When should your child stop using a stroller?

Snooki was at Disney World with her children (ages four and six) in strollers, and it sparked debate.
Snooki was at Disney World with her children (ages four and six) in strollers, and it sparked debate. @snooki / Instagram

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, of Jersey ShoreΒ fame, was on vacation with her family at Disney World when she posted a photo of her kids Giovanna, four, and Lorenzo, six, seated in strollers.

The photo, shared to Instagram on Wednesday, sparked debate about whether Polizzi’s kids are too old to be pushed around.

Some users suggested Giovanna and Lorenzo were too big for strollers, while others defended Polizzi, saying: “If she wants to put her kids in a stroller, let her!”

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Polizzi, who is expecting her third child this summer, wrote back: “They walk! But in large crowds, I prefer they sit their a****s down. Saves me the stress of not losing my offspring.”

Polizzi has since deleted the comment.

One user said the photo was “a perfect example of why Disney is enforcing stricter guidelines on strollers,” referring to Disney’s new stroller policy, which will take effect May 1.

According to Disney World, strollers greater than 31 inches in width and 52 inches in length will be prohibited. “Stroller wagons” will also be banned.

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While strollers can be great for outings that require lots of walking, parenting expert Alyson Schafer cautions against overuse.

“Out of context, I don’t think anyone should judge anyone who’s got a kid in a stroller because we don’t know the situation,” said Schafer.

“Whether it’s a stroller or putting kids in a pull wagon… all of those things are called ‘passive transport,’ and if it means that the entire vacation… is going to be better accommodated by younger kids, I think it’s a really fantastic idea.”

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However, Schafer is worried that using strollers all the time can become unhealthy.

“We have a crisis of obesity,” said Schafer. “We do not put demands on our kids to actually walk, including four-year-olds being carried everywhere or put in strollers for short distances even though they can walk.”

Parenting coach Robina Uddin thinks you should encourage your child to walk whenever they can, but training is required before they can go long distances without help.

“I don’t think a child should be in a stroller beyond three years,” said Uddin. “After 24 months, you should be weaning your child [off the stroller] with little bursts of walk that lead up to longer walking periods.”
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Otherwise, Uddin said, you’re not giving the child the exercise they need.

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For Schafer, it’s up to parents to get kids doing more active β€” rather than passive β€” transport.

“They’re not going to get any stronger and be able to actually walk a farther distance if we don’t train them, just like us training for a 10-kilometre run,” said Schafer.

The age at which your child is ready to graduate from stroller to walking will depend solely on their physical development.

“A rule of thumb: take time for training and then never do for a child what a child can do for themselves,” Schafer said. “If your four-year-old can walk to the mailbox and you know they can and they’ve done it before then that’s it. It’s no longer a stroller option.”

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According to Uddin, a big issue is when the stroller becomes less a comfort for the child and more a crutch for the parents.

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“Parents will go to the mall and put the kids in the wagon because they’re not walking fast enough, and that’s a disservice to the children,” said Uddin. “The child will not really develop the strength and conditioning if they’re not allowed to do the walking.”

Your child’s legs may get tired after 30 minutes, but if you don’t ask them to walk one hour now, they won’t be able to walk one hour later, Uddin told Global News. At some point, she explains, parents need to put in the work.

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If your child is confused about why their little brother or sister still gets to use the stroller, explain that everyone in the family plays a role.

“There are some brilliant devices out there right now. There are strollers where a baby can go in the stroller part but there’s a standing part at the back so older kids aren’t being infantilized,” said Schafer.

Another good option is to allow the older child to use a scooter alongside the stroller.

“[That way], they can keep up with the parents, and it feels a little more independent,” Schafer added.
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Ultimately, it’s important to teach your child that different people have different needs.

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If your child puts up a fuss about not being allowed to take the stroller, try to put a fun spin on their new mode of transportation.

“You could say ‘let’s race home,'” said Uddin. “Distract them every time they want to go into the stroller with something fun you’re doing on the way.”

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Whether your child loves to be carried, pushed in a stroller or pulled in a wagon, there will come a time when they’re too old.

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“You can speak to any doctor, and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest things we’re doing wrong is carrying our kids when they’re way too old,” said Schafer. Not only do the children get too heavy to be lifted, but they come to rely on being carried for when they’re feeling lazy, she explains.

“Make [walking] a non-negotiable. They’ll get it if you’re consistent.”

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