Why would you wear a big kid?!

20 Mar
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It’s not unusual to see an older toddler in pram occasionally right? Or a four or five year old getting a piggy back ride with tired legs? And surely everyone realises that three year olds sometimes still want cuddles and kisses right? Even if it is more so when they’ve hurt themselves or they are sick or maybe they are just feeling sad or missing someone…

But it’s funny because also I have heard a lot mums have faced criticism or comments when wearing a child or even as a younger toddler. Even myself there has been many occasions when I have worn my eldest, even when he was as young as eighteen months old and have had people, usually directed to him rather than me, say something to the effect of “you look like you’re too big to be up there!” or to me say, “you should be letting him walk!”

Josh on my back at 2.5 years, this was our first try wearing the blue rockets toddler tula when it arrived, “his” carrier.

There in lies the strange double standard that seems to exist for at least some in society. Personally it makes no sense to me at all that it is not at all strange to push or piggy back a child but it is to wear them..?! There are so many cases and reasons in which to do it, but first, to answer the not uncommon question, “how old is too old for them to be worn like that?”
Well the short answer is, as long as they want to be held.

Eden (4) and Josh (3.5) both in Toddler Tula’s

We really discovered babywearing with our first baby as it was a way for us to keep doing bushwalks, a favourite pastime for us. And it a time that I really appreciate what big kid wearing brings when we now to continue to do this as a family of four. We seriously couldn’t take the tracks and have the experiences we can in our beautiful natural environments New Zealand offers us without babywearing.

Jai’s first experience of bushwalking at 4 months…

Firstly the tracks are very inappropriate for prams, they can sometimes be quite dangerous and/or narrow and steep in parts and despite our big dude being a keen walker, anything after about 4kms and his little legs can’t keep up!

Steep, exciting and narrow paths means sometimes even when little legs aren’t yet tired on the walk, it’s sometimes required to be briefly worn!

Wearing toddlers and older kids is different of course to wearing smaller bubbas in a number of ways.. Often they go through this “up” and now “down!” phase as they start to be comfortable and competent to explore and tottle around their environment. Resulting in many occasions of putting baby in a carrier and then taking them out again over and over in my experience at least…

Even before that stage, often there is a “nosey bubba” stage where they get sick of just facing you and want to see whats going on! My go to approach to these stages with my kids has been a hip carry (usually in an open tail ring sling for me) or a high back carry so they can see over my shoulder and have the same view I do.

“Nosey” Jai at 9 months in a hip carry in a ring sling

And then when they are older toddlers and preschool age, they are often rather competent explorers of their environment and can walk and run around themselves but even so little legs get tired and situations can be overwhelming, hectic or dangerous in which cases “big kid wearing” can be an invaluable tool.


Watching earthworks from the safety of dad’s hold, Josh at 2.5 years

There are also times when your bigger kid is maybe sick or unsettled (some of those massive changes, stresses and losses in life can leave little people unsettled and more needy for a very long time after the fact) or maybe they are just generally a more clingy or cuddly child and in these situations you can find yourself cuddling or carrying a rather large, long and sometimes wiggly child which is a completely different ball game than holding a toddler on your hip…

Which brings me to a good point, I actually bought my first ring sling when my eldest was 18 months, and it was to save my back from further injury from doing just that. I had managed to twist and tilt my pelvis, it was primarily from carrying him on my hip for quick ups and downs, like going from the car into the supermarket for example, that I had bent one hip upwards, as a way to kind of sit his pressure on it..

I’m sure anyone who has held a child on thier hip knows the kind of position I’m referring too.. Kind of creating an “c” shape with your spine.. I had lots of osteo treatment and spent a long time doing pilates twice a week to strengthen up my muscles and correct my posture but of course, my toddler didn’t care all that much about that and funnily enough, he still wanted to be held and there were still occasions I couldn’t help but be holding him on my hip.

Jan demonstrating great technique for big kid wearing Quinn (3.5) in a ring sling

So I bought a ring sling. It didn’t change the position I was holding him in, he was still effectively for all intensive purposes still sitting on my hip (I know know just how shockingly bad my ring sling technique was at the time, I didn’t even realise I had to “create a seat” with the fabric!). The extra support provided by the fabric and the fact the opposite shoulder to hip was bearing some of the extra weight meant I was holding him in a much more ergonomic way, not twisting my posture to bear his weight.

And now at 3.5 and nearly 18kgs he knows that if wants to be cuddled or carried around for any period of time, he needs to be worn. I can’t physically carry him in my arms for very long without getting aching arms or hurting my back. And this was so invaluable that we had this as a tool and technique when he recently had an operation to remove his tonsils and adenoids and get new grommets.


It was a sore operation, it is at any age, but that is obviously quite unsettling when you are three and your concept of severe pain in recovery is kinda limited.. There were a few times he would wake up as his pain meds started to wear off and he would jump up in pain, screaming and trying to run away from what was hurting him and in those times all I could do was strap him to me and shush him as I slowly walked around the yard or up the road till he would fall asleep again or I could just cuddle and hold him until the next set of pain meds kicked in…


Airports is another great place wearing big kids is awesome, busy events and festivals, when your kid is a “runner” (was always my threat when my eldest went through that stage, “stay close or I’m putting you on my back!”)… I could continue to list times and places it makes sense to wear a bigger kid but instead, I will just finish with some science to back me up here.

Do you know it uses at least 16% less energy to wear your children as opposed to holding them in your arms? (http://stockportslings.co.uk/why-i-carry-my-big-kid)

Wear them as long as they want to be carried and as long as you want to wear them. Heck, if you’re both keen, you could wear them up the stairs at thier graduation with a decent woven wrap.. ?

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