A walk in the park

stroller

Buying a stroller should be wheely simple, says Tiffany Brown. Here’s what you need to know.

Pram. Pushchair. Buggy. Stroller. These different terms depend on vintage or manufacturer, but all are synonymous with the wheeled frame-and-seat unit used for children. And most of us find them indispensable in the management and transportation of our little ones.

Modern parents have the Brits to thank for the easy mobility that comes with the investment in a pram/pushchair/buggy/ stroller. (And for ease of reading, I will simply refer to it as a “stroller” from now on.) The stroller was first designed by William Kent in 1733 at the request of the Duke of Devonshire, who instructed the architect and furniture designer to create a means of transport for his children. One hundred years later, baby carriages were being sold across America, and by 1840 the often ornate early models were extremely popular the world over. The stroller has morphed and altered in appearance and function through the ages, and nowadays there is a wide range of options available to us.

How many wheels?

Four-wheeled strollers theoretically give more stability and ease-of-pushing (think shopping trolley versus wheelbarrow). Generally the wheels on a four-wheeled model are smaller, which can be advantageous, and the unit is slimmer, enabling easier pushing through narrow shopping aisles and the like. Four-wheelers are well suited to shopping or negotiating carparks and city streets with baby in tow.

Modern parents’ demand for a transportation system that went further than just pushing bubs about town heralded the advent of the three-wheeled stroller. Referred to as a “jogger” model, this stroller features a sturdy frame and large, robust tyres (one in the front and two at the rear) to allow for baby’s comfort not only at speed but also over rough terrain. Perfect for a family who enjoys regular road running or more adventurous pursuits such as hiking. Be aware, however, that some jogger models are not actually built to jog with, so do your homework if you plan to run with your stroller.

One rider, or two?

Will you need to transport more than one child at a time? Okay, right now you’re likely to be focused on the needs of just one impending arrival. But one day in the not-so-distant future you just might have two little ones to transport from here to there. You might want to think about future-proofing your purchase at the outset.

The old-school way to fit two kids in a stroller was to use a “twin” pram model with two seats side-by-side. With the obvious restrictions of unwieldy manoeuvrability, and limited growing room for your elder child, it was only a matter of time before smart designers came up with better options for us. Inline strollers, for example, accommodate your little one in a carriage underneath, while an older child sits above in a toddler seat.

There are now many available versions of a stroller system that takes your child from birth to toddlerhood. Your newborn rests easy in a capsule that fits to a car seat base, or a bassinet attachment on the stroller frame. Beyond the age of six months, your child upgrades to an alternative seat which fits to the same frame, and in some cases there is also an option to fit two seats when number two comes along.

Fact: The stroller was invented in England in 1733 by William Kent, an architect and furniture designer.

Facing me, or facing you?

A “reversible” stroller allows parents the exibility to turn the baby seat inwards to face the parent, or out towards the footpath. It’s preferable to have a newborn or small infant facing you (particularly so you can see what they are doing and they can see you), but when they’re a little older, children might prefer to face outward and watch the world go by.

Note also that as children get heavier, it will become increasingly difficult to push their weight when they face you, particularly in a three-wheeled model stroller. How long is the wheel base on your preferred stroller? The longer the base, the better the weight distribution and the easier the push. Strollers with in atable (pneumatic) tyres will also need regular pumping, and keeping the tyres at the maximum fill will help the ease of pushing too. These strollers often come with a small handheld tyre pump you can keep in the storage basket underneath the stroller or in the boot of your car.

Oh! The places you’ll go

Rugged jogger-style strollers may not be exactly what you need, but if your family does tend to be on-the-go (and not just to the mall) an “all-terrain” stroller may well suit you.

Dutch brand Bugaboo asserts itself as the inventor of the world’s first modular stroller, a design that breaks down into pieces rather than folding up “umbrella style”. The brand aims to provide families with the opportunity to “go out and explore the world”, with a range of jogger, all-terrain, reversible, and convertible strollers that also offer capsule and double seating options.

Up and down, in and out

It goes without saying that an easy-to-use stroller system can make life on the hectic newborn/coffee group circuit a lot easier. This piece of equipment gets lugged in and out of the car repeatedly, so you’ll want to make sure it’s easy enough for you to fold or break down, and light enough to lift in and out of the boot with ease. If you’re going to be on your own a lot with the baby, all the performance features of your stroller should ideally work as well with one hand as with two.

As tempting as it is to do your shopping entirely online, it is highly recommended to road-test a few different stroller models before committing to a purchase. (If you can find a willing child to take along for the ride, even better.)

How the stroller handles as you push it about will be a big factor in your buying decision. Wheels that swivel at the front can make manoeuvering easier, although large in atable tyres can make the ride smoother for bubs. Does the handle extend or retract? For those on the taller or shorter sides, handle height can make a huge difference to your comfort factor. (Too long, and the vertically challenged among us have an uncomfortable stretch to make. Too short, and tall giraffes get kicked in the shins by the stroller frame every time they take a stride.)

The incredible array of features available in today’s stroller selection would no doubt see William Kent’s jaw drop with amazement. From cup holders and snack trays through to sun covers and removable wheels, choose a model with the features that fit your lifestyle best and be confident your stroller investment will pay dividends throughout those precious early years.

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