Most babies are ready for an exersaucer between 6 and 7 months. Begin slowly with 5-minute bursts, but limit use to 20 minutes at a time. The general limits are either 24 months of age or 30 inches tall, and the average weight limit is 25 pounds.
Several child development professionals, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, and medical professionals, won’t even provide a definitive answer about exersaucer use.
Exersaucers are not inherently bad for babies, but like other baby products, exersaucers have several benefits and drawbacks that parents should understand.
As a parent, the best choice is to take a balanced approach. Take some time to learn about the benefits, shortcomings, and suggested best practices before putting your little one in an exersaucer.
Benefits of an Exersaucer
- Are convenient and give parents, or caregivers, some much needed hands-free time for chores or other tasks.
- Promote child development. Exersaucers help promote the baby’s motor development and sensory skills, and hand-eye coordination through the attached toys and musical/sound elements.
- Offer a safe alternative to baby walkers because your little one will not be able to move around the house in an exersaucer. This function eliminates environmental hazards like falling down the stairs, touching/grabbing something unsafe, or even tripping on the carpet or uneven flooring that often occurred with baby walkers.
Drawbacks of the Exersaucer
Unfortuantely, it can actually take away valuable interactions with another human being like a parent or a caregiver. Human touch is essential, and it provides babies a sense of security and safety.
Both safety and security are very important to make sure that little ones develop a healthy attachment.
Limited Exposures to Surroundings
It limits babies’ exposure to their surrounding environment. During tummy time, babies can crawl, rollover from their stomach to their back or vice versa, and reach for things.
Tummy time offers unrestrained exploration and contributes to a baby’s development more than being in a controlled environment, like an exersaucer.
Promotes Poor Posture
Good posture is very important for babies since they are still developing.
Poor posture usually only becomes a concern for babies with pre-existing health conditions or when babies are in exersaucers for long periods of time.
Babies should only be put in the exersaucer for 20 minutes because they will often slouch after this or arch their back, which leads to trunk straining.
Poor posture can lead to joint pain, bowlegs or toe walking later in life.
Rocking Motion is Helpful ONLY in Controlled Environments
Exersaucers allow babies to rock and bounce, which is all fun and games within the controlled exersaucer environment.
Just be aware that this rocking motion they learn in the exersaucer can cause safety issues if repeated in less controlled environments like bathtubs, high chairs, or sitting on the floor.
To minimize this risk, you can use stabilizing legs with the exersaucer. The stabilizing legs will limit your baby’s ability to bounce while they are in the exersaucer.
Risk of Overuse
It is very easy, even for the best-intentioned parents, to lose track of time. The next thing they know, their baby is spending long periods of time in the exersaucer.
It can be easy to use the educational purposes excuse since exersaucers come with lots of good sensory toys, but babies learn more from playing freely with toys on the carpet during tummy time.
We also know that a baby’s posture suffers when they are in the exersaucer for extended periods of time.
When Can Baby Use an Exersaucer?
Now that you are familiar with some of the benefits and drawbacks of putting your little one in an exersaucer, you are probably wondering when they can start using it.
Putting your baby in the exersaucer for 10-20 minutes can make a big difference for parents needing a break. It can mean quickly answering work emails that would have taken you 30 minutes to type one-handed while holding and entertaining your baby.
It can also give you time to prepare a home-cooked dinner as opposed to ordering out. Although these might seem like small accomplishments, sometimes little things make all the difference.
You will know that your little one is ready for the exersaucer if you can answer “yes” to the following questions.
Most babies are ready for the exersaucer at around 6-7 months of age.
Exersaucer Readiness Questions
1. Can they pull themselves up into a standing position while holding onto something?
If your little one does not have the strength and coordination to pull themselves up into a standing position while holding onto something, their bones, muscles, and ligaments are not strong enough for the exersaucer yet.
Ensure your child can stand up and fully support their body weight while in the exersaucer to maintain good posture and protect against developmental delays.
2. Can their feet reach the floor or the base of the exersaucer?
It is important that your little one’s feet either reach the floor of the base of the exersaucer when you put them inside it.
You do not want their feet to dangle when they are in the exersaucer. Some exersaucers are adjustable, so if your little one’s feet don’t reach the floor, you may need to adjust the seat’s height.
If the seat is not adjustable, you will need to wait until your little one is taller before putting them in the exersaucer.
3. Can they sit without support?
Suppose your little one can sit without support. In that case, this demonstrates that they have the trunk stability and balance necessary to comfortably sit in the seat and can use their arms and hands to explore all the fun and exciting objects attached to the exersaucer.
How to Introduce Baby to the Exersaucer
If your baby is ready for the exersaucer, you should introduce them to it slowly. The first few times you place them in the exersaucer, plan on staying right beside them the whole time.
You can help them explore the attached toys, press the sound/music buttons, and talk to them. This will help your baby develop a positive association with the exersaucer.
It will also help prevent your baby from discovering that the exersaucer is merely a substitute for spending time with you or being held.
If they make that association being in the exersaucer will be a negative experience for them. They might even cry and fuss when you put them in it.
It also helps to start with short periods and then slowly extend the length of time you leave them in the exersaucer.
Start with just 5 minutes and then keep adding a minute each day. Never leave them in the exersaucer for longer than 20 minutes.
Free movement outside the exersaucer is always better, so try to give them as much supervised tummy time possible.
Exersaucer Safety Tips
You should always read the owner’s manual that came with the specific exersaucer you have since all models are slightly different.
A general guideline for exersaucer age limits is either 24 months of age or 30 inches tall.
If you notice that your little one is ever trying to climb out of the exersaucer, it’s time to stop using it as this could be dangerous.
The average weight limit for most exersaucers is 25 lbs. Of course, you should still check the owner’s manual for your specific exersaucer if the suggested weight limit is different.
Some exersaucers have a higher weight limit, while others cannot hold as much weight.
Length of Use
Babies should not spend a lot of time in the exersaucer. Try limiting your little on to 20-minute intervals when using the exersaucer.
Remember that they should spend a lot of time on the floor playing with other toys freely.
As mentioned above, your baby’s feet should touch the floor or the base of the exersaucer. Your little one should not be flat-footed, though.
Instead, pediatricians suggest that babies should be on their toes. Being on their toes is best because they can absorb the shock better when they bounce up and down.
If they bounce up and down while flat-footed, they put the full strain of their body weight on their developing knees and joints.