As a British trained Speech and Language Therapist, I always keep an eye on what is going on ‘back home’ in the world of child development. I recently came across a campaign by Britain’s ‘National Literacy Trust’ to urge buggy manufacturers and retailers to make pusher-facing buggies more easily available to parents, in a bid to improve communication skills among pre-schoolers.
Young children spend a considerable amount of time each day strapped into buggies. This could be an ideal time for parents or carers to talk to their child, pointing out things along the way or responding to the things that grab their child's attention. But most children's buggies face away from the pusher, making eye contact impossible and conversation between adult and toddler difficult.
The problem is, pusher-facing buggies are not very easy to come by; only a few high-priced buggies offer the facility to have the infant facing the adult. That’s why The National Literacy Trust initiated the campaign to make pusher-facing buggies affordable and more widely available; a survey carried out in 2005 showed tremendous support from parents and professionals alike.
Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, says that by facing a child when pushing them in a pram or buggy, parents and carers will increase eye contact and have more opportunities to stimulate talking at an important stage in the development of a child's language abilities.
James Law, professor of Language and Communication Science at Queen Margaret University College Edinburgh, believes:
'There is nothing sadder than watching parents pushing buggies, perhaps wearing headphones, completely cut off from their child. The buggy which faces towards the parent provides the parent with all sorts of opportunities for interaction, making the trip all that more enjoyable for both parties.'
Is your buggy ‘communication friendly’? Why not ask your buggy manufacturer if they produce pusher-facing buggies? By making the manufacturers aware of the benefits, this campaign could be spread for the benefit of parents and children all over the world.
Finally, I found this thought-provoking video that demonstrates how it feels for a baby to travel in a forward-facing buggy, to be pushed into the unknown. This video comes from Norland College, UK, a centre for early year’s education and training. In particular look at:
After watching this video, I was reminded of mothers in indigenous communities across the world who do not have access to any kind of buggy; they carry their infants on their front or back, the mother being a buffer or protector between them and the world, a point of reference, a secure anchor. The infant is close to the mother’s head and sees everything the mother does, hears everything she says and is right there to be involved in communication exchanges with her. Whilst we can enjoy the luxury of being able to push our child on wheels, it’s clear we can learn some tips from those who have to make do with less.