A Case Against the ExerSaucer

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I find it almost unbelievable how popular the ExerSaucer has become in American culture. Since when did we agree to put a huge piece of brightly colored plastic in our living rooms so that our infants will be entertained? I object to the ExerSaucer on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

Besides being horrifically ugly and made of unsustainable petroleum byproducts, I object to the name. The first part “exer” seems to imply that a child will get exercise through engagement with the toy. However, all the children I’ve seen playing in them are actually moving their bodies much LESS than they would if they weren’t propped up in the huge contraption.

I also object to how it orients an infant. The recommendations I saw suggested putting infants inside as soon as they can sit unassisted. But this standing position is unnatural for babies that young to engage in for extended periods.

Usually when babies are standing with our assistance they’re doing so for a few moments at a time, on our laps and for not longer than a couple of minutes. However, I’ve seen parents leave their infants in their ExerSaucer for much longer than that. Sure, a child can relax her legs and sit in the seat, but again, I find it unnatural for a baby to be in such an upright position all alone and surrounded by brightly colored plastic toys fully 360 degrees around her body.

The other thing that concerns me about these devices is the temptation to use them. When we put our children into a device to entertain them, rather than engaging in a conversation, cooing and singing, or even leaving them to explore the floor on their own, we’re sending a disturbing message. First, we’re telling young infants that all this excitement is perfectly normal and to be expected which sets them up for boredom and disappointment when they’re one day forced to engage in the “real” world. And second, we’re telling them that we would rather put them in a huge plastic contraption than hold them and engage with them.

I also feel worried because babies seem to really enjoy these toys, which just encourages us to put them in again and again and for longer periods of time. “Oh, I’ll just pop him in his saucer while I make dinner, he loves that thing!” I suspect that what’s really happening is that babies are getting over-stimulated which can look like excitement to an untrained eye. But personally, I would MUCH rather set my infant up on a blanket nearby, or even in an infant seat or highchair, because at least they aren’t quite as obnoxious.

There, I’ve said it. I hate so many things about the ExerSaucer it’s hard to even keep track of them all. But all this negativity is getting me down, so what am I recommending INSTEAD of the saucer?

I’d like to see more families playing together, singing together, making dinner TOGETHER. I’d like to see more parents holding, cuddling, kissing, and snuggling their babies. I’d like to see more parents taking a stand against the social ‘norm’ and refusing to live with brightly colored plastic kid’s toys, choosing instead to feature a few beautifully carved wooden toys or a collection of puppets.

In fact, when I tell other parents that we don’t have any of that “plastic crap” at our house, they look at me incredulously and say things like, “How did you keep it away?! We were GIVEN most of this stuff!” To which I reply, “I told everyone the rules before my daughter was born.”

Here are my rules:

1)     If it’s plastic, don’t bother giving it to me, I’ll just sell it to the re-sale baby store

2)    If it’s battery operated and makes noise see above. I HATE stepping on toys and waking up babies when they make loud noises. That is NOT happening at my house.

3)    If it’s wooden, yes.

4)   If it’s on my Amazon wishlist (or other registry)- hooray!

Don’t think that just because you didn’t set up some boundaries before your child was born, you can’t start now. You can. Come on parents, we really are in charge here.  We don’t let aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents pick out our furniture, so why would we let them pick out the toys we give to our kids? Let’s take back control of our home environments! And down with the ExerSaucer, I seriously hate those things.

Have a great week! Warmly, Shelly

15 comments
Enigmama
Enigmama

I have 5 kids. The exersaucer keeps the baby safe from being trampled & gives him toys that the older kids can use to engage him at his level. It also buys me the occasional moment of sanity when I am dealing with his older brothers & sisters. I cannot always realistically have him in my arms or on a blanket. Just some perspective from a mom of many.

Natfrat
Natfrat

For some excellent non-plastic, wooden, food-dye safe toys...Babynaturopathics has tonnes. Haba, Erzi, plan toys, selecta, Hopi, and kathe kruz are some great brands. Look for European toys. I used all of these AND had an exersaucer! I didn't allow any other plastic toys and live an organic lifestyle. (Heck - I don't even drive)! I was a single mom so I NEEDED an exersaucer so I could shower once a day! ;) My kid was very advanced though...my first walked independently at 7 months (and pulled up on furniture by herself, walking along the edges, at 5 months) so where else was I going to put a baby? She could also climb out of a crib at 6 months (from the bottom level by shimmying up), could climb up to the countertops at 6-7 months and generally Houdini her way out of everything (highchair, baby seat, even borrowed a playpen and she was out of that in about 5 min flat). The exersaucer was the ONLY thing my first could NOT manage to get herself free from. Her doc suggested it as a way to keep her safe since she would surely have been injured if I placed her in anything else and turned my back for a minute. She could even scale baby gates! I wish I knew about YouTube - she would have been a sensation. Hahahha (joking). So there is a place for those (agreeably) giant plastic atrocities. I think overuse (using it as a babysitter) is quite frankly a major lack of common sense. But I do agree with one poster that it depends on your child's development. Were it not for the exersaucer I never would have showered (since it was also unsafe to leave my baby in a crib or playpen that she could monkey up and out of or even a highchair as she had figured out very young how to undue the straps and could not be contained by the tray alone). I can thank the über ugly exersaucer for keeping my baby in a safe place for a few chunks of time out of the day (and the world from a very smelly unhygienic mom as I literally never would have showered without it)! I'm also extremely well versed in child development. My baby had tonnes of love and snuggles, lots of face time, tummy time and clearly lots of proper gross motor development (otherwise she wouldn't have walked so young). A decade later and she's still a very active, healthy girl! So to your above post...try being a single parent and living with an overly advanced baby, before you post blanket statements about the demise of the exersaucer. Funny how you only responded to posts you agreed with, too and not to posts that went against your opinion. Hmmmm...

(Please excuse typos. I'm nursing my other baby who is now almost asleep and typing on a phone...)

MomX
MomX

Our of curiosity - how old were your kids when you wrote this?  And have you since felt you needed to compromise a bit on your general view toward toys?  Once they start school and interact with other children more often and see other children's toys, it is almost cruel to deprive them of everything but "beautifully carved wooden toys or a collection of puppets."  We felt similarly, but then the Disney Princess onslaught began once our oldest started preschool, and it was all over....I also have memories of my own childhood.  My mother was very much of your toy philosophy, and stuck to it pretty staunchly.  I was frequently resentful that we only had "beautifully carved wooden toys" when there was so much else out there that other kids had (and that was, frankly, more fun once we got older than about age 2).  Of course there was less "plastic crap" to be had when we were babies and young children.  Anyway - all in moderation.  I don't think there is any other way to survive as a parent, and to raise well-adjusted kids.  (I'm a mom of three - elementary, pre-school, and baby-aged.)  Not to be too critical, but your list above sounds rather more parent-taste-centered than child-centered.  I'm also assuming that you stay at home with your children and do not have to rely on daycares or other childcare providers.

dcprgirl
dcprgirl

I just read this and disagree with you on so many levels - including your rant against plastic-- especially since you have a plastic exercise ball behind your baby in the picture, and plastic saves thousands of premature infants in hospitals every day.  I'm also [pretty sure you used an aspirator to help clear out your baby's nose-- and lots of other helpful plastic gear.  You aren't putting everything plastic on ebay, I'm 100% sure of that.  It is more than a tad self righteous to arbitrarily demonize a useful and durable material. But also, I disagree with the premise that utilizing an exersaucer means that one would do so, to the exclusion of family time and bonding time with baby.  That is ridiculous and flat out untrue.  My baby dislikes being on her back, or her tummy.  She loves to be held up and jump and push with her legs.  So I think that it is reasonable to suggest that parents give some thought to whether it would truly be a valuable and useful piece of equipment for their personal circumstances-- but to rant with your unsubstantiated opinion-- well that's not doing anyone any favors

julievalie
julievalie

Hi, I agree with most of what is said here about this saucer.  We had one (a 17yr old one) given down the family.  It was probably the first one made, there were no toys hanging but just a table.  We had both girls a little bit in it, but being diaper free, they would pee in it, and anyway, wouldn't stay for long.  But I have a good souvenir of Marianne holding Evalie's arm, Evalie in the saucer, and Marianne turning around the saucer. It was so funny, and they both liked it.

Lori Robbins
Lori Robbins

Hi there - such a great post - I agree down the line! I am a physiotherapist and routinely give parents with infants my handout all about baby equipment (everything from carriers, strollers, car seats, chairs and "play" equipment such as the Exersaucer and Jolly Jumper). I educate every parent about the use of these gadgets - marketed to make parents think that it is a good purchase for the development of their baby. My message is "everything in moderation". Some parents will use this equipment no matter how you put it so I try to be diplomatic. Parents need support and the best I can do is listen and give the best information I have. There is no disputing - The best play equipment is the floor with a responsive parent to interact with. Exersaucers and Jolly Jumpers can contribute to muscle imbalances in little people leading to legs and hips that are stronger (and tighter) than necks and backs which can affect the natural development of gross motor skills....and yes, it is important that babies get the visual feedback of what their body is doing and react accordingly. This is hard to do when you can't see your feet. In any equipment, baby should not be up on toes. It can result in tightening of leg muscles (think "high heels.") Of course, a Jolly Jumper is made that way - the continuous stimulation of the "plantar" reflex in the foot is what gets that baby "jumping" - it is no way voluntary or coordinated. We are raising humans...not kangaroos. And of course, sometimes a parent needs a safe place for baby when showering, making dinner etc. It's okay - as long as it is balanced with lots of snuggle, play and floor time! My daughter was often in a carrier or even better, in an empty kitchen sink or nearby on the floor to watch me make dinner - we were given an Exersaucer but honestly didn't ever use it. The bottom line is be kind to yourself...somtimes equipment really can be a sanity saver but balance the time spent in equipment with snuggles and fun play time on the floor with your baby.Thanks so much for this insightful post!

 

Mommaofthree
Mommaofthree

A few thoughts..My hubby, a Pediatrician, doesn't care for them either. There are current studies that suggest they actually delay walking because the infants can not see their feet touching below them and they miss a lot of that vital feedback to their brains...thus delaying those pathways from forming. Also, as you have already pointed out, it is not really exercise it actually contains a baby and limits their mobility..having said that..I own one, so I thought I would share that experience :) 9 years ago I thought I really wanted one so my baby could be near me in the kitchen and play, while still being safe from my unskilled culinary adventures. That really sounded great! And the toys were all so cute and colorful. I also thought I wanted one of those Johnny Jump up's (both items my friends all had and loved) my husband was slightly horrified and said I could choose 1 atrocity for our home and that he preferred that they only be for 10min max...and preferably once a day. (Now this was pre Moby wrap and Ergo). When I had heard about the Jumpy things becoming unattached from door moldings and babies fracturing their femurs I chose the exer- saucer. And we got the cadillac of exer saucers! Honestly, we were not as knowledgable about plastic back then and we have a lot more concern now. All in all, It was not something that ever became a favorite item in our house and the toys all around her were just plain overstimulating. My daughter usually ended up in the highchair with me while I cooked and the time she spent in the exer-saucer was with me exploring it and playing with her ( again it was not our favorite thing to do). Now with my second child there were times I would use it to keep him safe while I redirected his 2 year old sister or set up finger paints without the baby pulling the whole craft to the floor. I look back and admire my husbands willingness to compromise and let me have some input in my mothering experience..mistakes, atrocities and all :) Fast forward to my third baby who is 15 mos now...we still have the dreaded exer saucer. We have zero of the toys attached ( we just hand her wooden spoons etc..) and it stays in the upstairs master bathroom so she just has a safe seat where she can see us when we shower in the morning (there are four of us showering before school now!). Honestly I think she has officially outgrown it but there you are...As an aside, my first two kids went to Montessori schools. We try to set up our home to support those philosophies and yet there have been compromises and a big learning curve along the way. We fully believe we all have the right to set boundaries for our homes and for the well being of our children and we have also experienced the pains of family members actively opposing them. I really believe in having compassion for ourselves and other mommies and recognize we all have ideas that we are passionate about. I think it is our plan to recycle the exer saucer so another kiddo doesn't have to spend time in our plastic atrocity!

Hails
Hails

I refused to have one, I refused to have a 'walker' I had them on their tummies, backs etc.

I did find the babies that had these devices could walk before my children, BUT they had to be stood up and when they fell over they were immoible again. My son used to just crawl, pull himself up and was more mobile than these children. He walked at 13 months without holding onto anything. He was a fast crawler and didn't need to walk. Really fast (turn you head and he is gone, my grandmother who had 4 kids and grandkids and a few great grandkids hadn't see a child motor like him) Waste of time if you ask me.

bmcampb
bmcampb

Shelly, this is fabulous. Can you tell link us to your wishlist, or recommend "a few beautifully carved wooden toys or a collection of puppets"? Thanks!!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@Enigmama Wow! I can't judge. I have NO idea what it's like to have five :) I usually use my high chair for a similar purpose, but hey, whatever works! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I guess it was obvious that I only had one when I wrote this, huh? ;) Have a super day!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@Natfrat Thanks so much for sharing your take! I can honestly say I've never heard of a situation exactly like yours and I'm glad to hear you found something that worked for you. 

I just kept my daughter in the bathroom with me when I showered and she happily and safely played with a few toys while I got ready, but I agree, this post is very one sided and doesn't even allow for special circumstances. 

Having just had a second child, I'm finding that some of my strongly held beliefs from the past are becoming less rigid. Personally, I  still hate the excersaucer, but it sounds like I'd really like you! And I'm happy you were able to keep your daughter safe :) 

Oh, and you're right, I don't always respond to posts that disagree with me. Sometimes I'm not sure how to respond right away and then I conveniently "forget" to respond at all.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

 @Lori Robbins And thank YOU for your lovely comment! I especially appreciated the part about the physical reasons this equipment isn't ideal for babies' development. I knew in my gut that it wasn't good for them, but didn't know exactly why. Thank you for enlightening us all! Big hugs, Shelly

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

 @Mommaofthree Thank you so much for your comment, I am smiling ear to ear reading about your adventures!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

 @bmcampb Plan toys makes gorgeous wooden toys. And we recently bought a collection of puppets at Costco that were really inexpensive! I also have some Montessori materials on my wishlist. I don't have a link for you right now, but Google is your friend! :)