Baby stroller buying guide
One of the most essential pieces of equipment you’ll need for a new baby, toddler, or small child is a baby stroller. You’ll use it while out for daily walks with your little one, both indoors and out, for trips to the shopping mall or amusement park, and even while travelling.
Selecting the right stroller, however, can be a daunting task. There are so many options from which to choose, so many different designs, types, and features. There are also small yet important details that could make all the difference in which one you choose or might like over another.
Here, we’ll break down the main types of strollers, for what and for whom each one is ideally suited, and what features to look for and considerations to make as you begin your stroller shopping journey.
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Types of strollers
There are four main types of strollers you can purchase, along with a few sub-categories in each. Here, we’ll break them down and suggest which type would suit different situations.
As the most common type of stroller, standard strollers come in two iterations: full-sized or lightweight. Both often include five-point harnesses to keep a baby or child safely secured inside.
Full-sized standard stroller – These have all the features you’d need, like large canopies, an undercarriage storage area, and adjustable seats, offering good comfort and handling, making them perfect for travel. Some of them can also accommodate car seats (an adapter might be required as a separate purchase), which is handy if you plan to travel often both by car and on foot, and want an easy transition, especially for babies who like to nap during car rides.
They are great for everyday use in typical terrain outdoors, like cities and urban areas, as well as for indoor walking.
Lightweight strollers – Also referred to as umbrella strollers focus mainly on portability and compactness. As the name implies, you can fold them up like an umbrella, so they’re easy to carry, and don’t take up a lot of room. The design is streamlined, with all the basic features you’d want. They are ideal for quick trips when you don’t need a large basket to hold lots of goodies, like groceries or shopping bags. And they’re good for older kids who can sit up and might choose to walk half the time instead of sitting in the stroller.
A lightweight stroller is a good secondary stroller that you can pack away and use only for short walks, or while travelling. Thus, most parents own one of these in addition to another main stroller.
All-terrain standard strollers – This third subset is less common but it’s worth noting separately. These include all the same features as a typical standard stroller, but usually have three rubber wheels instead of four, and full suspension, making it easier to navigate through rougher terrain. These are ideal if you live in the country, have a cottage, or will often be navigating through snow, across the grass, or on gravel roads.
If you have two (or more) kids who could use a stroller, double strollers are the ideal option. They come in various styles to meet different needs, and in heavy-duty designs that make them easy to push around in rough terrain, or lightweight umbrella styles, great for occasional use, with older/bigger kids, or for travel.
Side-by-side double strollers – This style is essentially designed like two strollers attached at the hip, so two kids can sit together, having an equal view of what’s ahead, and easily interact with one another. They can adjust and recline, which is great if one child is ready for a nap while the other wants to sit up and watch the world go by. Some can also work with car seats. If you have twins or two kids who are very close in age, these might be a perfect choice. There are even side-by-side double strollers that can accommodate up to four or even six children. Keep in mind, however, that they are wider than standard strollers, which means you might have difficulty navigating through narrow doorways or tight store aisles. And you need to make sure, that you keep the weight balanced to prevent the stroller from tipping.
Sit-and-stand double stroller – If your two kids are farther apart in age, then, with a larger gap in weight, consider a sit-and-stand stroller instead. They include one seat where a child can be safely buckled in, and a platform where a second child can stand behind it, or a second seat can go. It’s great if you have, say, a baby or toddler and a 4-6-year-old who is capable of standing on his own while you scoot them about.
Tandem or stadium double strollers – As the name implies, these double strollers position one child in a seat in the front and the other in one in the back that’s at a higher level to keep weight distributed properly, and to give each child a different (yet still exciting) vantage point. They are typically the same width as a standard stroller, so might be a better option if you plan to walk around tight shopping aisles often or have small doorways in your house or apartment. Some brands offer strollers with a second seat that you can clip onto the back of your stroller, effectively turning it into a tandem stroller only when needed. This way, you can use it as both a single and double stroller if you only have one child with you, or are future-proofing for when a second child comes, or a newborn is old enough to join the first for daily outings.
If you want to keep up with an exercise regimen and go jogging with your baby or child often, a jogging stroller is the best option. The key difference is a fixed front wheel and air-filled tires that ensure the stroller doesn’t tip over or change direction when it wobbles or hits something like a pebble while you jog around the streets, or a jogging trail. They also have hand brakes, making it easy to slow down when you come to a pedestrian crossing, for example, or need to navigate around obstacles.
Shock-absorbing suspension systems also allow the baby or child to relax and enjoy a smooth ride while you get a nice, consistent jog. Look for ones with larger wheels, which will ensure that it is easier to push. And naturally, the lighter weight the stroller is, the easier it will be to handle.
If you want a jogging stroller, but also want something that you can use every day, too, look for one that has a lockable swivelling wheel. This way, you can lock it into place when you’re out for a jog, then release the lock and be able to efficiently navigate corners when you’re simply walking about. And check to see that the one you choose can work with a car seat if you want to be able to click the car seat into the base as you would with a standard stroller. This could be critical if you drive with your baby to your preferred running route area, and don’t want to disturb him from a nap.
Keep in mind that jogging strollers might be a bit heavier and may not fold and unfold as easily as standard strollers. But for fit-friendly city-dwellers, especially those who don’t own a car, this might not matter.
Bike trailer strollers – Another option in the jogging category are bike trailer strollers, which you can push while jogging, or connect to the back of your bike so you can pull the kids along while you hit the trails.
Travel systems don’t necessarily suggest a category of strollers on its own, but rather a bundle that includes a stroller with a detachable seat and a compatible car seat as well. The stroller base is designed to accommodate the car seat. In some cases, this involves removing the stroller seat, attaching an included adapter, and clicking the car seat on so you can wheel a napping baby around in it without disturbing them. But oftentimes, the car seat can be placed right on top of the stroller seat itself and clicked into place, so you don’t even need an adapter or to remove the stroller seat. Go from car to stroller in no time.
This is ideal if you’re looking for a stroller for a newborn or upcoming baby since it also includes the infant car seat base to secure the car seat in your vehicle. They make for a great first stroller for newborns that will last you through the first year of life, and potentially even beyond.
While you could use the included stroller long past the first year of life, it would make the most sense to grab a travel system for a new (or upcoming baby) or one that is only a few months old so you can maximize the use of the car seat and car seat/stroller combo for as long as possible. That said, once it’s time to upgrade to a larger car seat, you can still use the standard stroller, often all the way up to when the child is 5 or 6.
Important considerations before choosing a stroller
Once you have an idea of the different available types of strollers, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
1. How and where will you use the stroller?
Ask yourself how and where you will most often use the stroller. Do you plan to take the baby with you every day as you run errands? Go for daily strolls around the block? Take baby shopping at the mall? This will determine what type of stroller is best, as well as what size and layout. If you will be transporting the stroller by car to your destination often, you need to find one that can easily fit in your trunk, and that is easy to take out and expand into position, then collapse again for putting away. And if you are bringing it by car, you might also want to consider one that works with a car seat you have, opt for a travel system, or buy an optional (or included) adapter.
2. Where do you live?
Do you live in a downtown busy city with clear and smooth sidewalks or a rural area with rougher terrain? Does your city deal with inclement weather, like a lot of rain, snow, or hot and humid temperatures? This might also impact what size and type of stroller you get: if you live in a small apartment or home, for example, you might want to consider a lightweight stroller that can fold up to be really compact so it doesn’t take up too much room. You might want this as well if you have stairs and will need to bring the stroller up and down often to get in and out of the house or travel by subway or train. If you have two kids but live in an apartment with narrow doors, consider a tandem stroller versus a side-by-side one.
3. How old/big is your child/children and do you plan to have more?
Is this stroller in preparation of an upcoming bundle of joy, or to use for a toddler-aged child? Do you have more than one child, or plan to have a second? And what/will be the age differences between them? Regardless of age, is your child larger/heavier or, conversely, smaller and lighter, than average? All strollers include recommendations for the best age, but also weight, for use. So, it’s important to make sure that whatever stroller you select will fit within these parameters for your child, or children, for the duration of time you plan to use it.
4. Who will be using it and how often?
Will it only be one parent or childcare provider most often using the stroller? Or different persons? This will suggest your need for things like adjustable handlebars if someone who is very tall and someone who is very short will both be using it, as well as the weight of the stroller, and how easy it is to collapse and pull out. If you’ll be taking it in and out of the trunk several times a day, finding one that folds out in a click or two, and easily folds up, will be essential.
Other features to consider in a stroller
So you’ve considered the design, size, weight, and type of stroller to meet the needs of you and your child or children. What other things should you look into? Sometimes, the small details are what can help you make the decision between one model and another.
Is the canopy large enough to offer sufficient shade for your child from the sun and UV rays in the summer? Or from cold air in the winter? Does it come with, or work with, a good rain cover or weather shield? You’ll want to consider these based on where you live, as well as things like upcoming vacations or travel plans. Consider that a canopy is also a great way to give the child a “light’s out” feel when it’s time to take a nap.
2. Seat base compatibility
As noted, make sure the seat base works with your child’s car seat, especially if you’ll be travelling often by car with the stroller in the trunk. Find out if you need a car seat adapter, if it comes with one, and/or if the car seat can sit right on the stroller seat itself.
3. Seat positions
Speaking of the stroller seat, can it be positioned both forward- and rear-facing? With newborns and babies, you might want the child facing you for the first year or so before you let them turn around and explore the world. With babies, you’ll also want one that can recline, sometimes all the way back. This is necessary for babies from newborn to about six months who can’t yet hold their head up, but it also makes it easy and comfortable for a child of any age to have naps while you walk about.
4. Bassinet attachment
For newborns, you might even want a stroller system that includes a separate bassinet attachment, or a seat that can transform into a bassinet for babies who can’t yet sit up and will be napping most of the time in the stroller while lying down flat. While some have seats that can recline all the way to the flat position, a bassinet provides coverage on all sides that can block out light, sounds, and other distractions.
5. Secure harness
Regardless of the child’s age, you should always look for a stroller with a five-point harness, so the child remains secure when inside, and can’t easily unbuckle himself when you aren’t looking. You’d be hard-pressed to find a stroller on the market that doesn’t boast a secure and safe harness, but it’s worth making sure it’s also easy to use and clips in and out without too much effort or discomfort.
Some strollers have extra padding or cushioning, which can be ideal for newborns who require extra support, or babies just learning to sit up. But even for toddlers, this cushioning makes impromptu nap times comfortable for the little one.
7. Seat fabric
Look at if the seat fabric can be removed for washing or if it can only be spot-cleaned. If you have babies, or young kids who might be eating in the stroller, or who are (or might be) prone to accidents (from either end!) you’ll appreciate being able to remove the seat covers and throw them in the washing machine from time to time versus just spot cleaning. Some strollers have removable covers so you can swap the material out for a different colour or type of fabric (e.g. thinner fabric for summers and thicker for winters.)
If you live in the city and walk just about everywhere, including to grab groceries or go shopping, you’ll want a stroller with a large undercarriage that can hold shopping bags, groceries, or even your jackets while you shop around indoors during the cold winter months. Some convertible strollers allow you to position the undercarriage storage up top for easier access if you’re shopping for things like groceries and don’t want to bend down over and over to reach inside.
Accessories worth getting with a stroller
Once you have the stroller ready, there are tons of handy accessories worth looking into to make the experience more enjoyable and convenient for both baby and you.
1. Cup holder
A cup holder allows parents or caregivers to bring along their water bottle (or baby’s bottle) or even cup of coffee to enjoy while going for a stroll. They are more useful than you think, so if the stroller doesn’t have one built-in or included, look for a third-party option that can clip to the handlebar.
2. Tray table
Once the child is older and can sit up and snack on solids on their own, a tray table is a great way to give them some independence. You can wheel them around while they snack on fruits, veggies, or crackers. If you’re sitting down to feed baby, the tray table also makes it easy to do so with them right in the stroller instead of having to look around for a booster seat. Older toddlers can also use the tray table for toys and activities.
3. Bag hooks
Most strollers have sizeable under-carriage areas where you can store a purse, diaper bag, jacket, and even some purchases or groceries. But bag hooks extend that so you can carry even more and wheel baby around without other items hoisted on your shoulder. Keep in mind you need to keep the weight distributed properly so should only hang light bags (think clothing purchases, for example).
4. Diaper bag or organizer
Of course, a diaper bag goes hand-in-hand with a stroller as you’ll need it for mobile essentials, like extra diapers and diaper-related items, bottle and formula or nursing cover, toys, wipe clothes, and more. Find out that fits nicely over the handlebars of the stroller and/or in the undercarriage. There are also handy stroller organizers you can mount nicely to the handlebars to carry only the essentials, like your keys, wallet, an extra diaper, snacks, and other small items for a short outing.
5. Stroller muff
A stroller muff is a nice little sleeping bag-like accessory you can use to keep baby warm on cooler days without having to put on a big jacket and bundle them up. Place them inside, zip it up, and you can take them out once you arrive indoors so they can roam around in comfort without getting hot.
Take the next step
Understanding how the stroller will be used and what options are available for that purpose will ensure that the stroller you purchase gives maximum enjoyment for the parent and the child. Find the right stroller for yourself or to give it as a gift online at Best Buy.
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