My previous article pointed out that there are different times and situations that might call for different types of connections between children and parents. There are a variety of means to connect a child to a parent when traveling or even when just out and about around town. This article will look at different tools available and utilized to connect a child to a parent by involuntary means.
Which type of involuntary child connector do you use? (You might be surprised…)
There are people on the web and in your neighborhood who will vocally oppose the use of child harnesses, tethers and leashes as inhumane or humiliating. What many of them do not realize is that a large number of them use even more restrictive means of connecting and even controlling the movements of their children.
There are a number of child carriers. There are child slings, front carriers, back carriers, papoose packs, and backpack carriers, to name a few. These tend to be the most secure carriers, often used for young children before they can walk. They also happen to be the most restrictive carriers as they bodily connect the child to the parent with a lot of body contact and little freedom to move.
Believe it or not, strollers are an involuntary means of connecting a child to an adult. The child is connected into the seat by a three-point or five-point harness, while the parent pushes the stroller to be in complete control of where and when the travel takes place. The child has a small area within the stroller seat to wiggle around, but not much personal freedom. Bassinet strollers can be used for infants, reclining strollers can be used with slightly older children, upright strollers when a child can sit on their own, etc. Children who are old enough to walk are occasionally put in stroller on a long hike or jog (think jogging strollers) when they otherwise may not be able to complete the trek without the need to be carried. Likewise, they have often been used in settings such as art galleries or museums to keep a child comfortable, and possibly contained.
Leading strings are attachments sewn directly into clothing, an invention of 17th century Netherlands, with which to help children learn to walk without falling and to guide them in their direction of walking. A modern day article that functions in a similar fashion is called “walking wings”. While this gives a child freedom to contact the ground and a small range of freedom, a two-handled connection to the parent or caretaker provides a fairly high level of security to prevent falls.
A body harness fits as a vest or crossing-strap attachment to a child’s torso which is then connected to a parent by means of a connecting tether or strap. The child may walk or play on the ground, but is restricted to remain within the distance of the connector from the parent. As the connection between the harness and the strap is usually located on the back of the child, there is little chance of children in such a harness being able to disconnect themselves. A body harness will not typically prevent a child from falling, but will prevent a child from running off. An example of use would be on the sidewalk along a busy street. A cute adaption of this harness is a backpack in the shape of an animal, which then gets a ‘piggyback ride’ from the child. The animal’s tail is the connecting strap in disguise.
FANNY PACK/BELT CONNECTOR
This article consists of a belt that fits around a child’s waist which is then connected to a parent by a connecting strap. An alternative approach to this is a fanny pack a child wears like a belt, but is able to store personal items in, that still happens to be connected to an adult by a strap. Since the child is tethered at the waist, there is a little more freedom than with a torso harness, where a child is tethered from waist to shoulders. Again, there is a set amount of freedom to explore based on the length of the connecting strap. This device is unlikely to prevent falls if a child loses his or her footing.
WRIST STRAP/CORD CONNECTOR
This is a simple strap that attaches to a child’s wrist on one end, and an adult on the other end. One current variation on this product is a wristwatch-looking Velcro strap that attaches to the child’s wrist and a similar looking one that attaches to an adult’s wrist. Each has a cord with a hook attachment of variable length that connect between the two. The ‘length of freedom’ granted to the child is a combination of the length of the connecting strap or cord, the length of the child’s arm, and to some degree the length of the adult’s arm. This also gives a larger degree of freedom, as these tend to be the easiest from which a child may detach themselves.
The above list illustrates there are a variety of means by which a child may be involuntarily connected to an adult. The list progresses from the most restrictive of those included to the least. As noted, also, each is used for a slightly different purpose in different security settings. In general, the more freedom allowed, the less security delivered. Some may have been surprised to recognize that child carriers and strollers are in the same class of involuntary connectors as harnesses, tethers and leashes. Were you?
My next article will examine the pros and cons of using the harness-leash-tether types of involuntary child connectors. Please stay tuned; you might be entertained….
About the author:
David D. Pellei, MD, is the father of 9 children, ages 1-10 years at the time of this writing. Both his work and leisure take him traveling with family often. He just recently completed a 27-day journey with his wife and 9 children, driving a van up and down the East Coast of the United States, visiting historic sites from the periods of the American Revolution and the Civil War. You can read about his trip on the blog: 27 Days in a Green Tin Can.
With his help, and in conjunction with a pediatric occupational therapist, David’s wife Robyn has created Gripsterz, a voluntary character handle, which is just one means of connecting a child to a parent. You can read more about Robyn and Gripsterz at her website www.ViveVita.com.