Being a new parent can be scary. There are so many dos and don’ts to try and remember, but the worst part is that these rules keep changing! It’s really hard to keep straight what is considered good and what isn’t. This goes for baby food, furniture and even toys. One of the baby toys that seems to keep causing a bit of controversy is the exersaucer. What was once considered as a parenting necessity is now thought by many to be a no-no. However, most experts agree that exersaucers are okay, as long as a handful of simple rules are followed. And the most important rule that every parent should be aware of deals with when a baby should be allowed to use an exersaucer for the first time. So, what do you need to know?
Wait for Your Baby To Sit
The first and most important rule, according to just about every single person you can ask, is that an exersaucer shouldn’t even be considered until your baby is able to sit on his or her own — and this means fully stable and supported, without having to use arms for support.
This developmental milestone is crucial because a baby in an exersaucer is often sitting at an awkward angle. This is simply because exersaucer seats aren’t really designed with a lot of support in mind. Even exersaucers built especially for younger babies can’t work against gravity, and babies in these seats who are unable to support their own weight will find themselves unable to fully keep their heads up and back straight, which can lead to problems later on.
Pay Attention to the Age Recommendations, but Use Common Sense
Just like virtually every made-for-baby item out there, exersaucers come with age recommendations. These are great for helping parents make choices about what is and isn’t developmentally appropriate for their little one. You would think that all parents would already be aware of and pay attention to these recommendations, right? Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Many parents either aren’t aware that these recommendations exist, or simply choose not to think they they apply to their baby.
These recommendations exist for a reason, though, and with exersaucers they play two very important roles:
- First, they help ensure that the exersaucer is physically appropriate for your baby’s stage of muscle development. As we mentioned above, exersaucers don’t always make your baby sit at the best angle. As babies grow, though, their muscles are able to provide more and more support, which means that exersaucers designed for older babies provide less in the way of muscle reinforcement — and putting babies not ready for those milestones in an exersaucer can cause many physical problems.
- Second, these recommendations help guarantee that baby is playing with the correct types of built-in toys. Exersaucer ages are not just for physical development; they are for mental development as well. Each age of an exersaucer provides baby with different types of toys that do different things. An exersaucer that is too young for your baby will lead to boredom and a lack of development, and while exersaucers for older babies can still give younger babies something to play with, they won’t learn as much as they could otherwise.
With that being said, though, it is also important to note that these recommendations are not rules that are set in stone. Because different babies grow and develop at different rates, it’s perfectly common to find babies that don’t quite fit into those age ranges. As the parent, you must put your child where you think he or she will be the most suited.
When Should You Take the Exersaucer Away?
While the question of introducing the exersaucer is a hotly-debated one, the question of when to finally take it away is not near as much of a controversy. The reason for this, really, is simple. At some point, your baby will simply outgrow the exersaucer and not want to play in it anymore. When this happens is will vary with every child, of course, but you’ll find that it’s much more difficult to find exersaucers for babies after they hit about 10 months to a year. This is because babies just don’t need them anymore.
How will you know? Just watch. When your baby is able to walk on his or her own, the exersaucer simply becomes a sort of prison. Rather than stimulating and entertaining your baby, it becomes an impediment, and he or she will let you know about this very quickly. When your baby refuses to go into the exersaucer anymore, and would much rather ignore it completely in favor of everything else in reach, then it’s time to put it away.
To sum up, the answer to the question of when you should introduce your baby to an exersaucer is, to an extent, dependent on your baby. Remember, he or she must be able to sit up without needing help or support. After that, though, a few minutes per day in the exersaucer (and most guidelines state that it shouldn’t be more than about 20 minutes or so, maximum) can provide your baby with additional stimulation in a safe, healthy environment. Just pay attention to the specific physical and mental needs of your developing baby!
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below!