An exersaucer is a device that consists of an elevated seat, a round base, and a circular play saucer which allows babies to play independently, similar to a baby walker. Unlike baby walkers however, exersaucers are stationary devices which are considered to be safer and better for your baby’s development than traditional walkers.
When Can Baby Use Exersaucer? The most important factor in whether or not your baby is ready for an excersaucer is if they have enough strength to sit independently and pull themselves up to standing.
They should also be tall enough that their feet can touch the floor or the base of the exersaucer. Using an exersaucer before your baby has hit these markers may place stress on their muscles and joints before these structures are developed enough to bear such weight.
Exersaucers have been a source of controversy in the parenting and childcare community for quite some time. Tired parents love them for their gift of relatively safe independent play, while pediatricians and physical therapists may caution against them due to their history of hindering locomotor milestones. Generally speaking, an exersaucer is a safe and excellent toy baby device, as long as it is not misused or overused.
When Can Baby Use Exersaucer? (Factors)
1. Baby’s Upper Body Strength
A lot of manufacturers claim that the right age for exersaucer use is at the 4 month mark. At this point, most babies should have the neck strength to safely hold their heads up for a longer period of time.
Most pediatricians don’t fully agree with this timeframe, advising potential buyers to hold off for at least a few months to play it safe. While a baby at the 4 month mark “should” be able to use an exersaucer, it’s best to wait until you’re certain that your baby possesses enough torso and core strength to sit upright unassisted.
An exersaucer’s seat isn’t designed to provide your baby with much postural support. Using an exersaucer before your baby is strong enough to support themselves in an upright position may cause them to develop bad posture. Bad posture puts extra strain on your baby’s still developing bones and connective tissues, which can cause back and neck pain as well as abnormal alignment of their spine later on.
Your baby should be able to sit upright unsupported, with a straight back and their head straight before using an exersaucer. Babies typically reach this milestone around 6 to 9 months of age.
2. Baby’s Lower Body Strength
Contrary to popular belief, using an exersaucer will not help your baby learn to stand up earlier. In fact, studies have shown that prolonged use of these devices can be detrimental and slow down your baby’s locomotor development.
Walkers and exersaucers hold your baby up in a standing position. As a result, putting your baby in an exersaucer causes them to place most of their weight on their feet and legs. This can place additional stress on your baby’s ankles and knees before those joints and muscles are ready to support that much weight.
Using an exersaucer before your baby is able to pull up independently can also cause them to develop poor habits which can be hard to break when they do begin standing, such as improper weight bearing and poor balance.
Your baby should reach a development point where they can pull themselves up to a standing position. In this case, the right age for safe exersaucer use would usually be between 9 to 12 months for most babies.
3. Baby’s Height
Your baby needs to be tall enough that their feet reach the floor or the base of the exersaucer. Letting your baby’s legs dangle from the seat can be bad for their hip development.
When sitting in an exersaucer, your baby should neither be on their tiptoes nor completely flat on their feet. Prolonged weight bearing through the toes can put additional stress on the muscles and connective tissues in their feet. It may also cause certain muscles to become overdeveloped, leading to uneven muscle tone which can be difficult to correct.
On the other hand, standing completely flat footed in an exersaucer can put weight and stress on their knees and ankle joints before they are strong enough, particularly if your exersaucer has a bouncing or rocking function. Your baby also has more control when standing flat footed, which makes it easier for them to climb out or tip the exersaucer over.
Place a firm pillow under your baby’s feet to help them maintain good lower body posture in the exersaucer. If your baby can stand completely flat footed even when the exersaucer has been adjusted to its tallest setting, it may be time to retire the device for safety reasons.
Generally, the “right” age for exersaucer use is between the 6 month to 2 year mark.
Prior to the 6 month part, your baby’s muscle development and height may not be enough for safe extrasaucer use. Past the 2 year point, your baby will be pretty big – they could knock the device over with them still in it!
It’s also possible that your baby would just be bored with the device and want to explore their new mobility options (i.e. walking).
3 Tips for Using an Excersaucer
Do not leave your baby unattended.
Exersaucers are appealing pieces of baby equipment as they allow babies to play independently while their parents attend to other matters. However, babies still need to be supervised while playing in an exersaucer for safety’s sake if not for anything else.
You can still use an exersaucer to provide your baby with independent playtime while you attend to your other duties. Look for a quick task you can finish in 15 minutes time, like doing dishes or fixing their next meal. Take your baby to the kitchen where you can keep an eye on them while they play in the exersaucer and you do your own thing.
Limit Exersaucer Use to 15 minutes a day.
An exersaucer confines your baby to a small space when they should be able to move about freely during active play time. This hinders their ability to explore their environment and practice motor skills such as crawling and pulling up. Another concern with using an exersaucer is that babies cannot see their feet in them, which can hinder their development of spatial awareness.
Exersaucers provide excellent sensory stimulation and fine motor skill practice and can still make fine toys for babies as, long as they are not left in the device for too long.
Let Your Baby Play with the Exersaucer Toys Outside of It
Like their parents, many babies love exersaucers for their highly stimulating and exciting toys. Sit your baby in your lap around the outside edge of the exersaucer and play with the exersaucer toys with them. This can also be a great way to make use of the great you’re your exersaucer comes with while your baby still needs support to sit up.
Alternatively, you can let your baby play with the exersaucer toys like they would with a play table, standing on the outside edge. This allows them to practice standing while holding on to an object for support. Just make sure to supervise them closely in case they lose their balance or topple the exersaucer over.
If your model allows it, you may also detach toys from the play saucer and give them to your baby during playtime and tummy time. This allows for age-appropriate development of their fine and gross motor skills while making use of the toys your exersaucer comes with.
When to Stop Using Exersaucer
Exersaucers have a weight limit of between 25 and 30 pounds and a height limit of 30 inches. Once your baby goes over these limits, they may be able to use their weight to tip the exersaucer over while they are in it. They may also be able to wriggle out of the device and end up roaming around unsupervised.
There is no set age when you should retire your baby’s exersaucer. It all depends on how quickly your baby grows and develops. Eventually, your baby will begin to stand, and crawl around more frequently and even try to take a few steps, at which point they will likely want to explore their newfound mobility rather than sit and play in an exersaucer.