Development FAQ: 18-24 months – Other Advice

Which type of reins should I get for my daughter of 18 mths who likes to walk?

My 18-month-old daughter has not been walking for long, but likes to do so at every opportunity. We live in a city, so the streets are busy, and she dislikes holding a hand or the buggy. Our Nanny and I want to encourage her to walk, but daily trips to the shops take a long time and are becoming difficult, as she will wander off. I have looked at reins and wrist straps, but which would be the most suitable for her age? Wrist straps seem to be less restricting, but is she too young for them?

Using some method to keep your daughter close to you in busy streets is a good idea, especially at this age when toddlers will walk in any direction and be unaware of hazards. While wrist straps may look more flexible than reins, they are more suited to children over the age of two and a half. Children of that age are more likely to close by and a wrist strap keeps adult and child together. If used with younger toddlers, problems may arise from their “random” walking. If a small toddler attached to a strap takes off in a busy street, another pedestrian may walk between you and your child, unaware of the strap, and trip over it. This will also cause your child to fall. Similarly, if your toddler dislikes holding your hand, she may walk to the other side of a bollard or obstacle and again be jerked off her feet.

A harness with reins attached is a better option, as your daughter will be slightly in front of you, increasing your awareness of what is happening. Also, there is no space between the two of you for others to move into. Reins, when properly adjusted, can prevent tumbles as you can pull her back up should she trip. If she suddenly sits down, a common occurrence, you will be able to get her up and going again easily. When paying for goods in shops, or otherwise distracted, the reins will also prevent your daughter from wandering off.

It is wonderful that you and your Nanny are encouraging your daughter to walk, as many toddlers spend too much time in buggies just for the mother’s peace of mind and ease. Try to balance outings that involve a lot of street walking, with trips to more child-friendly places where she can walk and run freely. Begin to teach her to hold your hand or the buggy when crossing roads, even although she is on reins. It is never too early to begin to teach good habits about stopping and looking before crossing, and waiting for the green light at crossings. There may be some initial protest, but consistency will help enforce good habits.