An About-Face For Strollers

brookesheildsIn an article she wrote for the New York Times, M. Suzanne Zeedyk, a senior lecturer at the University of Dundee in Scotland, is all over the whole stroller issue.

She isn’t interested so much in the cost, or the problems with those faulty latches, but more in how their design could be slowing language development in young children.

Zeedyk had heard rumblings from many British teachers who had noticed a decline in the linguistic abilities of children and wondered whether forward-facing strollers could be part of the reason.

She figured that they might have hit upon something since the brain develops fastest between the ages of 0 and 3, and social interaction plays a key role in neurological development.

Since little tykes spend so much time in the stroller during those critical first years, they might be missing out on lots of opportunities for talking and laughing with their moms or dads if they can’t see them.

So she got Britain’s National Literacy Trust to give her a chance to look into the matter. After studying 2,700 babies and young children being strolled down the streets of cities and villages throughout Britain, she found what she was looking for.

The results of this research project, and another follow-up study, showed what you might expect: parents talked and laughed significantly more when their children faced them, and the kids did too.

Problem is, most strollers today don’t face the person doing the strolling. Parents really have no idea what their child is looking at or noticing when they are facing forward, and they have little opportunity to engage them directly with smiles, talk or laughter.

Zeedyk suggests that more research in this area is needed. She also suggests that it might be time to reevaluate the design of forward-facing strollers and come up with a different model that allows for much more of that all-important parent-child face time.

Makes sense to us!

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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