Toddler Leashes: Degrading or Necessary?

As I mentioned before, I used to think of putting toddlers on leashes as rather demeaning to a child.  That was before I had a child of my own, of course.  It’s funny how a our perceptions and views on things change as our circumstances change.

Although I currently do not use a leash on Gavin, I did attempt to use one in the past.  My little boy obviously loves his freedom and the mere thought of being restricted in any way – regardless of whether it is a backpack leash or a wrist-band type – seems to rub him the wrong way.  Of course, that was a long time ago, back when prams were also a big “no-no”.

Now that I am pregnant and find it harder to chase after him especially when he wanders away from me, the toddler leash is starting to look very appealing again.  As tedious as it must be for Gavin to remain cooped up indoors, there are days when the thought of going out is just too tiring, especially when I have to deal with a toddler who won’t sit in the pram or stay close to me.  Although a toddler leash isn’t a substitute for parental vigilance, at least there is some peace of mind knowing that he can’t go too far without me in tow.

Why Do We Need Toddler Leashes?

Toddlers are little explorers. They love to examine new things and often pay very little regard as to the whereabouts of Mummy or Daddy when they are in the midst of an important discovery. Toddler leashes fulfill a toddler’s need to continue the quest to learn everything possible about the strange new world around him (or her) while helping to keep him (or her) within the reach and relative security of a parent.

Although toddler leashes are not a replacement for a parent’s vigilance, they can help to “mind” your child for those brief moments when your attention is understandably directed elsewhere. For instance, when paying for groceries, signing a credit card bill, or asking for directions. These are all very legitimate reasons why a parent’s attention might be diverted away from the child and certainly not due to the parent’s negligence.

If you are a parent or if you have ever had to watch over a toddler, you may recall that it only takes a moment of distraction for a toddler to disappear from sight. In a crowded shopping mall with distractions abound, losing a child is a very real and frightening possibility. Not only is it extremely distressing for a parent to lose a child at a busy venue, it is also a traumatic experience for the child (once the child has discovered he has lost his parents), and a hassle for security to assist in the search for the child. In countries where child abductions are a real concern, toddler leashes on roaming children becomes a critical requirement.

Are Leashes Really Any Different to Other Child Restraining Devices?

The main issue with toddler leashes is the idea that a child is being treated like an animal. However, let’s examine this from a toddler’s perspective. If you were a child curious about the world around you and eager to see, touch, feel, hear and taste it, would you rather be bound to a parent or guardian by a string attached to your hand or be strapped into a stroller? For isn’t that the other purpose of a stroller? To keep toddlers from wandering off on their own so parents can focus their attention onto other things?

Being stuck in a stroller would be terribly frustrating to a toddler whose urge is to pick up the pebble on the grass, touch the flowers in a garden, or do any of the myriad of activities that toddlers do to satisfy their curiosity. While some toddlers might be happy to sit in a stroller on occasion, all toddlers, at some point, will desire to be free to move around on their own. From a psychological point of view, it would be preferable to allow a toddler some freedom of movement with a toddler leash than to leave him (or her) screaming and crying in stroller.

The purpose of many child restraining devices, such as the car seat, is to keep a child safe. Some toddlers do not agree with them and many dislike using them, however, parents still use them because it is necessary. Would that not also describe the function of a toddler leash – to keep toddlers safe? Even if the concern for child kidnapping is irrelevant, a toddler who is lost without adult supervision is in greater danger of getting hurt.

Toddler leashes provide parents with another option for keeping their toddlers safe and within reach. Considering the nature and need for a toddler to wander, a toddler leash fulfills both parent’s and toddler’s requirements. Toddlers are free to roam (within reason) and parents are not tasked with the duty of keeping their eyes on their child one hundred per cent of the time.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Toddler Leashes: Degrading or Necessary?

  1. I am torn about it. I guess I restrain my child more than a leash would and maybe even more than a stroller. If a shopping cart isn’t available and I’m out in public with large crowds, I’ll use a moby wrap and actually tie my daughter to me. The wrap says it can be used until she’s 35 lbs. When I do put her down to run around, I follow very closely and make sure that time is devoted to really teaching my little one about the world around her. When my attention isn’t focused on keeping up with her I do believe in a child restraint system like a stroller, shopping cart, moby wrap, and for others a leash.

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  2. I used to use something similar to the moby wrap, but I found my son began to dislike it probably about the time he was still objecting to prams and toddler leashes.

    Of course, back then, he was younger, not as quick on his feet and I wasn’t tired all the time and carrying an extra weight on my belly so keeping up with him wasn’t as much of a challenge as it is now. I didn’t feel the need for a leash quite as much as I do now.

    Some toddlers still enjoy being in the wrap, carrier or sling, and if mine did, I would have continued using it. However, my son kept wanting out all the time that I found it too tedious to keep up with it. Of course, now that I am pregnant and completely unused to carrying him, I’m not sure I will fair well carrying all the added weight for very long.

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