May 13, 2011 -- Urban stroller rage has found its outlet: TooBigForStroller.com, a blog that pokes fun at candid photos of kids old enough to walk for themselves, and in some cases do long division, being chauffeured around by parents in long-outgrown strollers.
Simply titled, the blog "Walk" was conceived by Laura Miller, 27, two years ago as an inside joke among her friends, but thanks to recent publicity on Tumblr, the site and its creator have become the center of an at-times-vicious online parenting debate.
"A lot of people have brought up issues of child laziness, parent laziness, which were things I had no intention of touching on when I made the blog," says Miller, of Jersey City, N.J. "To me [the blog] was more of a humorous thing, but I think that it's given some people an outlet to admit this pet peeve."
Though Miller says the blog is not meaning to "bash parents in any way," she has received a lot of flak from disgruntled mothers who post on the site's Facebook page and send her hate mail defending their late use of strollers and chastising her for not appreciating the difficulties of parenthood.
"These people don't realize that I get that," Miller says. "I'm not calling anyone lazy. It's just a funny kind of sight."
But her unintentional critique of modern stroller culture isn't far off mark, according to pediatricians. They say using strollers as a crutch well past toddlerhood only can do a disservice to growing children.
"It's one of those things where it has it's time, like sippy cups, pacifiers and baby bottles," says Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Parents forget to graduate their kids out of strollers because it becomes such a convenience factor, but they're creating a longer-term problem.
"The child will never develop strength and conditioning if they're not allowed to do the walking," Shu says. "Parents don't want to have the child walk because they'll whine about being tired, but doing all the walking for them is not helping the child."
Though the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't have official guidelines for when to stop using a stroller, Shu says that "kids should be transitioning out of a stroller at around three years old."
If that is the case, then why do most manufacturers produce strollers that are approved for up to 50 pounds of kiddie cargo -- the average weight of a seven-year-old?
"I think they're trying to have an upper limit that will compensate for the largest three-year-old," says Shu. "Parents need to realize that just because their kid can still fit in a stroller doesn't mean they should be in one."
Beyond encouraging a child's development and mobility, Dr. Ari Brown, parenting expert and co-author of "Baby 411," says using a stroller past the age of 4 or 5 is also discouraging kids from being active and independent.
"By this age, kids should be able to follow directions, listen to you and hold hands when you're crossing the street," she says. "In this day and age when our children are becoming more sedentary, you're sending the wrong message by chauffeuring them around."
Don't Deny Kids a Good Stretch of the Legs
Considering young kids should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, parents may be cutting into that physical activity time by pushing them around all the time in a stroller, Shu adds.
When is a stroller appropriate? For infants and toddlers three and younger who don't have the stamina or strength to walk, especially long distances, or the ability to follow directions and stick by their parent's side, strollers are very useful, Brown and Shu say. Even into age four and five, strollers are appropriate in certain circumstances, such as on public transit or in very crowded areas where it may be hard to keep track of a child.
Children who are disabled will also require a stroller or some kind of transport vehicle longer, Shu says, but for the general population of kids, parents would do best to transition out of strollers at age three, or even earlier.