Whether to Tether, and How!

Little Miss has hit the age (15 months) where she wants to walk and explore public spaces instead of being carried. Shopping now entails one parent doing the aisle browsing while the other parent keeps Miss from running into people or ripping boxes off store shelves amid giggly amusement.

Mom suggested getting a child tether, an idea I’m not too crazy about, but I went ahead and did some Web research into available products. [Side note, last week's Child Immobilizer Showcase came about after I Googled for "child restraint" and saw a text advertisement for the Pigg-O-Stat.]

Anyhow, my concern is that the fuss and screaming caused by Miss being restrained would be far worse than the hassle of regulating her penchant for running and exploring her surroundings. And really, isn’t that what parenting is about? She needs to learn appropriate behavior. One trick that works at the grocery store is to give her a tiny paper bag and let her carry something in it, say a few tangerines.

But that’s just me. Here are some of the leash restraint systems I found.

Unusual tethers I might actually use:

Tot Tether Child's Backpack & Child Safety Harness. Photo of a child wearing a green backpage featring a dinosaur's face on the front facing the childTot Tether Child’s Backpack & Child Safety Harness (pictured at right) is a four-point backpack featuring the face of a monkey, panda, elephant or dinosaur on its front. A parent tether “tail” attaches to the back of the backpack. This is the ultimate in turning a class of product with negative connotations into something fun. I almost want this backpack for Little Miss, even without the tether.

The O’Pair is a five-foot retractable line that attaches to child and parent with a plush animal fannypack. The parent and child attachments feature the face of Corky the Cat, Simon the Frog or Owen the Pig. Having a pocket Little Miss can use while walking, perhaps storing a toy, would be a plus.

Standard tethers:

The Stroller Strap is a 20″ strap with a padded wrist loop that attaches to the toddler. Although oriented toward walking along next to a stroller, they say it also works on the other typical tether hook-ups (shopping carts and belt loops).

Child Safety Tether by Small Planet is a three-point padded harness that comes in several colors and patterns.

The Kid Keeper is a three-point padded blue harness.

The Little Safety Harness by Natal is a nylon three-point harness that comes in red or blue.

Do you have any product suggestions, or toddler-control tips?


19 Responses to “Whether to Tether, and How!”

  1. tod says:

    Oh no, now you’ve gone and opened THIS can of worms! There are always 2 sides to this debate and I land firmly on the side of…hook up the flexi lead (a popular dog leash) and let’s roll!

    I won’t go into all the why’s and wherefor’s, but suffice it to say that we bought The Little Safety harness by Natale and it works really well. The first time we walked her with it she got really pissed and threw a tantrum, but after awhile she got used to her limited stretch of freedom. We’ve also used it at our niece’s soccer games to keep thNut from joining them out on the field [and she would too!].

    Cruel and unusual punishment? Or a conscientious and safe parent? You decide, but honestly I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what someone else thinks about me as long as my little girl is safe.

    September 30th, 2005 at 8:39 am

  2. AJ says:

    Tod, what features do you consider important in a harness? What is to be avoided?

    (For example, I’ve seen harnesses that are a fixed length while others are rolled out as if on a fishing reel and then locked by the parent at a given length.)

    September 30th, 2005 at 9:18 am

  3. tod says:

    Well, the most important thing to us is that it’s comfortable for thNut and doesn’t restrict her in anyway [other than the obvious one of keeping her in reach].

    A retractable cord would be nice, but wasn’t a deal breaker for us. The adjustable length would also be nice. One thing I don’t like about the Natalie (that we have) is that it doesn’t have a handle on the parent end, but the whole thing is simply a big loop (if that makes sense). The way it connects you have about a 4 foot length to work with between you and your child.

    We knew that the wrist-only version wouldn’t work for our inhumanly strong little lady, so we focused on ones that fit around the chest. The Kid Keeper and the one by Small Planet just didn’t look comfortable, so we went with the one from Natalie.

    I like the first two you list up there (the O’Pair and the Tot Tether), but I didn’t find those when I was looking. I like the idea behind the O’Pair, but I don’t know if I like that it goes around their waist instead of a harness. I can see thNut skimmying out of that and running off in a heartbeat. The backpack version is interesting though.

    Hope that helps. Let me know what you end up doing…I’m curious.

    September 30th, 2005 at 7:51 pm

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know most people have strong feelings of these harness/leashes. But please keep your opinions to yourself. I was also against these devices before I had my child. But now it is unfortunately a necessity. My baby is partialy deaf and has walking delays. Putting on a harness gives her the security to walk unaided and keeps her safe. Dont judge what you dont know. If you dont agree with these devices dont use them. Practice what you teach ‘if you dont have something nice to say dont say anything at all.’ Thank you.

    June 21st, 2006 at 11:30 am

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that I too am considering a “leash” for my 16 mth old son. Before I had a child I never thought I would need something to control my child…but then I had a very independent little boy. I am now facing traveling by myself with him and all of his stuff (which we all know is more than one can carry). The harness system is the only thing that I can think of to keep him undercontrol. I think both of the top 2 are great ideas. It is nice to know that a lot of parents have to face the decision about keeping their child safe even if it means hearing a few snide comments from NON parents.

    August 6th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

  6. bottleslingguy says:

    I recall asking my mother what was going on with the suspenders I was wearing in an old baby photo (circ.1962) of yours truly and she said it was a harness/leash. I don’t think I was damaged psychologically from the experience and even now feel proud realizing how conscientious my mother was. Safety comes first, it’s tough love.

    December 14th, 2006 at 6:57 am

  7. Jules says:

    I’m looking for a harness/leash for my 3 year old son. Before he was born I wouldn’t have considered using one, although, I wouldn’t have judged parents who did (I am infuriated by the ingnorant people out there who assume that we must be stupid if we can’t control our children).

    My son has receptive and expressive aphasia, much like a stroke patient, he cannot form speech and sometimes has difficulty understanding as well. He also exibits some autistic tendensies. While he looks like a “normal” and sweet mannered little boy, he has no understanding of the dangers of running away or into the street. He also cannot understand or follow commands like “stop” or “stay by mom”. I consider myself to be a pretty together parent and could corral him or hold his hand and that of my other children when we are out, however, my 76 year old mother is my primary babysitter and while she is pretty spry, she can’t keep up with him if he bolts away.

    My concern with using a harness/leash is if he will be able to wiggle out of it and the ease of getting it on and off for my mom’s arthritic hands. I don’t want him to be able to get out of it but Grandma needs to be able to get it off if they go to the playground. I wouldn’t want him to play on the slide or swings with it on (our playground is fenced and secure, so escaping should not be an issue, but getting it caught is something would be). Any suggestions?

    March 8th, 2007 at 8:13 pm

  8. cath says:

    I am another parent that, before my son, would not have thought this necessary… My daughter (as it turns out) was a parents dream. Now I am paying for it with a very energetic son. He is gone in a FLASH. His harness has kept him alive and me sane

    March 27th, 2007 at 5:42 pm

  9. penny williams says:

    I used one of these briefly when my very independent son took off as soon as he could walk. I gave it away as soon as he learned to stay near.
    NOW I’m shopping for a new one for him because we’re going to England for 6 weeks this summer, and even though he will be 6 this summer, he will not consistently walk beside me. I have been monitoring his compliance with my requests, and he will still forget to stay strictly in my plane of space when going through a parking lot (where he is too short to be seen easily if he is not right with me). I have three kids and there’s no way I’m taking a chance on his stepping out into traffic approaching the opposite way from his usual awareness. His older sisters are very conscious of the reasons for walking together, but my son doesn’t really have the reasoning to cooperate.
    SO I’m trying to find something discreet, maybe a wrist tether, to get him in the habit of staying strictly by me the first week (or as long as it takes) we’re there. A restraint that works as a reminder will work, I think.
    Any suggestions?

    May 12th, 2007 at 8:49 am

  10. tatihana says:

    I’m a mom of a very playful little girl (23 months) and she is usually very calm and helpful when i’m travelling. Though luck would have it that one day, we missed our train and ended up at the train station for more than 3 hours. I have always made sure that there would never be more than an hour lay over cause little hands and bodies get bored really quick. So needless to say I got ready for her to start showing her indepenence.
    I got lunch/ dinner and rented one of those movie players that train stations have ( lifesavers… 10 different movies and some cartoon shows) but even with all that i knew it would be a matter of time before she would get antsy and start to try and bolt on me. Then, 2 hours into our wait she ran. Worse was that the subway had just come in so there were a lot of people rushing to meet their trains and my daughter thinking it was all one game took off. I am slightly disabled though to look me you would never know, therefore running after her can be a problem at times. I spent the next 30 mins. trying everything to keep her occupied. She had enough she was tired and cranky and had way too much engery to spend. In between me holding her by her arm and her trying to tear herself away and scrreaming bloody murder, I saw it. A little girl went walking by wearing what looked like a little backpack only it had tail that the mother was holding… she looked at me and understood. It hit me the lady had a harness on the little girl and now they came and sat near us.
    We talked till the train came and her little girl played with my little girl and I realized then what my mother had told me so long ago. “I keep you safe by the best of my means. Not everyone likes it, not everyone agrees, but you are safe and able to live and grow as you please.”
    I had shunned the thought of a harness to appease what others might think of me. It wasn’t the first time my daughter had thrown a temper tantrum nor would it be the last. Only this time I’m going to do as my mother had taught me. Keep my child safe as I see fit.
    I applaud those mothers that may never need or use a harness, but I applaud those who choose to take an extra level of safety, for those moments when they look away for only a second. I understand more and more… and i’m grateful to read about those who go though the same fears as me.

    May 24th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

  11. Monica says:

    There is also a great tether/harness that is called the Harness Buddy. It looks like a backpack (usually a stuffed animal, monkey, bear, etc.) and has a tether (tail) that has a loop on the end for the parents wrist. I googled it and found one for only about $10. My husband isn’t too keen on the idea but we are going to an amusement park and I can’t risk having my rambuncious 2-year-old running off and getting lost or heaven for bid, worse.

    May 26th, 2007 at 8:48 am

  12. Jan says:

    I have a friend with a high-functional autistic son about 7 years old. I believe a chest harness with a leash would be good for her (single mom) because she can’t carry him any longer in her arms and must have some freedom to carry packages when she shops. The child tantrums and tends to run off without the slightest provocation, once even running off into a crowded parking lot with moving vehicles, and since he is older, she couldn’t run fast enough to catch him. Does anyone know where to get one for a larger child? For those who criticize, think of this… Lots of nuts out there who would grab a child and run off with it. It only takes a second. Having a child tethered to you gives the child some freedom (even normal children) and gives the parent peace of mind. For anyone who has had a child disappear from view while shopping, such as hiding under a clothes rack, this feeling of extreme panic would be well understood. For those who don’t have children, yet feel qualified to give “parenting” advice, I can only say experience is the best qualifier.

    September 20th, 2007 at 7:29 am

  13. susan says:

    This site has harnesses for older children:

    A mom in Idaho designed the harness for her daughter.

    I have two of them. My girls are now 9 and 7 and don’t wear them much anymore,but I have used these when they were younger and they are wonderful. The harness is a strong lightweight webbing with only one opening in the back. I did replace the leash with a stronger one,but other than that I have been very pleased.

    My oldest is a wanderer and this harness/leash has made for several very peaceful and enjoyable outings and trips.

    Check it out. Email if you need more information .


    September 30th, 2007 at 9:52 pm

  14. Valerie says:

    If you are looking for a hip, chic alternative to the traditional tether, check out The Love Handle by Liberté Apparel.

    October 12th, 2007 at 12:28 pm

  15. sillymama says:

    I always thought they were ridiculous and would never have thought I’d want one, but I have a 13 month old who is running everywhere! You really can’t reason with someone that age and I can’t get any shopping done these days since she hates sitting in her stroller and is out of sight in seconds if I let her walk on her own.

    January 13th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

  16. Meira says:

    I decided to buy them for my twins, and we used them for a while when they were about 24 months. I think what confirmed the decision to get them was the realization that riding in a stroller did not provide any exercise or exploration for them, and holding their hands meant I had no hands, and was crouched over for the whole walk.

    April 3rd, 2008 at 11:10 am

  17. navi says:

    http://www.tommiguard.com has custom orders for larger kids, though its a 2-3 week wait due to demand, according to their site. Though that one by Natale looks adjustable as well.

    May 18th, 2008 at 5:30 pm

  18. mk says:

    Thanks!! I need one and was afraid of picking the wrong one (wouldn’t last, too easy to get out of, etc). Think I am going to go with the Natele one- I looked at the Love handle- wow $45!!

    August 6th, 2008 at 6:53 am

  19. chere says:

    Great idea, but shoudn’t be in a harness form. I saw a movie where a kidnapper made the child take off all their clothes and cut off thier hair, I think the tether should be like a tether the hospital’s have for new babies with keys only parents or guardians have to remove, and its not automatically seen by predator. I’m sure that harness come off in seconds.

    May 7th, 2009 at 6:11 pm