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When is too big or too old for a stroller?

Posted May 16 2011 2:38pm

Dad in stroller It was meant to be a joke, but is causing quite a stir in the mommy social media world. Like the recent Suri Cruise-too-old-for-binky-debate, some parents are taking this as a personal affront to their parenting skills.

Reality check moment: there are MUCH bigger parenting offenses that have potential lifelong consequences on a child than carting a kindergartner around in a stroller. So, put this in perspective!

That said, I agree that some parents use strollers for children who are clearly capable of walking a decent distance. Yes, it is convenient. Yes, it adds an element of pedestrian safety when going across a crowded city street. And yes, a parent could probably get an extra hour or two in at Disney World with a tired kid if the child doesn't have to walk from one attraction to the next. (Adults aren't immune to this behavior either— Disney rents scooters for non-handicapped people who simply aren't in the mood to take a walk in the park!)

But, there are both short and long term health benefits to walking and that is why my worried doctor radar goes off here.

Walking is a form of exercise, people. And that's something many American kids don't get enough of. We've all heard the stats about our obesity epidemic. As a pediatrician, I am deeply concerned about our sedentary culture.  In our media-rich world, kids (and adults) spend several hours a day sitting in front of a screen. That's several hours too many.

Why would an able-bodied child prefer to walk when he gets a free ride from the chauffeur driven limosine? When the convenience of a stroller trumps physical activity for your child, that's when it becomes a poor parenting choice.

So when is a child "too big" or "too old" for a stroller?

1. Too big? Typical strollers on the market have a maximum weight capacity of 40 lbs. Most kids will reach that by 4-5 years of age at the latest. But if you have to squeeze your child into the seat or his feet touch the ground, he's definitely too big!

2. Too old? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer YES to all 3, it's time to ditch the stroller.

  • Can my child walk easily and confidently?
  • Does my child follow directions/hold hands while walking without making a break for it?
  • Is my child old enough to unstrap the restraints in a stroller and potentially create a safety risk? (Same rules apply for putting a child in a shopping cart.)

If your child gets tired at Disney (or any other family vacation destination), that means it is time to take a break. And, if your child isn't old enough to walk around Disney World, you are probably wasting your money going there in the first place!


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