The best baby walkers of 2023 look a lot different than the walkers of your childhood. As your baby starts to take those first steps, many parents seek out certain toys with the good intention to help baby reach such a big milestone. But pediatricians and pediatric physical therapists would prefer we avoid purchasing the sit-in, wheeled baby walkers of yesteryear. In fact, the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) warns against the wheeled walkers, particularly because they can allow otherwise non-mobile babies to reach hazards in the home and to even fall down stairways, causing injury. All of that said, there are plenty of fun push toys, wagons, baby seats and engaging activity stations that serve as fabulously fun alternative best baby walkers.
The AAP further suggests play yards, baby seats and even high chairs as places for babies to safely hangout in during playtime. We also recommend a smartly installed baby gate to keep kids from tumbles and dangerous areas.
Some research also suggested that sitting in those baby walkers of yesteryear might have slowed a baby’s walking development. Elizabeth Morel, owner of Little Movers PT, a pediatric physical therapy office in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, isn’t surprised by this. “Babies tend to lean to one side in the seat because they have poor core control,” she explains. “This usually coincides with the early in-utero preference, and it can lead to even more asymmetry over time,” she says, adding that sitting this way puts uneven pressure on babies’ underdeveloped hips. Morel says the best baby walker alternatives are activity tables and bouncers that don’t put pressure on baby’s core and lower body.
As for push toys, they’re generally OK, too, says Victoria Regan MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, “Using a mobile push toy can be fun for children and is generally safe once they’re able to walk, usually between 9 and 15 months of age,” she says. “Again, they should be used with parental supervision.”
These best baby walkers and alternatives below meet our experts’ criteria. You might also want to read our stories on the best balance bikes, or the best toys for 9-month-olds, 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds, depending on your child’s age.
- Best Baby Walker Alternative Overall: Haba Walker Wagon
- Best Value Baby Walker Alternative: LeapFrog Little Office Learning Center
- Best Splurge Baby Walker Alternative: Manhattan Toy Double Decker Celestial Star Explorer
- Best Wooden Baby Walker Alternative: Tender Leaf Toys Baby Block Walker
- Best Baby Walker Alternative Activity Table: Melissa & Doug First Play Children’s Jungle Wooden Activity Table
- Best Musical Baby Walker Alternative: Hape My First Musical Trotter
- Best Baby Walker Alternative With Extras: Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Grocery Cart
Best Baby Walker Alternative Overall
A Sturdy Walker Wagon Ideal For Pretend Play
Haba Walker Wagon
It isn’t cheap, but that’s part of what makes this Haba Walker Wagon so special and the best baby walker overall. Its quality craftsmanship extends to every inch of it, ensuring everything on the wooden toy operates smoothly. The rubber wheels are adjustable, allowing parents to control the speed of the walker for their individual child. Its made of beechwood and birchwood and treated with water-based stain, so parents won’t worry about toxins. The best part is that this walker encourages open-ended play. There’s a little bench on the front of it to place a favorite doll or stuffed animal, and the back of the wagon can also be filled with toys. Reviewers rave about its sturdiness and how much their kids love it—and it racks up the positive ratings at every retailer. It’s rated for ages 10 months and up, but parents should use their discretion based on their own child’s development.
Best Value Baby Walker Alternative
A Colorful, Low-Activity Table With Removable Busy Board
LeapFrog Little Office Learning Center
This C-suite may not have an executive chair, but it does have an interactive laptop (for learning shapes and animals), a phone (for practicing first words) and a globe that plays greetings and songs from around the world. We love that this activity table is fully bilingual in English and Spanish and arrives with the necessary batteries. It’s lightweight and affordable plastic. We do like its lower stature and that the top is removable, allowing parents to place it onto the floor as a busy board for tots who aren’t pulling up to stand just yet. It has a 4.8 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon among about 6,000 reviews.
Best Splurge Baby Walker Alternative
An Heirloom With Star Power
Manhattan Toy Double Decker Celestial Star Explorer
There’s room for up to four kids to blast off around this intricately detailed wooden activity center. The outer-space-themed toys include beads you push along wires, glider toys that move along the “floor,” a spring-loaded moon, a moving solar panel, doors to open and spinners to spin. It has a lot to offer older kids as well, so it’s great for a pair of siblings to share. Babies can play as soon as they’re a year old or can stand at it unassisted. It is heavy (14-plus pounds) but not meant to aid a child pulling up to stand.
Best Wooden Baby Walker Alternative
A Colorful Wagon With Room For Tons Of Toys
Tender Leaf Toys Baby Block Walker
This old-school push toy, designed to be used by babies 18 months and older who are already walking, meets another of Regan’s key criteria: giving little ones a clear view of where they’re headed. “Make sure the child can see and that the handle they will be using does not obstruct their view,” she advises. Some push toys have an activity board on front; they’re cute, but that can make it difficult to see obstacles kids can bump into and trip. This Tender Leaf Toys wagon is nice and low at 16 inches tall, with a low cargo bin and open handle frame. We imagine kids will appreciate the cheerful included block set, as well as using the wagon for additional games.
Best Baby Walker Alternative Activity Table
A Zoo Of Zany Toys For Even Small Babies
Melissa & Doug First Play Children’s Jungle Wooden Activity Table
This vivid wooden activity table is Morel’s pick as an alternative to baby walkers. Its jungle-themed toys include elephant gears to crank, a snake tube to spin, toucans shapes to slide, butterfly wings to open and shut, and a leopard to turn—all of which help refine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Parents may also appreciate that it doesn’t make any noise or require batteries. Your child can start playing with it when she can sit supported in your lap. ‘That’s usually around five months or so,” Morel says. In general, if you’re looking for an activity table for a small baby, buy one that’s short—but not too short—so your baby can keep her back straight and chin level while reaching for the toys, she says.
Best Musical Baby Walker Alternative
Let The Tunes Flow While They Stroll
Hape My First Musical Trotter
This musical walker from Hape is ideal for the youngest walkers for a few reasons. It’s petite enough for younger tots, but it also offers adjustable speed settings on the wheels, so parents can keep kids from cruising faster than their legs are ready to go. Let kids stroll with the music on or off, and they can play with the musical items, such as the drum and xylophone, as well as a few other toys like a mirror, even while sitting on the floor. The design is meant to prevent baby from tipping over with it, and the position of the handle makes it easy for baby to see where they’re going. Some reviewers have had trouble adjusting the speed and getting the music to work properly if they haven’t adjusted the bolts just so.
Best Baby Walker Alternative With Extras
This Wagon Includes Plenty Of Additional Toys
Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Grocery Cart Push Toy
Kids have plenty to explore with this amenity laden wooden cart from Melissa & Doug. It includes two chunky wooden puzzles, a shape-sorting game and a matching game. Of course, it also comes with a faux coffee cup, because your little one probably already knows you won’t make a grocery run without your caffeine. We love that this cart is likely to have some staying power as kids use it to run errands all over your house, toting their favorite toys from here to there in make-believe games for years to come.
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How We Chose The Best Baby Walkers And Alternatives
I spoke with two pediatricians and a pediatric therapist to get to the bottom of their baby walkers dos and don’ts. Unsurprisingly, none of them recommend the wheeled, sit-in variety. Instead pediatricians, such as Regan recommended: “We now only advise stationary ‘baby walkers’ (activity centers) if a parent really wants to get one,” as well as push walkers. Tapping into this advice, I combed through parents’ favorite push walkers, activity tables and stations and bouncers and pulled together a list of those bestsellers that most matched the experts’ recommendations, reading reviews closely and looking only at those with the best ratings.
Are Baby Walkers Safe?
Traditional baby walkers (seats with trays on wheels) have been redesigned so that they’re safer to use, but the AAP still warns against them. The pediatricians and pediatric physical therapist I interviewed don’t like them either. “Several infant deaths occurred in the past from baby walkers as well as many emergency room visits due to falls, even after the ‘safety’ modifications made in the late 1990s,” says Regan. “They do not help a baby’s development and definitely do not help them learn to walk. We now only advise stationary ‘baby walkers’ (activity centers) if a parent really wants to get one,” she says.
If you’re eager to find a safe, healthy stationary baby walker, make sure the one you choose is age appropriate and certified as safe by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Regan advises. “Never use one when your child is less than 6 months of age,” she says.
Do be aware that spending lots of time in a stationary, seated baby activity center like an exersaucer isn’t ideal for your child’s development. The seat is often too big to offer proper support and it may not be the correct height from the floor. That encourages the “overall use of inappropriate muscles and compensatory patterns,” explains Morel, which can lead to asymmetry and toe walking. To improve the situation, make sure your baby’s feet can stay flat on the floor with a slight bend in the knees, she says; you can put a flat object like a book or mat underneath if needed. You can also roll up a towel and put it in the sides of the seat for support to help prevent compensatory leaning.
For push toys, she adds, you can weigh them down or put rubber bands on the wheels to slow their roll and help babies keep up.
Can Baby Walkers Encourage Walking?
In short, no. “Many parents think walkers will help their children develop and learn to walk,” says Anthony Hudson, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. “Walkers can delay when a child starts to walk.”
Morel explained on aspect in detail: Mobile and stationary baby walkers and push toys encourage babies to put their weight in their tiptoes, which can affect how steadily they walk without support. Push toys in particular can impact babies’ balance. “They work with momentum,” Morel says. “That often leads to tiptoe walking to keep up. And when you use hands on handles the core turns off.” That can hinder baby from building the strength she needs to walk unassisted, so it’s best to keep an eye on any of this behavior developing in your child.
What Are The Benefits Of Baby Walkers?
Many baby walkers and alternatives like stationary activity centers have toys and music that help babies refine their senses and motor skills, as well as learn numbers, shapes, colors, letters and first words. The best ones “have attachments that may entertain your child and could help reinforce developmental skills like reaching for objects, using pincer grasp,” says Regan. The benefit mostly is for parents, who get a short break from entertaining baby as you did with an infant swing when they were younger.
What Are The Different Types Of Baby Walkers?
Although traditional baby walkers (seats with trays on wheels that let babies push themselves around) are still available, the term baby walker now encompasses stationary activity centers (with or without bouncy platforms) and activity tables without seats, as well as push toys that babies use while standing up and walking.
How Big Does A Baby Have To Be To Use A Walker?
The age range for baby walkers and alternatives vary depending on the height and features. To safely use activity tables or centers, make sure your baby is physically ready. You’ll know when they’re able to pull up to stand and have the core control to maintain it, says Morel. Push toys should be used only by babies who already have begun walking on their own.
Walkers — devices with wheeled frames and suspended seats that let babies move around using their feet — are indeed a safety hazard. Walkers are a leading cause of injuries in babies, so health and safety experts strongly discourage their use. While in walkers, babies can roll into hot stoves, heaters, and pools.What should you use instead of a baby walker? ›
Instead of a baby walker on wheels, the AAP recommends opting for an activity center with either a stationary, rotating or bouncy seat. Sturdy wagons or push walking toys are also acceptable, but you'll need to closely supervise when your child is using this item, as the wheels can increase the risk of injury.What does Montessori say about walkers? ›
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.Why are baby walkers banned in America? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared baby walkers to be dangerous items. That's because, when using infant walkers, babies can roll along fast — even up to four feet per second. Even when supervised, babies can get into perilous situations before caregivers have time to react.Why don't pediatricians like walkers? ›
Children in walkers can get their fingers caught, pull things down on themselves, or grab dangerous things (such as sharp objects or hot liquids) that would otherwise be out of their reach. Children can fall out of walkers and get hurt — and have drowned when they scooted into a pool or spa.How do I get my child to walk without a walker? ›
Assisted Walking: Stand behind your child, place your hands around his upper arms, and pull him up to a standing position. Gently pull one arm forward and then the other. His feet will naturally follow as he rotates his hips to step. Keep practicing walking until your baby is ready to stop.How can I encourage walking without a walker? ›
- Leave a tempting trail. ...
- Activate her cruise control. ...
- Hold her hand. ...
- Get her a push toy. ...
- But don't use an infant walker. ...
- Limit time in activity centers. ...
- Keep her tootsies bare inside. ...
- But offer comfy shoes outside.
Activity tables are good for your baby because they can help them reach developmental milestones. By playing with an activity table, babies can work on physical skills like standing and cognitive skills like cause-and-effect.When should a baby start using a walker? ›
Typically, babies can start using a walker around the age of 6 months, when they are able to sit up on their own and hold their head up. However, it is important to note that every baby develops at their own pace, and some may not be ready for a walker until they are closer to 8 or 9 months old.Do walkers delay walking? ›
Do baby walkers and jumpers help my baby learn to walk? NO - baby walkers and jumpers don't help a baby develop their walking. In fact, walkers and jumpers can impede or delay your baby achieving these important milestones. The more time babies spend in a walker or a jumper, the more delay they experience.
Push walkers can be great if it's something you want to get for your child, but they are absolutely not a necessity for mastering walking.Are wooden baby walkers better than plastic? ›
The wooden baby walker is less likely to break than the plastic one because it has a higher density of wood and can withstand more weight. The wooden baby walkers are also much more stable when compared to plastic ones, as they have a wider base and are not as top-heavy.What Montessori toys help with walking? ›
The only Montessori recommended walking aid is a walker wagon. This is a gift for a child who is pulling up to stand and can balance on her own two feet for a few seconds (usually around 11 months, but this can vary).What is the difference between a push toy and a walker? ›
A Push Toy is something that your baby stands behind and can pull up to standing with. A walker, on the other hand, is a baby container that you place your baby in. They are a prime example of the billion-dollar baby industry selling you something they shouldn't!Why are doctors against walkers for babies? ›
Children in baby walkers can:
Roll down the stairs—which often causes broken bones and severe head injuries. This is how most children get hurt in baby walkers. Get burned—a child can reach higher in a walker.
They can injure themselves easily as they are moving faster and might even be able to reach the height of objects that they otherwise should not. Slow brain development - Baby walkers hold the child in a position so upright which keeps them from crawling and interferes with the typical development of the brain.Are baby walkers OK in moderation? ›
Should I never place my child in their walker/jumper/exersaucer? Just like all things in life, moderation is key! Spending some time in these seats is great for taking breaks from the day. However, it is generally recommended a child spend no more than 15-30 minutes per day inside these devices.What is the disadvantage of walker for babies? ›
“A child in a walker can move quickly,” explains Loretta Cody, MD, a pediatrician of 34 years. “They may fall down stairs or bump into things before a parent can stop them. This may lead to different types of significant injuries including head injuries and broken bones.”Do baby walkers affect development? ›
NO - baby walkers and jumpers don't help a baby develop their walking. In fact, walkers and jumpers can impede or delay your baby achieving these important milestones. The more time babies spend in a walker or a jumper, the more delay they experience.Are baby walkers good or bad for development? ›
Experts say baby walkers aren't safe – and they don't help babies learn to walk faster, either. Baby walkers are circular, wheeled toys with suspended seats. They're designed so your baby's feet can touch the ground while they're seated, so they can propel themself around.
Well, I'm going to let you in on a secret—most pediatric PTs don't recommend a thing! While these positioning devices are convenient when you need your baby contained for a couple of minutes, they actually hinder general development and gross motor skill acquisition.