If you had toddlers at home in the ’60s and ’70s, can you remember how you kept them busy while you got on with your housework?
One solution for many mums was to pop the tot in a baby walker and let them “roam free”, but, according to the Spring Chicken community, the design back in the day was not always the safest.
Baby walkers had been around since the early 1900s, but lightweight, fold-up versions appeared in the 1960s and soon became all the rage. The problem was, the new design no longer had the bumper ring around the bottom, making them very unstable.
A common memory shared by Spring Chicken Facebook followers is one of baby walkers frequently tipping over whenever they bumped into something solid, and in the ’60s and ’70s, the solid something was often the fireplace. One comment reads, “My ten-month-old tipped it up as she ran towards my mother-in-law’s fireplace, falling face first onto the fire. Needless to say, the contraption was smashed by my husband’s bare hands after that!”
Others share similar experiences, saying, “I had one for our eldest son. It got caught around the fire hearth and over he went. He’s now 55 but he still has the scar on his chin to this day,” and, “My eldest son tipped his over and knocked out his first tooth. Talk about trauma… it was never used again.”
It wasn’t just the toddlers that were in danger. Quite a few mums remember thinking that the baby walkers didn’t feel particularly lightweight when high-speed toddlers continually ran over their toes and rammed their ankles:
“My kids were brilliant in them, but you had to watch your ankles. My son was the speedy one, my daughter was more relaxed, but either way, they still got your ankles!”
They were also a trip hazard, and more than one Facebook follower has a tale to tell of taking a tumble over a baby walker on the loose: “I had one for my eldest when he was a toddler. He crept up behind me in it when I was loading the twin tub, and as I turned, I fell over the walker and it folded up on him. I was frantically trying to get him out and check he was okay, which he was, but I’d fractured my fibula and had my leg in plaster for six weeks! They are a lot safer today than they were back then.”
Dangers… and Daleks!
“These things made it too easy for little hands to reach things they shouldn’t too soon.” This is a sentiment shared by many in the Spring Chicken community. Toddlers in baby walkers gained access to areas that would otherwise have been out of reach, and they often left a trail of destruction in their wake as they zoomed from one scene of devastation to the next.
Facebook followers look back on days of broken ornaments and scraped furniture, with many remembering specific incidents: “My son was the fastest baby on four wheels. He’d whip off the TV knobs (remember them?) in no time… I had one for my daughter, and she could really move it. If I forgot to shut the bathroom door, everything went down the loo.”
However, just like the Dr Who Daleks of the decade, stairs were the baby walker’s arch nemesis. Without the ability to hover, steps and stairs stopped rampaging tots in their tracks – most of the time! Getting up a step may have been a challenge too far, but getting down steps was another matter.
One follower says, “I had one for my son, but I had to tie a piece of rope to it as he loved to move as fast as he could towards the steps in the backyard. I measured the length of the rope so that he’d stop about a foot away from the steps, then I was able to carry on hanging out washing on the line.” And another remembers the dangers all too well, saying, “My son fell from the top of the stairs in his walker… he was still in it when he hit the bottom.”
Things that Go Bump…
Amongst the tales of assorted bumps to the head after tipping out of a baby walker, there are also tales of tots having the time of their lives: “We had a large kitchen with a sofa at one end. My son used to run his little legs along and ram his baby walker into the sofa, resulting in him shooting out of it onto the sofa. He’d roll around there giggling – frightened me no end!”
Many Facebook followers remember buying a baby walker from Mothercare, where it seems that red tartan was a popular choice. Modern versions of baby walkers can still be bought there, and they come with safety advice: “Baby walkers should only be used on a smooth surface, free from major obstruction, and for a limited time period as they are not a training aid.” The fact that such safety advice didn’t exist in the ’60s is demonstrated beautifully by one Facebook comment: “We had a sloping path from the gate down to the house. Our son used to struggle up to the top of the path in his walker, then pick up his feet and zoom back down – laughing all the way.”
The last word must go to one Facebook follower who, on seeing an old photo of a baby walker, commented, “You get one of these when you’re old and doddery.”
Such irony; the toddlers of the ’60s and ’70s can now return the favour by getting their aging parents a walking aid of their own!