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Lead on: Yes or no to child leashes?

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Lead on – Yes or No to child leashes? By Amy Wakley at

Lead on, kiddo!

During my second pregnancy, I bought myself one of the most contentious and hotly debated items a parent can buy. I got one that was a backpack shaped like a unicorn, complete with sparkles and bling. I had a much more basic version for my first child and I can’t remember ever needing to use it but I liked having it in my bag. I felt better knowing it was there if needed.

Of course, I’m talking about child leashes. The kind you use for kids, not pets.

Yes or No to Child Leashes?

Before I had children, I swore I would never use one. I’d see parents with tethered toddlers and wonder why they didn’t just hold their hands. I was awesome at the whole parenting gig before I actually had any children of my own. Aren’t we all?

Having your own toddlers to contend with is eye-opening, to say the least. Once they can walk, they want to walk everywhere (until they don’t and insist on being carried but that’s a whole other article!). The trouble is, toddlers who are out and about often have an attention span that is a unique combination of goldfish and bower bird. By that, I mean they see something shiny and head towards it at a rapid pace until a bright colour in the other direction catches their attention. They forget shiny and start moving towards colour. If you throw something noisy into the mix, you might be in real trouble.

Yes, you can hold their hands.

Their tiny, sticky, sometimes slippery hands. If they let you, that is. Some kids just don’t wanna. Hand-holding is even more difficult when you are pushing a pram or a shopping trolley. It’s near impossible when you’re lugging bags of groceries. And what about luggage?! What if you have more than one child to manage? How can you hold two or even three hands while doing anything else? The mind boggles. A lead or two with wrist loops might be a lot simpler to manage!

I have seen all the reasoning behind NOT using one. The main argument against, that I think has some merit, is that it doesn’t necessarily teach children to stay close to their parents or teach them about other safety issues. Instead, it simply restricts their mobility to preserve safety. This alone doesn’t teach little ones why it’s not a good idea to run away from Mum or Dad in the car park.

For this reason, it’s clear that kid leashes shouldn’t be used every time we leave the house. They should probably be reserved for instances when they are truly needed. And that will be different for each and every family.

Most of the outrage directed at parents who use these leads on their kids isn’t really concerned with safety and learning. Words like “demeaning” and phrases like “Children aren’t animals!” are thrown around. And, as a former ignoramus myself, I do understand this perspective. It’s an emotional response. Experience, however, has taught me that our first impressions of such parenting tools might not be the most rational or accurate ones.

People that baulk at the idea of children being anything remotely like animals obviously never saw what any of my children considered an acceptable way to eat spaghetti bolognese.


In all seriousness, though, it comes down to safety. If I must go grocery shopping with a small child who refuses to sit in the trolley, her safety is more important to me than a stranger’s pet/child comparison.

If parents and carers limit the usage of leads to only when necessary and explain why they are being used to a child, will they really feel demeaned? Or will they understand that this is a tool is being employed to keep them safe?

“This is your unicorn backpack. It has a cord on it so that when you wear it, Mummy/Daddy/Gran can hold this end so that you stay nice and close and safe.”

If you’re still cringing at the idea of a leash for children, you are probably blessed with kids that don’t bolt the minute they see something that interests them. Or you have some other strategy to prevent that and it’s working for you. That’s great! All kids are different, after all.

Hold the judgement

When you see someone using one of these leashes, don’t assume the worst. They aren’t bad people who treat their children like dogs. They’re parents, using the tools available to them to keep their kids safe.

Do you use child leashes on your little one?

Lead on - Yes or No to child leashes? Tell Me Baby

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