Kids on a Leash: Is It Safe or Can Parents Live Without Them?

By Charisse Miller

For parents, there’s nothing scarier than a toddler bolting all of a sudden. Any parent would be gripped by panic during these incidents. It’s no wonder that many moms and dads rely on or consider using backpacks, safety harnesses or a kiddie leash to keep their toddlers safe. With a leash, they can keep the children by their side, even if the kids decide to socialize and run suddenly.

While this childcare tool has been used for decades, there is still much debate about its use. Kiddie leash supporters emphasize the need for safety, praising the leash’s ability to stop the kids from bolting off towards a busy intersection or into crowds. On the other hand, anti-fans of the toddler leash accuse users of lazy parenting, insisting that kids need their freedom of movement.

So, if you’re a parent torn between using a toddler leash or a children’s harness or not, here’s everything you need to know about the kiddie leash — what it’s for, if it’s safe for use, and its alternatives.

What are Kiddie Leashes?

When you think of a leash, you’re probably thinking about the leashes used for your dogs. One end of the leash attaches to your dog’s collar or harness while you hold the other end to make sure your pet stays with you.

It’s a different conversation with toddler leashes. These leashes are designed to comfortably attach to your kid as you secure the other end. The goal of this kid leash is to keep your child from running away all of a sudden.

There are three main types of kiddie leashes:

  1. Child leash harness. This type often includes a harness worn by the child around their body and a leash attached to the harness. The harness lets the kids move freely while preventing them from scurrying away.
  2. Backpacks with leashes. This type is attached to a child-sized backpack worn by the child. The leash is removable.
  3. Wrist links with straps. This type features wrist cuffs that you can secure around your child’s wrist and yours. This ensures your kid is within arm’s reach.

Are Child Leashes Okay? Understanding the Debate

kiddie leash
Are kiddie leashes okay for your children? (Photo from Pinterest)

Many parents are for the use of kiddie leashes. In an article from Today, parents shared why they considered this childcare tool a helpful one, with most of them insisting that the leash helps them freely walk around without worrying about their child running away from them. It’s an effective tool that keeps kids safe and ensures a hands-free experience for the parents.

However, there are also parents against the use of the leash. Their reasons include the following:

  • Using a child’s leash may embarrass or humiliate the kids.
  • Some parents think that leashes promote a lazy parenting style because it prevents kids from learning how to obey and listen.
  • Leashes also run the safety risk of causing falls and scrapes when the kids are harnessed in. This can be considered a risk for strangulation.

When Is It Okay to Use a Child Leash?

So, how do you know if a kiddie leash is helpful for you and your child? Is it really lazy parenting if you choose to use a toddler harness or leash to keep your kid safe?

Here are some questions to answer. If you answer yes to one or more of them, using a child leash might be appropriate for your situation.

Are You Near Something Dangerous?

You don’t want your kids to be alone when they are near something dangerous. This may include the following:

  • Fire pits or campfires
  • Large parking lots or busy streets
  • Rocky paths
  • Hills or cliffs

Are You in a Large and Crowded Area?

Kiddie leashes are best for circumstances that are overwhelming for you and the kids. This includes a day trip to the beach, a vacation to a theme park or even an outing in the mall. The more crowded or spacious an area is, the more useful a leash will be.

But if you’re going to a grocery store, park or a quiet street, you don’t have to use a child’s leash.

Does Your Child Have Special Needs?

Children with special needs, especially those with autism or ADHD, are more prone to wander off. A study from Autism Speaks revealed that nearly half of the kids over the age of four with autism spectrum disorder had run away or wandered off. Of these incidents, 65 percent of the children encountered “close calls” with traffic.

Are You Looking After More than One Child By Yourself?

On-the-go mothers struggle with carrying one child, let alone more than one kid. So, if you’re in a public place and are dealing with multiple kids, keep everyone accounted for by using a kiddie leash.

How Do You Choose a Kiddie Leash?

One of the best ways to ensure you safely use a toddler leash is to find a high-quality product designed with your child’s needs in mind (as well as yours, of course!). Not all kiddie leashes are made equal, so you want to look for child-friendly designs, quality materials and good reviews.

To find the right leash for your child, here are some steps to consider:

  1. Choose a backpack-style or a harness instead of a leash that attaches to the wrist. These hand-grip or hand-held leashes require the child’s cooperation (which isn’t always easy to get).
  2. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for any recalls a potential leash might have had.
  3. Check reviews from parents of the leash you’re interested in.
  4. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Make sure the product fits your child properly.

What are the Best Leashes and Harnesses for Your Kids?

Here are some of our favorite kiddie leashes, which are available online (Amazon) and offline (Walmart).

Ptyuhnn Toddler Harness with Leash

Image from Amazon

This super comfortable leash is ideal for families that love to go on adventures together. The Ptyuhnn Toddler Harness comes with a special wrist attachment for parents, adjustable shoulder straps and breathable cushions on the wrist and harness attachments.

PROS: The harness is made of durable cotton and canvas, complete with a plastic buckle. The wrist attachment, which goes around your wrist, comes with a swivel connector that turns in every direction so your child won’t get pulled on or stuck

CONS: It takes time to correctly adjust the straps and the front buckle isn’t childproof.

Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper Harness

Simple yet functional, this child’s harness is affordable and minimalistic. It has many features, which include a snap leash (that easily swivels) and adjustable straps.

PROS: one of the best features of Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper Harness is the harness. It fully supports the child’s torso, ensuring they stay in a comfortable and correct position. The harness also comes with padded shoulder straps and an extendable leash.

CONS: some parts of the harness are made of plastic and can break or snap easily.

Angel Wings Leash and Harness

If you’re looking for a fun-looking harness, you’ll love the Angel Wings Harness & Leash. The harness’s full-back panel is designed with cute angel wings.

PROS: The harness is easy to use since it fastens in front with an adjustable strap and buckle. It is also made of quality nylon and cotton. Its long leash allows for more movements.

CONS: the leash is not adjustable and the harness lacks padding, which means it could rub off your child’s skin.

Agsdon Toddler Backpack Leash

If you’re looking for an affordable and high-quality backpack that can accommodate other times, this one is for you. The best part about the Agsdon Toddler Backpack Leash is that it doesn’t look like a leash. It looks like a fun backpack that can fit even an iPad Air.

PROS: apart from all the space inside the bag, the bag also comes with a side pocket for a water bottle and some snacks. So, if they get thirsty, hungry or bored, you’ll have everything in the bag.

CONS: the leash is short and the strap attachment can be a bit flimsy.

What are the Alternatives to the Toddler Leash?

Giving kids agency is vital in helping them develop a sense of self-reliance. However, not all parents are comfortable with using kiddie leashes. So, if you’re concerned about using a leash, consider the following less restrictive alternatives to the toddler leash:

  • Holding handles. Similar to a kiddie leash, holding handles offer support for a child minus the fastened harness. Kids use the handles to stay connected to their parents.
  • Walking rope. The walking rope gives kids something to hold on to while they stay together. It also allows free movement and independence.
  • High-visibility vests. Simple and affordable, these vests give kids full range of motion but help parents easily spot their kids from a distance or in a crowd.

The decision to use a kiddie leash ultimately depends on you, the parent. If the situation calls for extra help, especially if it’s just you, it’s OK to use a leash. But if the situation can do without one, then there’s no need to buy a leash.

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