Are jolly jumpers helpful?

Jolly jumpers can be great fun, but carry risks for motor development and musculoskeletal injury for babies and toddlers.

ID: Heading 'are baby walkers helpful' is in blue above our logo for Splash Physiotherapy. A white baby smiles as they bounce in the air in a blue jumpsuit and blue jolly jumper. The image is surrounded by an orange border.

What is a jolly jumper?

Jolly jumpers include all devices designed for babies where they sit in a harness attached to bungy cords, and bounce up and down off the floor. There are a number of brand names, and "jolly jumper" has come to describe all of the devices, just like 'hoover' can be used to describe vacuum cleaners of all brands.

How are jolly jumpers used?

Jolly Jumpers were invented in 1910 in Canada, and are still quite popular for the babies of today, winning the KidSpot most popular item in 2013.

Parents in a 2006 American study reported they choose jolly jumpers for their babies for enjoyment, and a place to keep baby safe while they are busy. We all know how difficult it is to take a shower with a young child! Jolly jumpers were more frequently used in families with multiple children).

Can jolly jumpers affect baby development?

Despite their wide use, jolly jumpers are controversial in the health landscape.

Although there is not a great deal of research on jolly jumpers, the evidence we do have suggests that prolonged use leads to reduced motor development scores.

  • It is believed that using equipment such as jolly jumpers teach babies to walk on their toes, which in turn tightens their calf muscles and affects their ability to walk. Some babies have even been reported to require surgery or casting to reverse the changes caused by using similar equipment in excess.

  • The hip position in a jolly jumper is abnormal for babies and toddlers. On top of teaching kids to walk and bounce on their toes, this altered hip position changes the muscles kids normally use to walk. The natural progression of crawling, cruising and walking can be affected.

ID: The heading "Tummy time, crawling and on the move!" is in blue, above 3 children: a Black baby pushing up on their hands in tummy time; a white baby crawling; and an Asian baby taking early steps. Logo for Splash Physiotherapy in the corner.

Are there any safety risks with jolly jumpers?

The safety of jolly jumpers is also questionable, and several health and consumer services recommend against jolly jumpers. (See: Choice, Kidspot, Journal of Pediatric Physical Therapy 2006, SA Health, Child Journal).

Risks of accidental injury during jolly jumper use include:

  • fingers becoming trapped

  • bouncing into a wall or object

  • being pushed (like on a swing) by other children

  • unexpected collapse (eg. coming unattached from the door frame, or the overhead frame collapsing)

  • head injury from equipment collapse

  • stress fractures in lower legs from high forces of repeated bouncing on musculoskeletal systems that are not yet mature enough to bear this load

So what do we recommend at Splash Physiotherapy?

We strongly encourage friends and family not to purchase jolly jumpers and similar equipment items.

They encourage movement patterns that do not assist in the development of upright standing or walking, and can interfere with motor skill development.

They also carry significant safety risks.

But, sometimes we do meet families who already have jolly jumpers, where kids absolutely love them!

One of our values is that parents are experts in their children. We take the approach of discussing the risks and benefits a family is finding in using the jolly jumper, how it relates to their individual child at this moement in time, and work through alternatives.

If this is the only place your baby is happy while you grab that quick shower, we aren't going to tell you to take away the jolly jumper and leave you with nothing! We need to find acceptable alternatives.

The best place for your baby is always on the floor, where they can engage in floor mobility and play, and work their way up to standing, cruising and walking. This is consistent with the Australian national guidelines for infant physical activity.

ID: A Splash Values card. Heading "Families know their children best - family centred practice" and our Splash Physiotherapy logo, is accompanied by a photo of a smiling Black child with curly short hair lookinginto the camera over their parent's shoulder, with sun shining on a forest and lake behind them

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This article is co - authored by Alexander Cowcher & Shayna Gavin, Splash Physiotherapists.

Alexander Cowcher is a Splash physiotherapist working with young children to young adults in aquatic, land and telehealth physiotherapy. He has a strong focus on developing the skills that help kids to join in with activities in their everyday life at home, school and the community, and loves to see kids getting active riding their bikes and joining in with their sports teams. He has sessions available for aquatic physiotherapy at our Greensborough pool and nearby wheelchair accessible pool, visits and telehealth, and loves our sports and recreation intensives over the school holidays.

Shayna Gavin is a physiotherapist who is passionate about helping babies, children and young people learn functional skills so they can participate in life at home, school and in their community. Recognising that children do best in their own environments, she visits homes, schools, and leisure activities from football fields to ballet classes. She also has daily aquatic physiotherapy sessions available at two private swimming schools in Moonee Ponds and Greensborough, Melbourne. She combines principles of paediatric physiotherapy, Contemporary Neuro Developmental Treatment, motor learning, and swimming teaching to address the individual needs of each child and their family. She loves providing professional development to physiotherapists, allied health and education professionals, allied health assistants and swimming teachers.

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