As moms and dads, we all know the precious time we can get to ourselves is minimum. Having five minutes to grab laundry or have a cup of coffee is hard to come by. That’s why we are elated when we find something like the ExerSaucer that will contain our babies and keep them happy.
Unfortunately, ExerSaucer playtime has it’s downsides. In particular, physical and occupational therapists oppose the ExerSaucer. As a Mom and an occupational therapist, I think it is best to take a balanced approach to this topic. It’s important to understand what these devices are doing well and not so well so that the perks can be enjoyed without hindering an infant’s development:
- Poor posture and positioning: When seated in the ExerSaucer, an 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. They also place babies in a position whereby the babies have to lock their knees when standing to compensate for weakness since they are not developmentally ready to stand. Often babies will stand on their toes when placed in the ExerSaucer. This can lead to overdevelopment of calf muscles, and, in severe cases, lead to toe walking.
- Decreased balance: There is concern that when infants spend a lot of time in an ExerSaucer or jumper, they end up seated in a position where their center of gravity remains forward, compromising their development of balance. Christie Killey from MamaOT describes these concerns: “Our bodies develop a sense of balance through the feedback given to us by receptors in our muscles and joints (called proprioceptors). When we lose our balance, these receptors send a message to our brain (which goes back to our body), telling us to adjust our position in order to avoid falling. This message is non-existent when placed in an ExerSaucer. Babies also have difficulty developing a sense of balance control while in ExerSaucers because they can’t see their feet, which is something they need to be able to do when learning how to stand and balance independently.”
- Lack of exploration: The final concern is unfortunately one of the reasons the ExerSaucer is most appealing to parents: it limits an infant’s need and ability to explore their environment–it keeps them in one place. It’s important to encourage rolling, scooting, pulling to stand, cruising and reaching. We want to challenge these skills and progress them as they master each one. Playing on a floor allow for these skills to be explored in positions such as their tummy, back, in seated, hands and knees and standing. An ExerSaucer simply doesn’t allow for this freedom of movement.
The ExerSaucer isn’t all bad. ExerSaucer playtime allows infants to be safely self-contained in a device that provides stimulation and fine-motor play… not to mention, provides caregivers with a much needed break. Because of the concerns noted above, it is recommended that parents limit time in these devices to 15-20 minutes per day–enough time to start a load of laundry or grab a cup of coffee and a few minutes peace without guilt.
This allows us as caregivers to get what we need done without compromising our children’s development.