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How Strollers Work - Making Sense of it All!

Okay, so everybody knows how a baby stroller works. It's got handles, and you push it, right? Toss in a baby, and you've got a party.

But I bet most of you didn't know that there is a stroller for all occasions, from a quick trip to the store to an all-day hike. There are strollers for newborns, strollers for toddlers, and even strollers for twins, triplets, and quadruplets!

Today the baby stroller industry is big business. There are literally thousands of different strollers and carriages out there on the market, and choosing the right one can really get confusing. Do you go for extra shocks or bicycle tires? What about a cup holder?

To help you sort through the world of baby strollers, we've broken them down into basic groups. We'll also spend a few words on extra features, so you can decide whether to go for the stripped down basic stroller or the tricked-out super baby carriage.

The Basic Stroller

The baby stroller in its simplest form provides you with a seat for Junior and somewhere for you to push. Many come with front swivel tires, like a shopping cart, to allow a parent to steer easily from the back.

A common feature of most baby strollers is a canopy. A canopy is like a large flap that is used to keep babies out of the elements. Some even come with extensions to these canopies, which allow babies to be completely covered. This can be a handy feature when it's raining. Babies don't usually like being cold and wet.

A standard addition to any good stroller is a storage basket. This can be as simple as a pocket on the back of the stroller or a wire basket underneath the seat. Parents gratefully take full advantage of this storage space, because you never know when Junior is going to get dirty or need to be fed. It's a good idea to carry as many extra diapers and bottles as you have space for. Especially diapers.

Safety is a big issue with parents when they are ready to choose a baby stroller. Baby strollers these days come with at least a three point harness. For safety's sake, most come with a five point harness. A five point harness is like a NASCAR seat belt, and it's designed to keep Junior in place when you're coming into that final turn in the grocery store and your going a hundred miles an hour.

A five point harness has belts that come down over both shoulders, two that connect at the waist, and one that comes up between the legs. They often connect together just below baby's belly button. The three point harness is just like the five point harness, except that there are no straps for the shoulders.

Strollers Built for Speed

The Umbrella Stroller is a classic example of a lightweight stroller. The umbrella stroller got its name from the fact that the stripped down stroller has curved handles like an umbrella and is very compact. It was invented by Owen Maclaren in 1965.

The umbrella stroller is usually made of cloth and consists of a baby seat; swivel tires, and handles for pushing. Umbrella strollers often weight no more than five pounds, which means they can easily be folded up with one hand. Sometimes there is a small pocket on the back of the seat for storage, but there are very few features for an umbrella stroller. They are not recommended for new babies due to the lack of head support, but they are great for toddlers when they get tired of walking or need to be restrained.

Umbrella strollers make great second strollers because of their simplicity and size. They are perfect if you just need to whip down to the store or are going out to do errands with a baby in tow.

The Stroller Combo - You want fries with that?

Midsize strollers are the next step up on the stroller ladder, which are mostly stroller/carriage combinations. These are strollers where the chair can be folded down flat to make a bed for new babies (or tired ones) and then folded up to make a seat. They are much more comfortable than umbrella strollers and come with more storage space.

Mid-size strollers often weigh no more than fifteen pounds, and though they have more complicated folding mechanisms they are still meant to be opened with one hand.

Another type of stroller combo is the travel system stroller. This is a stroller that also doubles as a car seat, making it easy to transfer Baby from one mode of transportation to another effortlessly.

The travel system is a special car seat that can be locked onto a set of wheels, instantly turning it into a mid-size stroller. The seat itself acts as a bassinet, which means that baby can be moved from the car to a stroller and then removed from the stroller when needed. Many parents consider this to be the ultimate convenience, especially when their children are sleeping soundly and there is no need to wake them.

The Ultimate Baby Stroller

The full size baby stroller is by far the most comfortable stroller available. Full size strollers are built on a solid base with large wheels and often come with shock absorbers. They can be folded up for a seat or folded back to make a bed, and they contain lots of extra padding and head support.

Many full size strollers need a college degree and two assistants to fold up properly. They are complicated and unwieldy, and don't generally fold down in any meaningful way. They are also in the 20-25 pound range, making them very cumbersome. They are not convenient by any stretch of the imagination.

However, babies don't really care how convenient their stroller is. Full size strollers usually come with lots of extras, and even the ones that don't, have lots of space for them to be added.

Additionally, full size strollers come with a lot of storage space, making them ideal for long trips or for travel on buses. With a full size stroller, your baby can be the king (or queen!) of the sidewalk.

Putting All of Your Eggs in One Basket

Multi-child strollers have been around for a while now, and their development continues to improve with each new model that comes out. They are essential for a single parent to go out with multiple babies in tow.

Multi-child strollers come in a variety of sizes. There are double chairs, triple chairs, and even quadruple chairs! If you are a parent with multiples, it is definitely worth your time to invest in one of these strollers. It would be nearly impossible to manage a fistful of babies otherwise.

The shape of these strollers can also vary. There are conventional, side-by-side strollers where all of the children are lined up in a row. This is common for double strollers and sometimes for triple strollers, but it rarely happens with quadruple strollers. Triple strollers can sometimes be too big to get through a standard door frame. Quadruple strollers can have all of the babies facing forward or they can have two babies looking back and two facing the front.

The tandem stroller is something that has appeared on the market recently, and has made multi-child strollers more convenient and manoeuvrable. A tandem stroller allows two children to be seated directly behind each other, as in triple or quadruple seat strollers. Tandem strollers are slimmer and easier to turn, as well as being less wieldy. However, the tandem stroller has been known to make children fight over who gets to be in the front seat, or in the back seat if the two chairs are facing different directions.

Baby Strollers on the Move

With the recent push for everyone to get healthy, stroller makers saw a need for a baby stroller made for active parents. These strollers are known as active strollers, and represent a radical departure from conventional baby carriage designs.

Active strollers come equipped with large bicycle tires for ease of movement over nearly any terrain. They are taller, and the handles extend further out to accommodate jogging or speed-walking. They often come with full canopies and either nylon mesh or plastic windows to keep out wind and insects. Active strollers are brightly coloured to ensure they are noticed.

There are some short comings of these new designs, however. They are very large and unwieldy. Most do not fold down for storage. Also, the large bicycle tires mean that there is no side-to-side movement like in conventional swivel tires. This can make them very difficult to steer in more urban settings.

Baby's First Wheels

New born babies present a special set of problems for baby stroller designers. They are incapable of holding up their own heads, which makes seated strollers out of the question. Also, they need padding and comfort, and protection more than any other stroller age group.

Pram strollers are perfect for newborns. A pram stroller is a solid bassinet on nice big wheels and a solid base. They are stable and comfortable, and offer extra protection such as full-size canopies and reversible canopies. They may also contain a front cover to protect babies from the wind or other less desirable elements. Pram strollers look more like the antique buggies of years past, and are often very expensive to buy.

Pram strollers are outgrown within a year or so, so buying one may not be a very sound economical decision. Of course, when babies are concerned, new parents tend to throw sense out the window and go with their hearts. In that case, a pram stroller is the classic image of a baby carriage, making them a highly sought after (and expensive!) item.

Making Sense of it All

As you can see, there are a lot of different types of baby strollers, but choosing one shouldn't really be that difficult. Each type of stroller addresses specific concerns that parents have with regards to safety and function. When looking for a baby stroller for your little munchkin, simply keep this list in mind:

  1. Is this stroller too heavy to use properly?
  2. Is there enough storage space for everything my baby needs?
  3. Is the handle or canopy reversible?
  4. How well do the brakes work?
  5. Are the features easy to use, i.e. reclining back, safety harness?
  6. Are the handles high enough that I don't have to crouch to push it?
  7. Are the handles spaced enough so I won't kick the stroller when I'm walking?
  8. Is there space for any extra features I may want to add later, like a cup holder?
  9. Is it stable enough for me?
  10. Does it suit all of my needs?

If you are looking at a stroller and it doesn't answer all of these questions to your satisfaction, maybe you should keep looking. With all the styles and varieties of strollers out there, you are guaranteed to find something you like eventually. You can use this article as an introduction into the world of baby strollers. Hopefully, we've supplied enough tips and ideas to get you off on the right foot!

About The Author

Bill Schnarr is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing jogging strollers, designer baby clothes and toys for kids. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This article on "How Strollers Work" was reprinted with permission.

© 2004 - Net Guides Publishing, Inc.

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