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The use of reins with children who are learning to walk is not uncommon in the UK. From a distance, it can look like the parents are being overprotective being or ‘helicopter’ parents. Others feel it is akin to a lead on a dog.
But, do baby reins hold them back from learning or do they help the process? Let’s find out.
What do the reins do?
The reins are pretty straightforward in terms of their use – they can help stop children from falling over and hurting themselves and they can stop them wandering off too far into dangerous situations such as a busy road or a canal. They wrap around their chest and shoulders with a longer cord/strap/lead at the top for the parents and guardians to hold on to.
Do they help with the walking?
Baby and toddler reins won’t help with helping them learn to walk directly, that is all down to muscles, co-ordination, confidence and practice. They are unlike bike stabilisers as the reins shouldn’t be used where the lead is taut and the parents are balancing the child.
But, does protecting them falling over do more harm than good? Psychology in Action believe they do, their researched showed that learning how to fall was extremely important to their ability to learn how to walk. Indeed, baby reins stop children fall most of the time which removes the ‘reward’ from the learning process. The fear of falling was a big incentive to master the art of walking.
Moreover, learning to fall well is an important lesson for kids. Because they’re going to fall a lot, not just with walking but with many things they will do in their early years. The less practice they get at falling, the less skilled they’ll become at falling without hurting themselves. Have you ever noticed how a toddler falls? They flex their knees and adjust their weight to land on their bum. Or they instinctively put their hands out to protect their face.
However, playing devil’s advocate here – if baby reins help you and your toddler get out in the open world to practice walking more then this will surely help their progression. This is particularly true for those who may live near busy roads or without transport where walking might be the only option. There is still plenty of other opportunities to master falling elsewhere.
For parents who keep their reins slack so that the child is balancing themselves then there’s still opportunities to learn to balance and then learn to fall. Parents who use reins in a relaxed way can get a lot more from their use than parents who use them aggressively.
Reins can protect children from the pain of falling over but avoid the benefits of what falling over teaches them. The pain of falling over is an incentive to stay on their feet, likewise children are great at falling over painlessly and learning to fall well is an important skill. However, by using reins in a relaxed way parents can keep their children safe from serious dangers such as cars and other vehicles so there are real benefits to their use in certain situations.
But at the end of the day, it is the child themselves that learn to walk through practice and building their leg muscles. They will learn to walk with or without reins eventually – the reins just change the experience of that process but not the end result.