Big Kids in Strollers: A Growing Trend

It's not your imagination: Strollers are getting bigger to seat toddlers and older kids, well into age 5. It's convenient, sure. But is it healthy?

Big Kids in Strollers

On weekends, Lisa Burby, mother of a 2- and 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, ‘OK, we’re strapping you in and you’re staying put,'” says the public relations 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 ASTM International, a nonprofit organization in West Conshohocken, Penn. that sets stroller manufacturing standards.

Backlash

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 a burgeoning trend that hasn’t escaped critics, like blogger Laura Miller, whose TooBigForStroller.com posts candid photos of parents out-and-about pushing their able-bodied, older kids in strollers. Kids’ faces are obscured with a circle that says “walk.”

Growing demand

And yet stroller manufacturers are answering the demand.

Maclaren, the upscale British import, for example, upped the weight limit on its strollers to 55 pounds because consumers are using strollers for older and/or larger children. (Forty pounds was the industry standard.) Its Techno XLR model is even designed to hold a child up to 65 pounds and 44 inches tall. Making larger strollers helps parents with busy lifestyles accomplish their goals.

And let’s face it, being able to “containerize” a dawdling preschooler or older child in a mega stroller can make it easier to accomplish your goals – whether that’s shopping at the mall or taking a long walk.

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Weight worries

However, in light of the childhood obesity problem that’s raging, seeing a 5-year-old pushed around in a stroller doesn’t sit well with health care professionals.

According to recent government figures, nearly 12 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds are at or above the 97th percentile of body mass index for age growth charts. Overweight kids have as much as an 80 percent chance of staying that way as an adult and suffering from weight-related health problems earlier on, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Getting real

Still, it’s not realistic to expect a 4-, 5- or 6-year-old to go the distance at the zoo, fairs and amusement parks. “A child of that age isn’t going to be able to walk for five or six hours,” says Cheryl B. Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

But, like ice cream, Anderson thinks strollers for older kids are wonderful, but in moderation.

To keep your kids moving in the right direction, try these smart strolling strategies.

1. 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 kids can walk themselves. “Give up a little bit of efficiency to get your kids more active,” urges James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.

2. Shop solo.

If possible, get a sitter or have your mate play tag with your kids at home so you can trek through the stores unencumbered. It’s a win-win.

3. Don’t be 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 Anderson.

Take their cues rather than coaxing them to remain seated with an endless litany of snacks and other distractions, and factor in extra time. With older children on foot part of the time, you might not be able to cover the entire zoo, for example, in one shot.

Comments
  • Some kids are pushed in strollers because they are special needs and have trouble walking. Upon a quick veiwing of toobigforstroller.com I found several pics of children showing signs of being special needs. Many may look totally typical, but if you look close you can see signs of sensory issues. Linking to a hate site like that is disgusting and you should be ashamed of promoting the judging and denigration of parents of people with special needs. Your article is written from a position of closed mindedness and complete misunderstanding of the amount of families are live with and love their special needs children.

    Reply
    • My son is 4 almost 5 and weighs about 80 lbs. He is tall for his age and looks like a 6 yr old. He is autistic and is outgrowing his stroller but he is a runner so he will take off in the wink of an eye anywhere. I have been looking for a bigger stroller not because I want to push him around but because I have to for his safety.

      Reply
  • I quite agree. My son is disabled, he gas liw tone. He wont walk until he is 5, maybe 7. You would not know to look at him that he has a disability. Stop being so judgemental, some kids needs strollers way past the usual 3 years.

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    • Stacey W.

      Thanks for the feedback. You’re right that some children do need strollers past that age.

      Reply
  • Having a son his a congenital heart defect who can’t walk long distances without getting exhausted I get the dirtiest looks on the train and bus. Even though he is three people think he should be walking. I actually caught a lady yesterday talking about how he was going to be a chubby boy because I don’t make him walk. After I interrupted them and said he had a heart condition they still smirked at me. There is nothing I can do to avoid this unless to put something on my stroller that says he is special needs. .. which I don’t think I should do.

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    • This is what annoys me ..judgemental people who have no idea! .. My son also has a heart condition and is having open heart surgery in next two weeks so will need a stroller whilst in recovery, no way will I be explaining myself to these ignorant judgemental people,keep yours eyes off my son and start looking at your reflection judge that judging attitude first !

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  • Precisely to the above commenters! My 5 year old is special needs , thanks to brain damage, and does not yet walk. Apart from having an oxygen cannula on her face, she doesn’t appear to be disabled. Unfortunately, I got an astonished and judgmental “A 5-year-old in a stroller?!!?” When I replied that my daughter was disabled, the woman backed off, speechless. Why did I have to explain myself to her? Folks need to save their unwarranted comments and judgments until they have all the facts. Coincidentally, this woman had to use a walker to get round…Did it never occur to her that children may need help to move about as well???

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    • Stacey W.

      Thanks for your comment. You bring up a great point that many people may not consider when they see an older child in a stroller.

      Reply
  • My 8 year old son is autistic…weighs about 45 lbs and is 4 feet 2 inches so he looks about age 5 or 6. He was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I noticed he appears weaker especially when we r out and about. Instead of wheelchairs for children, how nice it would be to find an accommodating stroller that fit for people just like him with neurological and/or neuromuscular disabilities

    Reply
  • As a single mom traveling (one-stop) international with a 5 year old , it’s a life saver to have with me a stroller. Most if he falls asleep!

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  • My daughter is 4 years old with special needs. To look at her she looks like a typically developing 4 year old, but she has been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, adhd and is on the autism spectrum. She can walk outside of her stroller for sometimes but she will impulsively take off and run, not even looking where she is going.
    I have a degree in child growth and development and am a preschool director. Our stroller is used for her safety and to help her control her body when overestimated onan outing. If in anyway I thought using a stroller was harmful to her I would not. Please before passing judgments on who looks to be a typically developing child, ask, give parents more of a benefit than doubt.

    Reply
  • Who cares what people think? I am going to carry a stroller on the plane for Europe for my almost 6 year old because I can’t imagine her walking four, five, or six miles with my friends who walk a lot. And my daughter can hike 2 to 4 miles just fine, but if she’t tired. No. It’s ridiculous to expect little kids to be able to keep up with adults. The parents that gave you a dirty look really need to mind their own beeswax and mind you, these parents are likely the ones that send their kids to daycare at 6 months and public school at 4. Why have children if you don’t see them or want to take care of them? And my daughter is strong as an ox and lean, btw!

    Reply
    • Don’t take her to Europe if she can’t handle it ! You probably also allow your kid to cry on the plane and annoy everybody else . Your baby is special though right . Can’t stand parents like you .

      Reply
      • This commenter was commenting on what was written, you are now commenting on the person. Trust me, you have no room to talk about hating people. You’re a troll.

        Reply
    • I am also heading to Europe soon and was considering whether or not to bring a stroller for my four year old. I was in agreement with you right up until the point where you started judging those who might be judging people like us with strollers for big kids! Please don’t be annoyed by those who may judge your actions as a parent if you’re also the type to judge other parents and what they may need to do – like put their children in daycare or public school at an early age! So hypocritical! I think as parents we all need to just mind our business and our kids and leave everyone else alone about how they choose to raise theirs.

      Reply
  • I had to look up the ‘too big for strollers” site and all I can say is that the person who created is a bully, nothing more!
    Honestly I have no idea how is even legal to take pictures of people (some even disabled) like that and post in a defamatory website.
    I actually found this article because I was researching for XL stroller for my soon to be 5 yrs old child. Yep 5!!! And she is a very tall and healthy child.
    I really don’t care about what people say but I like to take LONG walks and jog but it is inhumane and would be a case of child abuse to drag my child to 5-10k daily walks so I will finish my comment and go on with my search for a stroller big enough for my needs.

    Reply
    • Wahhhhh! Who is a bigger baby, you or your child ? Have got to be offended by something don’t you, mom.

      Reply
  • I agree that this article does not take into account many different reasons why someone would use a stroller for a child who may appear to be outside of the age range that is deemed acceptable. Special needs, physical disabilities…For example; my daughter is 4 years old, she is 48 inches tall, she has a size 12 foot and she weights 50 lbs. My daughter is a very tall beanpole & most people think she is 6 or 7 until she starts speaking. I need a stroller for going to amusement parks, shopping, going jogging etc..my little girls gets tired and cranky, even though other people think she looks too old to be in a stroller, I know better. It’s been really hard to find a stroller where my daughter’s legs are not dragging on the floor or her head is pressed up against the sun visor. I wish that stroller companies would take height, special needs children etc.. into account when manufacturing these items-there is a market out there for strollers with a higher weight limit & longer dimensions.

    Reply
  • I found this while searching for strollers for older kids. I am looking for a stroller that can accommodate my 5 year old while I run. She is with me all day and I like to run and she can’t keep up with me or run the distance I run….clearly, because she is 5. So I definitely think the current trend in running long distances plays a big role in this as well. I will also be using it for vacations where we walk long distances because although my kids are 5 and 6 and can walk in any normal situations, vacations are supposed to be fun and if they involve more walking than my kids can handle and continue to be happy, the fun factor in the vacation goes down. My niece, who is 8 and special needs, though you would never know it as she only has slight difficulty but tires easy when walking, will share the stroller with my kids while on vacation. The 3 of them and possibly even their older cousin will take turns riding. I do think letting kids who are able to walk do so rather than strapping them in a stroller is something parents should do at every possible opportunity so I understand why this was written, I just think a person should be very careful with blanket adjustments as it clearly won’t apply to every situation. Possibly a look into why parents are putting older kids in strollers and what problems could arise specifically from inappropriate overuse would fare batter.

    Reply
  • My daughter is 5, soon to be 6. She hasn’t been officially diagnosed with autism, but is in process and has some other disorders. She is almost 50 lbs and tall for her age. She likes to take off and go and not care or know where she is going. If we go out as a family, she goes in a stroller for her safety, so she can’t run away. She looks like a typically developing child, so we get a lot of disgusted looks and people commenting to whoever they’re with (while making sure I can hear, but not saying it directly to me) that a kid her age should be walking, not riding in a stroller. It’s none of their business, so I just ignore it, but I just wish people would stop being so judgmental and/or stop and think that there might be a reason that a bigger child is in a stroller.

    Reply
  • This is a ridiculous article. As a single mother trying to stay healthy I do not expect my daughter to try to keep up with my 12,000 step per day goal. Therefore, sometimes I need to be able to exercise with my daughter in a stroller. My daughter is very high energy, she is healthy, and thin. She gets enough exercise! Manufactuers need to deal with this issue!

    Reply
  • So we will be going to DL and LA is a few weeks for my daughter’s 5th birthday and we were going to use a stroller in case she gets tired, also because I have MS and at the end of the day I can’t carry her back to the hotel. Will it look weird for her to be in a stroller?

    Reply
  • My daughter is 3, but as tall as a 4 or 5 year old. I get looks when she’s in the stroller sometimes. I echo an earlier comment- I walk Miles a day, and would never expect her to keep up, I also wouldn’t be getting aerobic activity going at her pace. I do not have daily babysitting to go to the gym. No one has offered a better suggestion, just an opinion or two that she is too big for a stroller. Please quit giving that above link traffic! Mothers- we’ve got to support each other, you don’t know everyone’s situation.

    Reply
  • Listen I get it both sides make sense bit I only found this article from trying to find a stroller for my almost 30 pound 10 month old he’s a giant baby and I need a stroller that he can use untill he can walk at pretty good pace and I can’t find a reasonably priced one its ridiculous people ask me all the time why my child doesn’t talk or walk not realizing he’s not 2 its rude as heck but I have thick enough skin to deal but I don’t have thick enough skin to deal with how unaccommodating baby companies are for large babies its so obnoxious

    Reply
  • I walk with my son anywhere from 2-4 miles day He is only 5. He gets tired and a stroller would come in handy when that happens. carrying him home is not fun. He is like a sandbag. So, I get a double workout.

    Reply
  • i agree with some other moms who have commented.. only was able to briefly skim a cpl.. i just wanna say please do not judge. my child is 4 and autistic but looks completely normal and has excellent motor skills and active but nonverbal and very high energy. he is very hard to contain and so strong and fast that when he takes off there is no stopping him. it is for his safety and health i need a stroller. you who judge and have time to even write this have NO idea! he has climbed a stool and i am holding him back from trying to pull a lamp down as we speak..

    Reply
  • I am a mother to two boys, ages 4 and 5. They are highly active and very athletic. However, they do get tired when we walk the zoo, and when we visit NYC later this month, I feel it would be safer to keep them from the constant crush of people walking the busy streets. I mean, I’m only 4’11” and I worry that I might get trampled in the crowd. So I resent the implication that I am somehow propelling my boys toward an unhealthy future just because I won’t force them to walk long distances in large crowds.

    Reply

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