Baby hates stroller? Toddler refusing to ride? Best tips to overcome stroller refusal and have calmer, happier outings!
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Your baby hates stroller rides? Your toddler throws a tantrum anytime a stroller is even mentioned? This is super common and something almost every parent deals with at one time or another.
This refusal can be frustrating and stressful.
Understanding the reasons why babies or toddlers refuse to sit in a stroller can help parents address the issue and make outings more enjoyable for everyone involved.
By addressing discomfort and offering opportunities for independence and entertainment, you can help your child feel more comfortable and willing to sit in the stroller when needed.
17 Things to Try if Your Baby or Toddler Hates Stroller Rides
1. Make Sure They Are Comfortable
One of the most common reasons toddlers may refuse to sit in a stroller is due to physical comfort.
This can be due to a variety of factors such as an uncomfortable position, tight straps, having the hot sun in their face, or being cold.
A child who is experiencing discomfort or pain may cry, fidget, or try to escape from the stroller.
Ensure that the stroller is properly adjusted to fit your child’s body. Check the seat cushioning and straps to make sure they are comfortable and secure.
Consider whether your child would be happier with the seat more or less reclined or with a different arrangement (i.e. car seat vs. bassinet attachment, etc.) – try out different things to see what works best.
Make sure your child is properly dressed for the weather conditions and take measures to keep them at a comfortable temperature when it is hot or cold outside.
A good rule of thumb that typically works well for us in cooler weather – dress your baby as you would dress yourself and then add one layer.
2. Have a Destination
If your baby or toddler is refusing the stroller, turn the stroller ride into a means to get to a desired destination.
For example, you can take your child to a park or playground and let them play for a while before continuing your walk. This can help break up the monotony of sitting in the stroller and make the experience more enjoyable for your child.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant.
My two-year-old loves construction equipment, so we plan our walking route around different construction areas and building sites.
My one-year-old loves animals, so we walk by houses with dogs and often end our walk by looking at the cows that live in a nearby pasture.
Think about things that excite or motivate your toddler and give reminders throughout the walk about where you are going and what you are going to see.
3. Offer Books
Books can be a great distraction in the stroller for older babies or toddlers. Looking at books can keep your little one entertained and occupied while riding.
Choose books that are small enough for your child to be able to hold and turn the pages in the stroller without getting frustrated. Books with flaps or music can provide extra entertainment!
Stroller-friendly Book Ideas
4. Bring Some Stroller-Friendly Toys
Playing with a favorite toy is another great way to keep your little one entertained in the stroller. The toys you bring will vary depending on your child’s age and interests.
My older toddler loves to bring little cars or football guys on our walks. He gets to choose which toys he brings and gets to play with them on his stroller tray while we walk.
For young children and babies, teethers, lovies, and hanging toys are good options. Try to bring toys that they haven’t seen or played with in a while so that they feel new and exciting again.
Toys that hook on or wrap around the stroller are helpful for that fun stage when they like to throw everything after playing with it for 10 seconds.
You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of new toys if you don’t have any specifically for strollers. Use an empty water bottle. Keys. A Straw. Let’s be real – babies usually like those kinds of “toys” better than actual toys anyway.
Some people don’t feel comfortable letting their baby or toddler eat in the stroller, and that’s fine. I just make sure I have eyes on my kids while they are eating and that they aren’t given anything that could be a choking hazard.
My kids usually eat at least one meal per day in the stroller during the summer, and I always bring plenty of snack options on every walk in case they start getting hangry or fussy.
Snacks usually solve the problem AND provide entertainment during the walk – win-win!
Make sure to bring water or something else for them to sip on too, especially if you are walking in the heat.
6. Consider Your Timing
Timing can be key to keeping your stroller rides happy and calm. You’ll get to know your baby and figure out when is (or isn’t) the best time to take a ride in the stroller.
When my babies were little and started to get sleepy, I would get them loaded in the stroller and they would fall asleep peacefully within minutes. Consider using white noise to keep them sleeping peacefully throughout the ride.
But if my babies or toddlers are overtired or hungry, it usually turns into a toddler meltdown or a screaming baby.
Figure out times that work best for your family and plan your stroller outings accordingly.
7. Let Them Listen to Something
Do you enjoy listening to music or podcasts while walking or running? Maybe your baby/toddler feels the same way!
My kids are both calmer and happier in the stroller when we have a silly song or stories playing. We use our Toniebox often on walks, and my kids both love it. The Yoto player is another similar option.
8. Narrate Your Walk
This one might seem a little cheesy, but it works!
Talk about anything and everything that you see along your walking route – A flag! A black dog! What color is that tree over there? Let’s count how many mailboxes we can see. – You get the idea.
Not only does this provide entertainment for your little one, but it can help develop their vocabulary as well!
9. Play “I Spy” or Have a Visual Scavenger Hunt
This is a good idea for older children. Think about traditional road trip games and try them out in the stroller.
Even young toddlers can play an easy game of “I Spy” or participate in a simple visual scavenger hunt. This is a good way to get an older sibling involved as well.
Make a list of 2 or 3 things that you will be looking for during your walk. Give little reminders during the walk, and get super excited when you find things on your list!
For older kids, you could even use a little visual checklist that they can mark off as they find things.
10. Switch Up Your Route
If you always walk in the same area or take the same route, try switching it up. Drive to a new area and go for a walk.
Think about what your child might like best. My kids prefer to walk on a sidewalk along a busy street rather than on a trail in the woods because they like watching all of the cars and trucks driving by.
I prefer a quieter, more scenic route but overall I enjoy walks more when my kids are content.
Try out different trails or walk down a different street. Talk about the new things you see along the way.
Sometimes a change in environment can be refreshing for everyone.
11. Walk with Friends
Sometimes seeing other kids in strollers makes it easier to keep my kids happy in the stroller, and it gives your little one more to look at and listen to.
I love going on walks with friends and neighbors – it can be fun for you and your little ones!
If you have a dog, maybe bringing your dog on the walk will help keep your child happy. Whenever we watch my parents’ dog and take him on walks, my kids are as happy as could be in the stroller!
Search for local family hiking or jogging groups near you. Many cities have Hike It Baby (now called Outgrown) groups – check to see if there is a group in your area.
It’s a great way to make friends and get your little ones around other kids similar in age – and the best part is that everyone there gets it. Your kid is throwing a fit in the stroller? Well, join the club. 😉
12. Offer Choices
Another reason toddlers may refuse to sit in a stroller is their desire for independence.
Offer choices and opportunities for independence that are convenient for you.
For example, let your child choose which stroller to use or whether to sit in the front or back seat. Let them choose which toys or books to bring. Bring a few different snacks so they have options.
Let them start out walking and sit in the stroller when they get tired if that works well for you.
You could try saying something like, “When we get to that tree up there, you can choose if you want to get out and walk or keep riding” or “Let’s run to that white building, then it will be time to get back in the stroller and choose a snack”.
Offering reasonable choices can help your toddler feel more in control and less resistant to sitting in the stroller when it is necessary.
13. Use Positive Reinforcement
One of the most effective ways to encourage your toddler to use a stroller is through positive reinforcement. Praising your child for using the stroller can help them associate it with positive experiences
Try to make the stroller a fun and exciting place for your child. Let your child help decorate the stroller with stickers or streamers. Let your child choose a special pillow to use or a fun toy to play with while they ride in the stroller.
If your child is eager to get out and explore, let them – when it is safe and convenient for you.
Let your child know that if they do a good job riding in the stroller, they can get out and walk (or run) toward the end. Maybe you could finish your walk at the park or let your child choose something fun to do when you are finished.
14. Consider a Stroller Swap or Stroller Alternatives
If you truly think it is your particular stroller that your baby hates, try borrowing a stroller from a neighbor or friend to see if that helps.
Look for strollers on Facebook Marketplace if you want to use a different stroller or alternate between strollers.
If your stroller has different configurations, try to switch it up. If your baby likes to be in the infant car seat during car rides, maybe you can use it in the stroller as well.
Younger babies might like rear-facing seats so they can look into your eyes and hear your voice. Older babies or toddlers may want to face outward and sit up more so they can have a better view.
Another option is to try out different stroller alternatives to see if they will work better for your family.
15. Have a Back-Up Plan
If all else fails, have a backup plan. Can you let your toddler or older child walk? Could you try one of the stroller alternatives mentioned above?
I always bring a baby carrier along in the stroller for backup. Usually if one of my babies was super upset in the stroller, I could calm them down by switching them to the baby carrier.
If I know my toddler is going to need to be in the stroller for a long time, I usually bring along my hip carrier in case he is just totally over the stroller and tired of walking and wants to be carried.
16. You Could Just Tough it Out
Sometimes you may just have to put up with a little bit of whining or crying. It is not ideal, but try to remember that this stage won’t last forever.
If my toddler has something to eat and drink, the sun is not in his face, he’s in a comfortable seat, I have offered him entertainment, and he is still whining or crying, then it’s probably just because he is not getting his way. Nine times out of ten he stops whining after a few minutes and enjoys the rest of the walk.
Just the other day, he was whining in the stroller and asking to go home and watch a show. I could have turned around, headed home, and ended my walk early. But I have done that in the past, and it usually just leads to more whining and grumpiness throughout the day.
Instead, I just let him whine and tried everything on this list to distract him. After a few minutes, he calmed down, was pleasant for the rest of the walk, and was in a pretty good mood the rest of the day.
Obviously, make sure nothing is truly wrong with your child, but be patient and consistent in your efforts to encourage your child to use the stroller.
17. Remember Practice Makes Progress
I believe practice makes progress in all areas of life, including riding in the stroller.
The first time we go on a walk after a walking hiatus, my kids usually protest the stroller. The good news is after a couple of days of consistently walking again, they get used to it and no longer refuse stroller rides.
Remember, every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. Try different strategies until you find what works best for your family.
Don’t give up right away. Keep trying to get your child to like the stroller. I bet with practice and consistency it will get easier and more enjoyable for all of you. 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I deal with a stubborn 2-year-old child in a stroller?
Dealing with a stubborn 2-year-old child in a stroller can be challenging. One approach is to give them some control by allowing them to choose the route or the destination. You can also try distracting them with toys or snacks. It’s important to stay calm and patient and to avoid forcing them to sit in the stroller if they are really resisting.
What are some safe toys for strollers?
Stroller toys can be a great way to keep your toddler entertained while in the stroller. Soft toys, books, and rattles are popular options. You can also consider attaching a toy bar or a hanging toy to the stroller.
If your child is old enough, let them pick a few special toys to bring along in the stroller.
Even simple things like an empty water bottle or a set of keys can keep babies or toddlers entertained.
How can I keep my 2-year-old in a stroller?
Keeping a 2-year-old in a stroller can be a challenge, but there are some strategies you can try.
Make sure the stroller is comfortable and fits properly. Bring along snacks and toys to keep them occupied.
You can also try engaging them in conversation or singing songs to distract them.
Does my 2-year-old still need a stroller?
Whether or not your 2-year-old still needs a stroller depends on their individual needs and abilities. Some 2-year-olds are able to walk long distances without getting tired, while others may still need the support of a stroller.
It also depends on the situation – are you wanting to get exercise and go for a brisk walk or are you just taking a leisurely stroll over to the park?
It’s important to assess your child’s needs and make a decision based on what works best for your family.
If your toddler isn’t ready to walk long distances on their own, you could try one of these stroller alternatives.
Why is my baby suddenly refusing the stroller?
There are many reasons why a baby may be having a hard time with the stroller. They may be feeling uncomfortable or cramped, or they may be going through a developmental phase where they want more independence.
It’s important to try to identify the possible reasons for the resistance and address it as best you can using some of the tips listed above.
Try to create a positive association with the stroller and make it a fun experience. Good luck!