkers are not recommended for infants of any age. They pose risks of injury and developmental delays.

Are baby walkers safe?

Baby walkers are not safe for infants. They have been associated with increased risk of injury from falls, collisions, and finger entrapment. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against using baby walkers.

How do baby walkers delay development?

Baby walkers restrict natural movement and balance practice required for walking. They limit floor play opportunities for object manipulation and interaction. This can delay motor, cognitive and social/emotional development.

Are there alternatives to baby walkers?

Yes, there are many alternatives that support development. These include:

  • Floor play gyms with activity centers to encourage reaching and grasping.
  • Playpens for safe, enclosed play.
  • High chairs for feeding and interaction.
  • Stationary activity centers with swivel seats.
  • Jumpers that provide limited, controlled movement.
  • Walking toys for balance practice while holding furniture.

In summary, baby walkers pose safety hazards and delay infant development. Alternatives that encourage floor play, movement and interaction are recommended for healthy development. By avoiding baby walkers in favor of these alternatives, you can support your child’s growth and milestones. The risks associated with baby walkers far outweigh any perceived benefits. Your baby’s wellbeing and development should be the top priority.


As you have seen, baby walkers pose many risks to an infant’s development that far outweigh any perceived benefits. Their use can delay mental and motor development, and in some cases cause permanent harm. The facts clearly show that baby walkers should not be used. For the wellbeing of our children, it is time we leave behind the notion that “earlier is better” when it comes to walking. Our babies will get there in their own time, when their minds and bodies are ready, through natural development and with our loving guidance and support. The long term rewards of patience and trusting in the developmental process will serve our children well. Their future mobility, intellect, and independence depend on the nurturing choices we make for them today. Let’s give our babies the gift of time and space to grow into their true potential.