Activity centers, sometimes referred to as exersaucers or baby play gyms, are a controversial subject in the baby world. Some parents and doctors are opposed to their use while others love them, so that leaves the parents in the middle, wondering if activity centers are good or bad for babies. Interesting, Huh?
As with anything, I believe that a balanced approach and viewpoint is always the best when it comes to any controversial issue. It’s best to be presented with each side, and then you can make an educated decision for yourself.
So, let’s take a look at the good and the bad, which will allow you to decide what is right for your baby.
The Good: Reasons For Activity Centers
First, let’s examine the reasons why you might want to buy an activity center for your baby.
– Babies Have Fun
Any parent who has a baby that uses exersaucers can tell you that their baby has a lot of fun in them. My babies bounced, kicked, and laughed a lot in theirs.
Who doesn’t want to see their baby having fun?
Most activity centers are colorful with a variety of toys. Not only is your baby upright, which they tend to want to be once they reach four to six months, but they can spin around and look at all parts of the room as well as the toys.
The toys are designed to make your baby have fun. They might flash some lights, sing songs, or have different textures for your baby to explore.
– Gives Parents a Break
Let’s be honest; all parents need a break. You want to put your baby somewhere that isn’t your arms, but you also don’t want him to roll or crawl away. So, an activity center keeps your baby contained and happy while you fold a load of laundry or wash dishes.
– Babies Can Practice New Skills
As babies get older, they have a lot of new skills, and the biggest one is working on hand-eye coordination. When your child is in the activity center, he can spend time reaching out to the particular toy that is most interesting. He can swat at toys, pull the toys to him, push the buttons, and more.
Not only can babies practice those skills, but he also will be standing, rocking, and bouncing even though the structure is stationary. That works leg muscles that are needed for walking. Plus, if your baby loves to jump while you hold her in your lap, this gives your arms a break.
– Immobile Unlike Walkers
It’s said that exersaucers were developed in the 1990s as a result of the injuries caused by baby walkers. Since they’re immobile, you don’t need to worry about your child taking a fall down the stairs, which has unfortunately happened with baby walkers.
Babies stay where you put them with activity gyms.
The Bad: Reasons Against Activity Centers
Okay, so now you know the good, but what are the bad parts of activity centers? Pediatric therapists and pediatricians have a few concerns that parents should consider before deciding to purchase one.
– Poor Posture
Even if your child has excellent muscle control, babies tend to shift into the wrong position that puts their head back too far. It puts their shoulders too high, and their shoulder blades are pulled too far back. It also can force their hips too far apart because of the fabric.
Then, as your child tries to balance themselves, they have to arch their back as their belly moves forward. For little babies, it can be uncomfortable.
– The Wrong Standing Position
Babies stand when they’re in the exersaucer, and they need to lock out their knees to compensate for their weakness. Most babies are placed in this position before they’re ready.
Also, depending on the size and age of your baby, your baby needs to bear weight on their toes rather than their entire foot. That can cause the calf muscles ahead of time, and it also can lead to toe walking, which can be a severe developmental issue.
– The Risk of Overuse
It’s very easy for parents to overuse activity centers. Your baby is happy, playing, and watching the world, so you get started with chores. Soon, it’s been an hour, and your baby is still comfortable.
While your baby is still happy, it’s not good for their bodies to be in that position for extended times.
– Reduces Balance Control
If your baby spends too much time in the activity center, it can change your baby’s center of gravity. They end up leaning too far forward, interfering with their development of balance control.
You might not realize that our bodies develop balance control through feedback sent to our bodies through our muscles and joints. When your baby loses balance, the receptors in your muscles send a message to your brain like NO, don’t do that! In turn, it teaches your body to balance and how to adjust our positioning.
While exersaucers are fun, babies don’t develop balance control because they’re unable to see their feet. They have to learn it by standing and balancing on their feet independently and taking a lot of falls as well.
Now that you know the different sides and thoughts, it’s up to you, as the parent, to decide for your child. No one can tell you that your decision is right or wrong. It’s only about what you think is right for your baby.