There are actually more similarities than differences between the exersaucer (also known as a baby activity saucer) vs jumperoo. I will admit right away that we had both of these items for our children.
Honestly, at times they were a life saver. However, at the time I hadn’t really done much research into them.
I just knew that both of these products provided safe places to put my baby when I needed to get things done.
I spoke to a friend who is an Occupational Therapist to ask her for her views on the pros and cons of both exersaucers and jumperoos for the purpose of this article.
I had originally planned to write more of a review article about exersaucers vs jumperoos and providing information on the ones that I thought were the best for child development.
However, after speaking to my friend I realized that perhaps these products are not the best for a baby’s physical development.
All of that being said, this article is not meant to be fear mongering in any way. Rather, I want parents to be aware and not blindly trust good marketing tactics.
Excersaucer vs Jumperoo – What You Need To Know!
Unfortunately There Aren’t Many Positives
But I will discuss some of the benefits after this list.
Neither Is Good For Physical Development (specifically the hips)
When placed in either of these products, a baby’s hips are externally rotated and somewhat extended, this positioning is not conducive to learning to walk. A baby learns to weight bear with their torso as opposed to their legs when they spend a lot of time in either of these products.
For weight bearing purposes, it is better for the baby to be holding on to something such as a table, couch or chair as this will promote weight bearing with their legs.
They Take Up A Lot Of Space
These are not small products. Luckily we had a fairly big space to put them in, but I still felt like baby stuff was all over my house.
Apparently you can get travel versions of both of these now so they must be smaller and collapsible. I have not looked into these options.
They Often End Up Being “Babysitters”
I am definitely guilty of this one. I can now admit that I didn’t put my child in an exersaucer or jumperoo because I honestly thought it was good for their development.
I did it because it allowed me to have 2 free hands and it kept them entertained (and safe, for the most part) for 10-30 minutes.
The “Developmental” Toys Attached Can Be Purchased Separately
Many people assume that these products are good for a child’s development based on the “activity trays” that come with them. The manufacturers also lead parents to believe this is the case.
Click here to read the description for the Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo from Amazon. It is definitely made to sound like the perfect development toy for babies.
However, most Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists will probably agree that the description under “Encourages Healthy Development” is a bit misleading as a little baby is placing a lot of strain on developing bones and muscles by jumping and spinning.
The description under “Stimulating Interactive Play” is fairly accurate, however there is so much going on with this toy that a baby can easily become over stimulated.
It would be much more beneficial (from a language development perspective) to purchase stimulating and interactive toys separately and have them on the floor or on the high chair tray for your baby to play with.
I know babies like to throw things, so the chances of these items staying on the high chair tray are slim, but my point is that you do not need an exersaucer or jumperoo to give your child access to interactive toys.
Exersaucers Encourage Spinning Around, Jumperoos Focuse On Jumping Up & Down
Both of these movements can lead to tip toe walking as the baby is pushing off with his toes.
If Used For Short Periods Of Time These Products Are Fine For Your Baby
Physical therapists and occupational therapists recommend no more than 20 minutes A DAY! But seriously, who would only use them for 20 minutes a day (remember that is the total time your baby should be in an exersaucer or jumperoo)?
I would put my kids in while I made dinner (20 – 30 minutes), while I had a shower (10 minutes), taking a phone call (10 minutes).
As you can see the time adds up quickly.
These Products Are Not Ideal For Babies With Disabilities
If your baby has a disability that specifically affects muscles (e.g. down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc.) where low or high muscle tone is an issue then you definitely want to avoid both of these products as they will do nothing to help with gross motor and muscle development.
Babies with disabilities can also have sensory issues which means that they can become overstimulated quite quickly.
The activity trays that come with both of these products usually have sounds, lights and many colors that can be too much for a baby with a disability.
Here is an excerpt from a great comment left by a pediatric physical therapist on a parenting forum regarding the use of exersaucers and jumperoos. To read the entire comment, click here.
I worked as a pediatric physical therapist before my son was born, so this an area near and dear to my heart.
Saucers, jumpers, walkers, etc. do nothing to enhance development, and can actually delay the achievement of milestones by several weeks. Essentially, to give a quick summary, standing in a saucer is not the same as actively standing while say holding onto a couch. The muscles work in a different pattern that is less desirable.
This has been backed up by EMG studies, where they read the electrical output of different muscles and look at the patterns in which they are activated. Babies in saucers tend to be pitched forward onto their toes, which isn’t a normal posture and can theoretically lead to tip toe walking down the road (an abnormal gait pattern).
Their abdominal muscles aren’t actively engaged like they would be while actively standing. Their gluteal (butt) muscles aren’t engaged the same way they would be while standing on their own. This allows them to stand with a sway-backed posture that isn’t particularly healthy.
There have been excellent twin studies showing that even in typically-developing kids, the twin that used a walker walked on average 6 weeks later than the non walker using twin. Most therapists would say this can be applied to saucer use as well. Studies have shown saucers to delay sitting, crawling and walking milestones.
Many parents will say their child used a saucer and walked early, but that isn’t really a fair assessment, as their child may have walked even earlier if they *didn’t* use one.
In a typically developing kid, it is less of a concern than a child at risk of delays (preemies, low muscle tone, etc.) However, not all parents know if their child is delayed or at risk of delays either.
So, Are there benefits To An Exersaucer Or Jumperoo?
It really is a toss up, but unfortunately the negatives probably outweigh any potential benefits. The only benefit that I can see is that both an exersaucer and a jumperoo will keep your baby entertained to allow you to get some things done.
For many people this is a huge selling feature, it definitely was for me!
You are probably asking yourself, what are the chances that my baby will have issues with their hips or walking on their toes as a result of using one of these products? I can tell you that both of my children were fine and I am sure many other parents will tell you the same thing.
However, I do have one friend whose daughter had a hip displacement at about 6 months of age and the pediatrician advised that her being in a jumperoo was most likely the cause.
My children are also still young, so I don’t know if there could be any long term effects like damage to the spine (e.g. vertebrae shifting) as a result of them being in both exersaucers and jumperoos.
Babies are growing and developing rapidly in their first few years of life, therefore even small injuries can effect them in the long run.
But, if you really want either of these items, go with something simple. It does not need to be packed with toys that light up, play music, sing the ABC’s and count to 10.
Take a look at these options!
PORTAPLAY ACTIVITY CENTER by Oribel
But the best feature that that once your child doesn’t need it as an exersaucer anymore it can be turned into a small kids table. Perfect for arts and crafts time. It will comfortably sit 2 children. It also folds flat for easy storage.
You can buy 2 small stools separately that will match it once it’s a table.
I love toys that can be used for more than a few months! Don’t you?
What Are The Alternatives To An Exersaucer Or Jumperoo?
Baby Activity Play Mats
Baby activity gyms (aka play mats) are an excellent alternative! The only drawback to these are that once your little one is moving, he probably won’t stay put for long.
To learn about the many benefits of play mats, including how they can help with language development, click here.
If you have the space, you could get a play yard such as the ones pictured below. A play yard is made up of panels that you put together as shown in the pictures below.
You could then place the baby play mat inside of this along with other toys you might find on the activity tray of an exersaucer or jumperoo!
Pack N Play
Another alternative would be to place your child in a pack n’ play with a few toys when you need to get things done around the house!
The Graco Pack N Play Playard Bassinet with Automatic Folding Feet is pictured below. I love this idea because most people typically get a pack n play when they have a baby.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I do not like fear mongering and that is not the intent of this article, parenting is tough as it is. However, I really do not like toys that are marketed to be educational or beneficial for a baby’s/child’s development when in fact it is not true.
Marketers are great with wording and can easily sell a well meaning parent on a toy that is quite unnecessary from a developmental standpoint.
Please share what your thoughts are regarding exersaucers, jumperoos or both!