What is a baby walker?
A baby walker is a circular frame on wheels that seats a baby who has not learnt to walk yet.
Some people believe that baby walkers are useful for their babies, to entertain them and help teach them to walk. This is not true. Baby walkers can be dangerous and can actually delay your baby’s walking development.
What is an exercise jumper?
An exercise jumper, also known as a jolly jumper or baby bouncer, is a device that holds a baby in sling seat with a spring or elastic. The device either comes in a standalone frame or can be attached to a door frame.
Like a baby walker, exercise jumpers can cause accidents and delay your baby’s development.
How does a baby learn to walk?
Most babies pass the following milestones while learning to walk:
- rolling on the floor
- crawling, creeping or scooting
- pulling themselves up to stand
- moving around furniture or other stationary objects
This means that babies need to spend plenty of time on the floor, learning and practising these activities.
How can I help my baby's walking development?
Let your baby spend lots of time on the floor. It's a safe space for your baby to learn to roll, sit and pull themselves up to stand.
You can also place your baby close to soft furniture to help them with pulling-up.
If your baby is moving around, block off a safe area for them to play and move. You can also use a high-quality play pen or stationary activity centre.
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.
Walkers and jumpers take your baby's time away from the floor so they miss out on practising important, repetitive movements needed for them to reach their walking milestones.
Babies tend to use their toes when they are in a walker or a jumper, which tightens their leg muscles and Achilles tendons (the thick cord at the back of the ankle) - this interferes with normal walking development. Once out of the device, they often want to keep using their toes, which is not how babies usually learn to walk.
When babies sit and pull themselves up, they are learning how to balance. A baby doesn't balance in a walker, delaying learning this important skill.
Being in a walker or jumper also means less time on hands and knees in a crawling or pre-crawling position. This is important to developing weight bearing through both the pelvis and shoulders.
A variety of important movements is needed when babies are developing their walking skills, but they get fewer chances to practise these in a walker or jumper than they would on the floor.
Learning to crawl
Crawling is an important skill for your baby to learn and is a big milestone in their development.
Learning to walk
Your baby's first steps are one of the most exciting and memorable milestones in your child’s development.
Are baby walkers and exercise jumpers dangerous?
Baby walkers and exercise jumpers are not recommended in Australia.
Baby walkers are considered unsafe because they move very quickly. Your baby is also taller when upright in a walker and can reach things they usually don't have access to. Potential dangers include:
- falling down steps or stairs
- crashing into something sharp or hard
- tipping over while moving
- being toppled by an older sibling
- accessing electrical cords or cupboards with hazardous substances (such as cleaning supplies)
- moving quickly to dangerous areas such as fireplaces, ovens, heaters or pools
- being able to reach hot drinks on tables or other dangerous objects
Each year, many babies are injured in Australia when using walkers. Some sustain serious injuries caused by burns, cuts, head injuries, broken bones, poisoning and drownings; some even die.
Exercise jumpers can also cause serious injury to your baby, including:
- falling out, causing head or limb injuries
- getting fingers trapped in the springs
- colliding with the door frame or furniture — pets or other children could also push your baby
Development delays caused by tight leg muscles and Achilles tendons can sometimes require physiotherapy treatment, being put in leg casts, or even corrective surgery.
Are baby walkers legal in Australia?
Despite not being recommended for use in Australia, they can still be purchased and are not illegal.
Child health experts and state and territory health departments recommend NOT using baby walkers or exercise jumpers.
What safety guidelines are there for baby walkers?
Baby walkers sold in Australia, must comply with Australian consumer product safety standards.
All walkers sold in Australia must have:
- a braking mechanism to help stop it falling down stairs
- specific labels with clear safety instructions about blocking access to stairs, keeping the baby in view all the time, using only on a flat surface without objects to tip over and keeping away from all objects that could burn
- prior testing to make sure it doesn't easily tip or topple over
Parents are highly discouraged from using baby walkers. However, if you still decide to purchase one, please follow these guidelines:
- NEVER leave your baby unattended.
- ONLY use on a flat surface and block off access to steps or stairs
- REMOVE all dangerous items from the area, such as electrical cords, hot drinks, cleaning chemicals, fires, heaters, pools or toilets
- MAKE SURE the walker has a lock and a braking mechanism.
- NEVER use a walker before your baby can sit, or after your baby can walk.
- LIMIT your baby’s time in the walker for NO longer than 15 minutes.
Where can I get more information about baby walkers?
Speak to your doctor or child health nurse to learn more about how best to help your baby learn how to walk.
Tummy time is important for your baby’s development. It helps them learn to crawl, develop upper body strength and prevent flat spots on their head.
Toddler development - Motor skills
Toddlers develop fast, exploring their world and doing things independently. Here's how to help your toddler develop fine and gross motor (movement) skills.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2022