Bookmark and Share

Exersaucers, Swings and Jumpers— A help or hindrance to development?


By Deanie Barth, MSPT Physical Therapist

 

Exersaucers, swings and jumpers are a constant source of controversy among parents, physicians and therapists. The initial source of controversy stemmed from safety issues. The original “exersaucer” was basically an activity table on wheels. Infants had a great time as they cruised around open areas retrieving objects across the room and enjoyed a new found sense of freedom. Unfortunately, these were extremely dangerous - even the most diligent parents might turn their heads for a moment and children went down stairs, into pools or tipped over on uneven surfaces. While the more contemporary models are certainly safer than the older ones, they still should be used with adult supervision.

 

This article will describe the exersaucer, swing and jumper and list some pros and cons and personal opinions I have as a physical therapist. One thing they all have in common is that they should only be used in moderation (I recommend no more than 15 minutes at a time) and with constant supervision.

 

Exersaucer

The modern exersaucer is essentially an activity table in which your child can sit, stand with assistance and bounce. The activity table can be helpful in developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills thus make sure that items on the activity table have various colors, shapes and textures to stimulate. However, make sure it has a limited number of such objects so your child will want to turn his body and shift his weight to explore each one. When seated in the exersaucer, the infant’s legs are typically externally rotated and slightly extended if they are leaning forward. While infants enjoy this position as it enables them to move around freely, it is not a movement pattern that is conducive to learning to walk. Encouraging your child to stand while leaning on their arms rather than leaning with their trunk against the tray will help to strengthen legs and promote balance, however, achieving the important milestones of sitting, standing, cruising and walking, are best accomplished by playing with your child in a natural environment.

 

Jumpers

Jumpers usually sit within a door frame or a manufactured frame. The child sits in a sling and has the ability to use his legs to jump up and down which provides long periods of fun and entertainment. Weight bearing and contracting muscles against resistance (the floor) can help to develop muscles strength, however, the typical position within the sling seat is once again with hips externally rotated and slightly extended. The child will also tend to land and push off from their toes rather than with a flat foot. The concern here is that not only does it promote a movement pattern that will not facilitate walking, but it may promote walking on the toes as well. As with the exersaucer, if used for short spans of time, the jumper will provide lots of fun for a child, but little gross motor development.

 

Swings

Swings are typically used with the younger infant. If you choose to use a swing, one with an activity tray is recommended. Once again it should contain an assortment of shapes, textures and colors to promote batting, grasping and retrieving. While in a swing, a child typically semi-reclines with their legs dangling. While this may be emotionally soothing there is absolutely no gross motor benefit to this position. Leaning forward to play with the activity will help with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but essentially it’s greater purpose serves as a babysitter for the parent.

 

When used properly exersaucers, jumpers and swings clearly provide brief, but much needed periods of respite for a parent, and they may even help with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. However, If used for long periods of time, there is a significant chance they will impede the proper development of gross motor skills. So, remember, don’t use them for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and never allow them to be used unsupervised, even for a second.

If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles:

 

Untitled Document
Guidelines for Summer Activities Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Learning Through Movement… A Sensory-Rich Way to Help Children Barbara Greenspan, OT
Five Elements of Successfully Disciplining Your Toddler Andy Eig, PhD.
Preventing Family Headaches Andy Eig, PhD.

Let's Get... Potty Trained!

Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Play is A Lot More Than Fun and Games Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP
Understanding Your Child's Personality Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Nursemaid's Elbow Deanie Barth, MSPT
Torticollis – What Every Parent Should Know Barbara Greenspan, OT
Getting to Know Your Body Barbara Greenspan, OT
Learning to Read Starts Young Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP
It’s All In The Hands - Ways to Develop Fine Motor Skills Barbara Greenspan, OT
Understanding the Different Modes/Styles of Learning Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP
Achieving Gross Motor Milestones and Play Skills Through Summer Time Fun Deanie Barth, MSPT
Help With Grandparents Andy Eig, PhD.
Helicopter Parenting Barbara Greenspan, OT
Eye-Hand Coordination Barbara Greenspan, OT
Five Major Milestones for Early Physical Development Deanie Barth, MSPT
It's All About the Core Deanie Barth, MSPT
Using Time Outs Properly and Effectively Andy Eig, PhD.
Making Room for Two Andy Eig, PhD.
Giving is MORE than Toys Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Using the  5  7 Senses Barbara Greenspan, OT
Have You Spanked Your Children? Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
What to Expect During the Sixth Year of Your Baby's Life Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
What to Expect During the Third Year of Your Baby's Life Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
What to Expect During the Second Year of Your Baby's Life Barbara Greenspan, OT
What to Expect During the First Year of Your Baby's Life Deanie Barth, MSPT
Psychiatric Medication and Young Children: Is there too much pill popping? Andy Eig, PhD.
Exersaucers, Swings and Jumpers— A help or hindrance to development? Deanie Barth, MSPT
Technology — A Chief Culprit in Language Delays Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP
HELP! My Child Has Tantrums Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Great Indoor Winter Play Ideas Barbara Greenspan, OT