The short answer: Your kiddo might ride in a stroller much longer than you might think.
On weekends, Lisa Burby, mother of a 2 and a 5-year-old, wouldn’t dream of leaving home without a stroller. “If we don’t contain the kids, my husband and I can’t do any shopping. When they start running between the clothing racks, we say, ‘okay, we’re strapping you in and you’re staying put,’” says the public relations account representative.
Of course, it’s not unusual to stroll a 2-year-old. In fact, strollers are normally used for children from infancy to 36 months of age, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM International, a nonprofit organization that sets stroller manufacturing standards.
But take a look around at any mall or even in your neighborhood, and you’re likely to see parents pushing Kindergarten, even grade-school age kids. It’s part of a growing trend: Using a stroller until kids are age 5 or 6.
That’s because using a stroller is convenient. If you’ve got several hours’ worth of errands to run, being able to “containerize” a dawdling preschooler or older child in a stroller can make it all doable, and safer. A stroller can also help you get places faster and carry stuff, like groceries, doubling as a shopping cart.
A stroller can also help you skip the gym without feeling guilty. “Keeping Max, my 5-year-old, riding in our double stroller has been all about helping me get my exercise everyday as a busy mom,” says Christine D’Amico, the mother of three who walks 40 minutes daily while her kids come along for the ride (the youngest upfront in an infant carrier).
Still, while strolling is excellent aerobic exercise for parents; D’Amico, for example, pushes and carries a total of 95 pounds of kid weight, which makes her daily stroll “a definite workout,” it does nothing for the kiddos, who are just sitting.
Big-Kid Stroller Strategies
A Canadian study in BMC Public Health, which interviewed 14 parents who had at least one child age 1 to 5 years of age about their stroller habits, found that most parents weren’t bothered by this. They didn’t think stroller use affected their child’s physical activity levels, health or wellbeing, or considered it “a barrier to physical activity.”
Of course, it’s not realistic to expect a 4, 5 or 6 year old to walk all day the zoo, fairs, amusement parks and in walking cities like San Francisco or Manhattan. That’s where a stroller for older kids can come in handy. Otherwise, keep in mind that everyone needs exercise, even 5 year olds.
With the growing childhood obesity epidemic, it pays to start strong, not sedentary.
According to the CDC, kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. To help preschoolers and older kiddos get in on the action, try these smart strolling strategies.
Downsize your to-do list
Instead of routinely cramming all your errands into a day at the mall with your kids along for the ride, do as much as you can on your lunch hour so weekend shopping trips are shorter and less sedentary.
“Give up a little bit of efficiency to get your kids more active,” says James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
If that’s possible, get a sitter or have your partner play with your kids at home so you can trek through the stores unencumbered. It’s a win-win.
Don’t be too pushy
On day trips, take a stroller along, but encourage your older children to walk as much as possible. Expect them to go in and out of the stroller; kids have a threshold of tolerance for both walking and sitting, says pediatric research, Cheryl Anderson. Take their cues, rather than coaxing them to remain seated with an iPad or an endless litany of snacks, and factor in extra time.
With older children on foot part of the time, getting around anywhere–from the zoo to Disney–will just take a lot longer.
Best Big-Kiddo Strollers
(strollers great for the zoo, day trips, street fairs and walking cities)
BabyProductsMom rents strollers to grandparents and traveling parents. As BabyQuip Quality Provider, serving Connecticut and New York City, I can legit vouch for these big-kid strollers, based on customer feedback.
Here’s my short list.
Baby Jogger City Mini GT. It’s air-filled tires make all the difference on city and cobblestone streets, and rough terrain in general.
Maximum child weight is 65 pounds! Big kids feel grown up in this one. It’s not a jogging stroller, so don’t try to run with it.
The Pockit is small but strong. It holds a maximum child weight of 55 pounds, plus 11 pounds of gear in the storage basket.
The Pockit folds compactly, to 12 x 7 x 14″. It fits in your purse or backpack, and an airplane overhead bin.
Note: The BOB is so strong that some folks squeeze in two kids. Toddlers have been known to sit in the footwell, with an older or younger child in the seat. For two kids though, it’s better get a double BOB.
Each double BOB seat holds a maximum child weight of 50 pounds.
Austlen Entourage holds a maximum weight of 150 pounds (kids + cargo). It can accommodate up to two kids.
The stroller can be configured so your older child can sit or stand in the back.
The Baby Trend Sit N Stand Ultra is BabyProductsMom’s fave double stroller for 5-6 year olds who have a younger sibling.
The older child can sit or stand in the back.
Even though the stroller has a wider turning radius than the Joovy Caboose, it holds 10 more pounds of kid weight (maximum
weight is 50 pounds per seat). It’s designed so that each kid has plenty of room too.