Too long in a buggy ‘harms child’s brain’: Over-reliance on pushchairs can hamper speech and physical skills
- Strollers reduced time children spend interacting or exploring
- This can hamper attention, balance and co-ordination skills
- Growing use of tablets can cause similar problems, it is claimed
Parents who put young children in buggies and baby seats for too long and too often could be hampering their speech and physical skills, an expert will warn today.
An over-reliance on prams and strollers – particularly those that face forward – reduces the time they spend interacting with parents or exploring freely, it is claimed.
The knock-on effects can harm performance at school and persist for life, according to an expert on children’s brains.
The growing use of tablets and smartphones can cause similar problems, with babies denied opportunities for ‘rough play’, singing and talking.
The warning will be delivered by neuro-psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe at a conference staged by the charity WATCh? (What About the Children?).
Speaking ahead of her speech, she said: ‘Attention, balance and co-ordination skills learned during the first 36 months of life support cognitive learning and have been linked to performance on SATs at school.
‘Infants need opportunity for free movement and exploration, whether that is tummy time, cuddling or rough play.’
And she said that social interaction – singing, talking and even just eye-contact also helps physical development.
‘That is not happening if a child is in a forward facing buggy and her mum is using her smartphone.’
Mrs Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro Physiological Psychology in Chester, said children with immature physical skills were less likely to perform well in national curriculum tests, although they may be intelligent.
She said buggies, car seats, rocking chairs and other equipment, as well as electronic screens, were increasingly used in the home.
The growing use of tablets and smartphones can cause similar problems, with babies denied opportunities for ‘rough play’, singing and talking
‘If they are used in moderation there is probably no problem at all,’ she said. ‘There is perhaps a culture among a new generation of parents who don’t know they should only be used as tools, rather than devices that you can keep a baby in for long periods.’
Studies have shown language skills were more advanced among youngsters who had been pushed in rear-facing pushchairs instead of traditional forward-facing, she added.
Meanwhile, physical movements such as sitting from lying down helped develop pathways in the brain which lay the physical foundations for problem-solving later on.
Crawling was thought to help with hand-eye coordination and reading, Mrs Goddard Blythe said.
June O’Sullivan, chief executive of London Early Years Foundation, said: ‘Wellbeing in the early years is the foundation of success at school, in making friends and relationships and for all adult life.