Toddler reins: good or bad idea?

A lot of people hate the idea of ‘putting kids on leads’ but if a set of toddler reins keeps my son safe, encourages him to walk and gets him outdoors more – I’m all for it!

Pretty much since the day Sonny learned to walk at 15 months old, keeping track of him on foot has become more difficult every day. He’s still happy to trundle around in his pram or be hoisted around on my back in a child carrier, but drop him on his own two feet and we’ll be chasing him to the point of exhaustion (for us, not him).

I didn’t know too much about toddler reins until Sonny received a Little Life Toddler Backpack as a gift for his first birthday, but since then I’ve never understood what all the negative fuss is about.

Road safety peace of mind

First of all, think about the obvious safety positives. According to the Department for Transport, there were 6,080 child pedestrian casualties on UK roads between June 2016 and June 2017, of which 23% resulted in death or serious injury (read full report here). Obviously a set of toddler reins won’t mean every one of those accidents will be prevented, but I always feel far more confident on a pavement – even in a quiet cul-de-sac like the one we live in – when I know Sonny can’t charge more than a few feet away from me.

Building confidence

Not that Sonny needed much encouragement to run around like a lunatic when he first started walking, but his toddler reins allowed him to get out of the house and test those unsteady legs on walks to nursery, trips to the park, shopping trips to the supermarket, or anywhere else we took him. And they didn’t just help his confidence, the reins meant we were more comfortable as parents letting him explore new places on his own two feet.

It works pretty well for the dog…

As a dog owner I don’t particularly love the fact that I have to buckle a collar round my jack russell’s neck and watch him strain at the end of a lead when he’s trying to get somewhere I don’t want him to go. But the simple truth is that if I didn’t use a lead, he’d run into the road, chase my neighbours cats 24 hours a day, and roll in every pile of fox crap  within quarter of a mile of our house. He basically doesn’t know any better, and at 19 months old neither does Sonny. So rather than not take either of them for a walk, or spend the whole time correcting them or fretting that they’re about to do something unspeakably stupid or dangerous, I’m happy to keep both of my boys safely tethered to me until someone invents a better solution.

Picking the right toddler reins

Even though I generally think reins are a great idea, it’s important to test out a few different styles to see what suits you and your child. As well as Sonny’s excellent Little Life Backpack that comes with its own detachable rein, we’ve also tried a wrist link from Go Travel that I’m not so keen on. There’s nothing wrong with it in terms of safety or the way it performs, but I don’t like seeing Sonny yank his arm whenever the strap goes tight. The padded straps on the Little Life Backpack don’t seem to bother him at all, and if anything he actually enjoys wearing it because he likes copying everything his mum and dad do. It also lets him stash snacks and toys in his own bag, so he feels like a proper little grown-up.

Do what works for you

I’ve read arguments that suggest toddler reins are a poor substitute for holding your child’s hand while out walking together, but I think they’re two completely different things. We hold Sonny’s hand all the time, but there are plenty of times when he simply doesn’t want to do it. He’s a confident kid and usually wants to be out in front of us – kicking leaves, jumping in puddles or chasing after the dog – and we’re much happier if he’s doing that under our control with no chance of darting out in front of passing cars or bikes. Everyone’s titled to their opinion, but my advice is to find what works for you and stick at it. Ignore the judgers!

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