Child Harnesses: Do They Harm My Childrens Development Or Keep Them Safe?

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Parents of young children know all too well that toddlers can be highly unpredictable, especially when in a public setting.

For safety concerns, many parents choose to use child harnesses or harness backpacks to ensure young children don’t try to make a swift escape. A tool that provides peace of mind to countless nervous moms and dads, though, is passionately criticized by just as many others. The question remains: Should parents use child safety harnesses? Or, are they more harmful than helpful?

If you’re still trying to decide for yourself, here are a few pros and cons of physically tethering your child to you:


  • Safety is priority: Taking a 2-year-old out of the home– especially at a crowded theme park or airport, or even just with multiple children — can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience. All it takes is a moment of letting your guard down before your little one can disappear from sight.
  • Harnesses can be helpful for children with special needs: Kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome and other sensory disorders can often lack judgment when it comes to outside environments. Having a harness acts as an extra safety measure for children whose judgement may be limited by their special needs. Even a very young child who is hearing impaired can benefit from a harness because it may be harder to get his attention if he should need to be stopped quickly for safety reasons.
  • A harness offers relative freedom: When compared to strapping a child into a stroller, a harness offers more freedom for exploring various environments. Plus it allows him to do so with immediate parental feedback.


  • A harness doesn’t allow children to learn proper self control: Relying on a harness all of the time robs children the opportunity to test boundaries and learn from them. If they are constantly tethered, they miss out on moments that allow them choice and responsibility.
  • Harnesses limit a child’s curiosity: Naturally, kids like to explore. By allowing them freedom to walk around without the restriction of a harness, they have the opportunity to discover new things. A child harness, on the other hand, does not send the message that curiosity is valid.
  • They attract negative attention: Many people associate child harnesses with dog leashes, and so they find it degrading that parents would restrain their child in the same manner as an animal would be restrained. This visual tends to attract negative attention, and depending on the child’s age, she could potentially be embarrassed or ashamed.

While safety harnesses can be beneficial for parents of multiples, children with special needs and high-energy toddlers who are still learning to follow directions, it’s hard to argue that it’s not healthy to have some off-harness practice time with little ones in public settings, too.

To read more about the pros and cons of safety harness use, read this article from

Share your thoughts! What do you think about child harnesses? Have you ever used one with a child?


  1. N

    March 1, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I have to comment on this even though people think they are like dog leashes would you let your dog run in front of a car or would you feel better having on a leash?I had a harness for both my boys and only wore it when in busy places that I knew they would not be safe.they were not strapped in it all the time but I felt better knowing that they were not going to get hit. And just in case some say you have to watch them better I do like a hawk even now that they are and days it is better safe than sorry I know.

    • Renee

      May 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      Exactly!! That is exactly what I say if someone comes up to me with the “dog leash” response. Plus, some stranger is less likely to pick up your child if you have them harnessed. It’s all about keeping our children safe. Whatever it takes!!

    • MB

      May 8, 2016 at 1:22 am

      I 100% agree with you. My son was walking at 10 months and preferred to walk. When we’d walk to the park a half mile away I put his “doggy” on him bc we walked along a busy road. When we were at airports and department stores he wore his “doggy” and did so without a fight. He in fact enjoyed wearing it. It never really limited his curiousity bc we went everywhere he wanted to go minus the middle of oncoming traffic. It wasn’t used to drag him along or hold him back. It was a safety thing. My cousin made a comment about it and I was like better safe than sorry. Guess what? By the time he was 2 he would just hold my hand and so far has been very good about it and doesn’t try to pull away etc. he’s now 3 and his baby brother started walking. Guess what he saw his “doggy” (which he always loved never disliked it) in the closet and wanted to put it on and I said your brother will be using that now when we go for walks. He kissed it and handed it to his brother.
      You will never please everyone. People will talk whether you do or don’t do something. Do what you feel is best for you and your chins and forget about people. Only YOU know your child.

      • Mommyof1

        June 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        I have a special needs child who loves to break free and run. SO yes, in grocery store, mall, on a walk in the neighborhood, through a museum, etc. he wears his monkey. When we’re in smaller places in the children’s museum like the an exhibit room or classroom, the tether part is off, and he can explore as long as he stays in my sight.

  2. Megan Kathryn

    May 5, 2016 at 12:33 am

    Not sure if I would use one or not, but nobody is going to snatch your child in a crowded place if they’re wearing one of these.

  3. Alicia Lapearl

    May 5, 2016 at 12:41 am

    I use one for my son it helps keep him with us and not wonder off.

  4. Alicia Grenier

    May 5, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I used one with both of my kids! I’d do it all over again. It let them have their freedom, and I could keep them safe at the same time..

  5. Lety Pizano

    May 5, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I use it because my son has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and he is always hyperactive he rarely stays still and doesn’t acknowledge or understand the dangers that may come. As a mom I need to have him be protected and not be in a scary situation. Even though I do get judged by others. I don’t care what they think or say because my son is my priority.

  6. Kara DiDomizio

    May 5, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Used with both my kids, a little horse I think. They loved it, kept them close but also let them have their space. 😉 in today’s day and age, why not be safe then sorry 😉

  7. Julie-Ann Bellis

    May 5, 2016 at 12:56 am

    I said I’d never use one…..guess what, I used it with my son! That age when they just want to run, but don’t want to be in a stroller. It was a life saver! And a time saver, I was able to go into a store and get what I needed without chasing him around and forgetting what I was there for. He loves his monkey backpack. I got a lot of looks, but he was safe and close. That’s all that matters!

    • Angie Davis

      May 5, 2016 at 1:27 am

      I said the same thing. It gave my little guy the freedom to walk around and explore but kept him close enough for me to be able to steer him from any dangers.

    • Natasha Rose

      May 5, 2016 at 3:48 am

      We used it as a tool to teach her to hold our hand while walking. If she broke away from our grasp we still had control and didn’t have a one year old running into the street. She went through a stage also where she hated the stroller. So it was use the leash and teach her how to behave or have a screaming toddler in a stroller. She’s turning 2 next week and we don’t have to use it anymore. But she still wears it around the house lol because she loves her monkey

  8. Krystal Renfro Cahoon

    May 5, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Just started using one with my 18mth old – they are fast and so curious about everything. Better safe than sorry!

  9. Susan Comeau-Fyten

    May 5, 2016 at 1:04 am

    I used them for my kiddos! Especially my son he would try and run off cause of sensory issues and my daughter just wanted one cause brother one 🙂

  10. Kayla Morris

    May 5, 2016 at 1:14 am

    Wtf ever!

  11. Megan Ashenfelter

    May 5, 2016 at 1:22 am

    If choosing between a stroller and a harness for a toddler, I would think a stroller would also apply the same drawbacks by limiting the child to learn self control and explore their curiosity because they are also restrained.

  12. Emma Turner

    May 5, 2016 at 1:31 am

    I made a one. I used a mini Katmandu pack and sewed a chest strap on, then sewed a lead with a clip and attached on the back. My sone loves it as he has a bag to take his things in and I have a small lead just to keep him near. Win, win.

  13. Alex Vivian Kiet Ho

    May 5, 2016 at 2:31 am

    I didn’t use it on my son when he was toddler, he was on stroller or I hold him. I have cross bag. It’s ok to use it, depend on the scene and kid personalities. Parents whom judge are the parents has limited knowledge. Kids are kids and some have hidden issues,,,parents do what they got to do to keep they child safe, from kidnapped or fall into
    Lake. I have to give credit to parents who go extra miles for child safety and ignore other parents looks.

  14. Alexandra Korovilas

    May 5, 2016 at 2:31 am

    Safety first!

  15. Marie St Germaine

    May 5, 2016 at 3:06 am

    I have almost a year old set of twins and am planning on using them for times when I don’t have my husband with me to shop…it’ll help me so I don’t have to run in 2 different directions..

  16. Stephanie Alexander Marshall

    May 5, 2016 at 3:58 am

    I used one with my youngest son. We spent a lot of time at the ball park with his older sister and it gave him a little freedom to walk around without him getting away from me.

  17. Christina Leon

    May 5, 2016 at 4:32 am

    These are kids that animals

  18. Bonnie Roskind

    May 5, 2016 at 5:18 am

    i used it on my 2 boys and they enjoyed the freedom it gave them. we even used it on a friends child (with the parent permission) when we went to a super busy field trip and all 3 of my children said “mommee, people are staring at us but we know that N is safe and that is what is important”

  19. Angelica Bautista

    May 5, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Hell no never gonna use this for my son! They’re not you’re dogs or animals. Why put a leash on them? What if they do that to you when you get older? How would you like it?

    • Stef Creativa

      May 5, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      I don’t think older people are going to run off.

    • Angelica Bautista

      May 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      You sure? What about those people that has dementia? Look it up hun 🙂

    • Sylvia van der Heijden

      May 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      They have trackers in there shoes. Let’s talk again if you’re kid is old enough. And you see the joy on his or her face to run around and not being held all the time.

  20. Stacey Howlett

    May 5, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I’ve always hated these BUT I must say, after seeing so many people using it in Disney World, we decided to buy one. I only used it there and it was a lifesaver because my toddler was so excited and wouldn’t stay in the coach. I literally only used it there though and threw it out right after the trip.

  21. Adrian Allen

    May 5, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I used one when our middle daughter was little now 6.. And has saved her we only used with our youngest daughter loved it is was a sensory thing with her she would want it on even in the house and would fall asleep with it on lol.. With our first I’m not going to lie I was against them until I had my middle lol..

  22. Crystal Harper

    May 5, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    In certain high danger situations sure. I probably would have left the house more often if I wasn’t so scared of one of the six boys running off.

  23. Nadia Punongbayan

    May 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Pauli Gonz

  24. Rasheeda Byrd

    May 5, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Great for safety

  25. Eve Saleh

    May 5, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Very useful. My kids enjoyed their freedom and I kept them safe. Sara Srey Kristine Scrivano Santos

    • Kristine Scrivano Santos

      May 5, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      I have no problem using that. I think.its a great and safe idea

    • Sara Srey

      May 5, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Totally against it, we don’t need something like that to keep our kids safe. There’s human not a puppy. That’s how I feel about it.

    • Eve Saleh

      May 5, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Sara…that’s ok. We all have different points of views. 🙂

  26. Kimberly Denton

    May 5, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    My sister and I were leash kids because we wondered all the time. We survived, turned into great adults, and didn’t need therapy

  27. Barbara Collins

    May 6, 2016 at 3:17 am

    Keri Dupree

  28. Catherine Martin

    May 6, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Iain Lugton stuffed if you do, stuffed if you don’t

  29. gaynell

    May 7, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    OK so I am a Granny with 7 grandkids and my one son and his girlfriend have 3 girl under 2 1/2 so I think that she should use one with the 1 year old because she is still learning to not run off. Plus three kids are hard to watch after.
    But when I was younger and I saw someone using one I would think to myself wow really a dog leash on a kid.

  30. Deborah Stanyar

    May 7, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    yes some people beliefs are different and you know i believe those people need to know why ? that parent ,grandparent or guardian has decided that time they would use a harness safety is the first reason most use i tell you i lived in cities n before they put belts in wagons i used one to hold my son into wagon so no one could grab him or have him fall out n get seriously injured . HERE IS MY BIG THING SOME PEOPLE THAT BUTT THERE NOSE IN ARE THE ONES THAT SHOULD KEEP IT OUT CAUSE THEY DONT KNOW AND INVOLVING THERE SELF IN COMMENTING IS NOT HELPFUL TO THE PERSON MAKING CHOICES FOR THEIR CHILDREN AS LONG AS CHILD(REN) ARE NOT BEING DRAGGED OR INJURED people need sometimes for people just to walk by parent is using the harrness for a reason especially if seen at fairs etc they may need to rethink their issues with ….a loving nama that has dealt with people comments n had child knock away feeling the panic if i would see that child again please watch before you judge n why should pets get better care then our next generation

  31. Pamela Frazier

    May 8, 2016 at 12:23 am

    I have 18 month old twins! I bought the harnesses for the safety of my girls! I can’t be in two places at once n they are at that age where me telling them to walk with me, goes in one ear n out the other! I don’t use it all the time, n they mostly sit in their stroller or walk with one adult. Also i don’t give a poop what people think n say!! I also agree with N’s comment! Well said!! I can go on n on, but I’ll leave it at that.

  32. Piper's mama

    May 8, 2016 at 1:35 am

    I agree with N. My little one just turned 2, and doesn’t understand about cars in the road yet, or not to run away from me in the mall or grocery store. I do not have her on her harness all the time, just on busy roads, where she could get more than just hurt, or in really busy places like the zoo. But, even when she is in her harness, I still walk beside her, I hold her hand and talk to her, I let her guide me where she wants to go (provided it’s safe), so I don’t feel that I am restricting her at all, just keeping her safe, while still she still has the freedom to move under her own power, and indulge her curiosity, while I teach her what is safe and what is not. I agree that you should not depend on a harness, ever, but for now, I will continue to use mine, while I am teaching my daughter how to make the right, safe choices. I think it all comes down to when and how you use it and how often. I do not think it is degrading at all, and right now, she loves being in it, she brings it to me to put on her. As N said, I would rather be safe than sorry, and I will take the nasty looks and comments over losing my child. FYI I have never had any negative comments or looks when people see her in it, however I have had dozens of people tell me how much they love it, what a great idea it is, and ask me where I got mine so they can get one!

  33. Susi Downs

    May 8, 2016 at 3:00 am

    In the early 80’s I had a harness for my kids. Some people thought it was great and some, not so much. Sorry that things haven’t changed much. I was 22. I had one in a stroller, one in a front pack and one with the harness, all under the age of 5. My son was a runner. If you weren’t quick he would run, didn’t care where, just ran. Once he ran off in the mall. My brother in law had to get him. I told him he would just run straight to the end. Won’t stop until he got to end. LOL. He did, My BIL got him at the end. Sometimes kids just need a little guidance. Mainly used it for the mall or shopping when I had to take all 3 by myself. Saved me a several occasions.
    Then about 19 years later we put my grandson in one when we were traveling to some falls in Oregon. It did not harm any of my kids or grandkids. They felt secure with them on. Did not mind wearing them. We explained it kept them safe and that was fine.
    You have a choice. You can risk your child sprinting off,or some other tragic circumstances or you can explain to them why they should wear them and keep them safe. They grow so fast they most likely won’t even remember them. I am Pro harness.

  34. Michelle

    May 8, 2016 at 4:41 am

    I think if used properly they are fine. There is a time for curiousity and a time where safety is priority. Also, when my daughter is wearing hers she is still expected to follow the same rules as she is when she isn’t wearing it. She must hold my hand or the stroller and can’t run off. It’s just a back up for added protection.

  35. Tamara

    May 8, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    My son has Down Syndrome. I used a harness backpack on him a lot. He would just take off without warning. And yes, I did watch him very carefully. I have been called a helicopter mom before. I love those harnesses.

  36. Rebecca Montague

    May 31, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Awww. Even got a lil monkey on the back

  37. Meagan Byers

    August 4, 2016 at 1:51 am

    I have a 3 on Son who is autistic. Im still deciding on what to do. I always have him in a stroller when were out. Any autism Moms here that use these?

  38. Deven Rocchi

    August 4, 2016 at 2:00 am

    We are debating getting one for our 2yr old. Having three kids, one only 4 months old, it’s almost impossible for me to go anywhere on my own with the kids without having to chance my 2 yr old around the store because there isn’t room in the cart for him.

  39. April Duffy

    August 4, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Non issue for me… A lost child isn’t exploring anything safely. A child wandering off until they become panic stricken because they can’t find their parent isn’t figuring out anything but fear. I wore a harness and so will my daughter.

  40. Abby Johnson Schnackel

    August 4, 2016 at 4:23 am

    No judging here. You do you. If it keeps your kid from running into traffic, why not? I personally just use a death grip on my son’s hand, but I’m sure he would prefer to be able to roam a little with a harness.

  41. Benish Shahid

    August 4, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Safety first, yes to harness.

  42. Vicky Ashton

    August 4, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Worked awesome for my little guy. He was 3 and would just run…anywhere and he was FAST. It’s only for a short time.

  43. Sherry Williams Caudle

    August 4, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Safety First!! Most important

  44. Michelle Johnstone

    August 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    40 years ago my brother and I wore one. My two youngest girls have worn one at times.

  45. Kamar Elizalde

    August 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I use it while I was in Mexico for a year and I was so paranoïaque she would get robbed I had to attach her

  46. Kim Farnham

    August 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I do not believe in them. Makes me think of an animal…….

  47. Joanne Taylor

    August 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    I am a 63 year old grand mother, with arthritis, and I watch my 23 month old grandson, I use a harness, because I can my Chase him out side, I don’t think it’s right to keep him in the stroller, the whole time we are shopping

  48. Trish Pacion

    August 4, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    My opinion is yes and no
    Yes to keep your child safe
    No because i think of a dog
    So its really up to the parents they shouldnt think what other people think

  49. Heather Bartow

    August 4, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    i cant do that to my baby id rather be tierd and just chase my kid and let them be free instead of on lock down

  50. Melissa Hall

    August 4, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Mitch Sullivan

  51. Susanne Frederiksen

    August 5, 2016 at 2:25 am

    i think if your willing to give chase when they take off, then power to you. i used it once or twice in really crowded events, like Canada’s wonderland and the CNE. Sometimes she even wanted to hold the end of it cause it had a snoopy backpack, she loved it. I also went out of my way to let her run. Just for the record, a dogs mentality and a 2 year old, is very much the same, and we need to keep both safe.

  52. Nicole Lacy

    August 5, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Wished i had that for you and courtney when you todlers lol

  53. Robert Florian

    November 27, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I was introduced to the harness when I was 3, by my Grand mother. At first I pulled and tried to take it off, but I got used to it. later in life, we trained our 15 month old, to walk in it, and she was not able to take off running. by 3, she did not need it any more.

  54. Heather MacGillivray

    June 11, 2017 at 5:20 am

    My mother used one on me in the 1950’s and it was great: I got to pretend I was a ‘horsey’ or a ‘puppy’ or whatever other imaginary animal my mind came up with on any given day and yet I also got to walk about ‘like an adult’ with a degree of the freedom that entailed which I otherwise wouldn’t have had had I had to be holding onto Mum’s hand the whole time AND it meant I got to enjoy Mum’s company while we were out on adventures together (which is how I saw it) because she wasn’t freaking out and cranky and worried all the time about traffic and other dangers … and just being so ‘tethered herself’ to a child’s hand the whole day! … which I could sense quite well in her even as a young child. We got to each other’s creative spirit and desire for freedom and good company. I think it’s silly to think it is ‘humiliating.’ What about being hit by a car or abducted! And are child car restraints humiliating? People have been taught to make irrational associations like ‘being treated like a dog’ (but hopefully the family dog is a respected and loved family member anyway, especially by the child) and ‘being kept on a short leash.’ These are unwarranted negative associations in my opinion.

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