The days of nannies pushing babies around parks in huge prams are now far behind us and today’s families need much more versatile ways of safely transporting little ones. For most people, a suitable pushchair, or stroller as they are usually referred to in the US, is often the preferred choice. Pushchairs it seems have been around for as long as babies and wheels but modern high tech versions come in a bewildering range of styles with an equally wide range of price tags. It is not unusual for a well-specified pushchair to cost more than a reasonable second-hand car but before splashing the cash it is important to consider exactly what is really needed from a pushchair and work out which features are really useful and which are simply annoying gimmicks.
The first consideration is of course the age of the occupant. Some pushchairs are unsuitable for new-born babies whereas others may make this their top priority. There is an increasing tendency for manufacturers to try for a “one size fits all” approach with varying degrees of success. Purchasing a complete “Travel System” is a popular choice and such a system normally includes a car seat, pushchair and possibly a carry cot. The individual components can be bought separately but care should be taken to ensure that “Travel System Compatible” items are truly compatible. The best advice is to stick to a single manufacturer rather than attempting to mix and match. Such travel systems can be expensive but should offer safe travelling in all situations. On the downside, many of these items can be rather cumbersome and more difficult to handle than simpler pushchairs. There is also the disadvantage that the car seat needs to be fitted for each and every car journey.
Some people have a preference for a particular type of pushchair such as a forward or rearward facing seat. In general, a rear facing seat allows for more interaction and is often preferred for younger children with forward facing being preferred for older kids keen to see what is going on around them. Manufacturers have predictably come up with some designs where the seat can be fitted in either direction. With some of these, the direction is easily changed but it can be rather more involved in others. Wheels also come in many different sizes, types and configurations. The main choice is between having simple fixed wheels or swivel wheels, similar to a supermarket trolley. Swivel wheels offer more maneuverability but, as anyone who has ever pushed a supermarket trolley will know, swivel wheels do not always go exactly where they are pushed. Some pushchairs offer lockable swivel wheels which promise to offer the best of both systems but in some cases seem to have the disadvantages of both. The steering of a fixed wheel pushchair depends on the lifting of the front wheels and the pushchair’s centre of gravity is designed to facilitate this. Swivel wheel pushchairs are sometimes much more difficult to tip in this way making the mounting of curbs more difficult.
Another consideration is whether the seat can be folded to accept a carry cot or if the seat offers any calf/leg support for smaller children not yet able to reach the footrest. An adjustable height handle could be useful when the pushchair is pushed by people of different heights but the adjustable handles can result in some loss of rigidity. The choice of fabrics and levels of comfortable padding are also important as a pushchair should be comfortable and look good too. Many pushchairs feature a shopping basket area beneath the seat and this is always a useful addition but seldom large enough to carry a decent amount of shopping. You can use a pushchair and stroller reviews site to filter a list of pushchair reviews that are suitable for shopping.
Perhaps some of the very best pushchairs are those regarded as being suitable for “all terrain” use. These often feature large wheels with pneumatic tyres and spring suspension. All of this may be unnecessary for normal street use but should give an extremely comfortable ride. At the other end of the range can be found the lightweight buggy type pushchairs. These may be lacking some of the luxury features of their more expensive counterparts but in many ways are the perfect lightweight pushchairs. They are ideal where true portability is required. Most offer a very simple fast folding arrangement usually being able to be performed with just one hand allowing a toddler’s hand to be held with the other. They are also very compact when folded making them ideal for use on public transport or where space is at a premium.
There are many other practical considerations when choosing a pushchair such as making sure that it fits both the child and the car boot. The mechanism for applying the brakes should be examined and tested in order to ensure not only that the brakes work effectively but also that they can be applied and released without scuffing those new shoes! Perhaps the best advice is to always try before buying. By trying walking with a pushchair the handle height can be assessed and this is the only way to check whether it can be pushed with an uninterrupted stride. Strange though it may seem, some pushchairs are so badly designed that the pushers’ legs make contact with some part of it or are virtually impossible to get up a curb. Some bargain buys may turn out to be something rather less than a bargain!