Strollers are a personal and intimate purchase for your family - and they have a lot to live up to! You need a stroller that is going to go the distance for the miles that you will walk and be durable enough to take the bouncing that your toddler is bound to do. But, you also want one that is going to be light enough for you to lift in and out of your car, or up and down your apartment steps. Many see strollers as a fashion statement, (which they sometimes are!) but most parents just want a stroller that is going to get the job done right every time. That's a lot of pressure to place on a metal frame with a seat or two! But we do, every day.
So, how do you decide which stroller is right for you? I know that every parent thinks there is some magical formula to follow so that you know which one to buy; but, unfortunately, that is definitely not the case.
HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR STROLLER?
This question is about YOU and what YOU need, so it's an important one. For example, if you're a runner, you'll probably want a jogging stroller! If you have a little car, or you're using public transportation
a lot, you'll need a stroller that folds up really small so that you can pack it or carry it around. Or what if you'll be using your stroller on long day trips? You'll need something with a lot of storage! You will most likely find yourself in multiple of these different situations at some point, but you want to think about what your lifestyle is like most often. Remember the golden rule: it's easy to get lost in all of the fancy features and new updates, but there really are two core questions: How will I use my stroller, and what will I need from it?
Most lifestyles will fit into one of four categories. Ask yourself: are you a park-goer, city dweller, jogger, or mall crawler?
- If you are a park-goer you will most likely prefer a stroller that can handle bumps without a problem. You will not need to go as extreme as an all-terrain or a jogger, but you will probably want to consider a hybrid stroller like the Bumbleride Indie or the Baby Jogger City Select. Features to consider: tire size and tread, canopy size for shade, and car seat compatibility.
- For city dwellers you are going to want a stroller that is going to be durable, remain clean, and be quick to fold up with lots of storage space! You are constantly weaving between crowds as well so you will need a stroller with lots of maneuverability like the UPPAbaby Vista or Cruz. Features to consider: stroller width, fabrics, storage basket, and accessories.
- Those that jog will have a bit more research to do! Jogging can be stressful on a child's body due to all of the jolting that occurs, but if you get a great jogger like the BOB Revolution SE then you should be fine. Also be aware that due to bulk, most families own both a jogger as well as a regular stroller; but, you can definitely get away with only a jogger if you have the space in your trunk. Features to consider: suspension, tire size, wheel locking, and handle height.
- For the mall crawlers (aren't we all) you may want to consider strollers that are easy to get in and out of the car, can become travel systems, and are not very wide in order to weave between all of those great sale racks! Maneuverability will also be an important point for you here. Features to consider: easy and compact fold, and car seat compatibility.
PLAN AHEAD, WHAT KIND OF STROLLER DO YOU WANT? SINGLE, DOUBLE?
I guess this just depends on how many kids you have or plan to have! If you only have one, you probably only need a single stroller like a Britax B-Agile. Makes sense, right? Or, maybe you only have one child now, but you're planning on having others in the future, so you're looking for a single stroller that will grow with your family like the Baby Jogger City Select with the purchase of the City Select's second seat kit. Some strollers can be used for anywhere from 1 to 3 kids! A stroller like this with the capabilities to carry one, two, or even three children is a great investment to make. This way you save yourself the money and trouble of buying a new stroller every time a new little bundle of joy comes along. Keep in mind that double strollers can cost anywhere from $300-800 for a decent one, but an additional second seat only costs around $180 for strollers that can grow with you. This means that you may pay more up-front for a double modular stroller, but it will be cheaper in the long run. Plus, a pro-tip here - family and friends are MUCH more willing to help you out on buying that really nice stroller for your first child rather then your second. Just a fact of life.
HOW EASY IS IT TO PUSH THE STROLLER?
You'd better believe that not every stroller is created equal. Some strollers push smoother than others, and some take bumps better than others - it's just a fact. This is yet another area where you will want to consider your lifestyle.
- Are you a mall crawler or a city dweller? You will want a stroller that is easy to maneuver so you can get in-between those small spaces or crowds of people easily!
- Or are you a jogger or a park-goer? Then you are going to want something that handles bumps well so that your little ones' bottoms won't be sore after a long day of adventuring!
If you come to The Baby Cubby we'll let you push-test our strollers to your hearts content on our cubby stroller track! We let you test out all types of terrains like gravel, cobble, wood chips, and more. We always suggest to take two or three strollers out to our track and compare how they feel! If you are not local, we definitely recommend that you ask the store if you can take the strollers out for a test drive on the side walk or parking lot. If there's a patch of grass next to the store, take the stroller over that and see how it does. If you're a jogger definitely do a few laps around the parking lot. Try pushing the stroller with one hand and see if it is easy or not. Try sharp turns versus wide turns. Basically, do the most you possibly can with the stroller prior to purchasing it - that way you will know that you made the right choice!
DO YOU LIKE THE SEAT OPTIONS?
Ok, we're going to get technical for just a second. Strollers are referred to as: single modular, double modular, single-seated, or double-seated. "Modular" and "double modular" mean that there are either one or two seats that can each change directions (so on a single modular stroller there is only one seat that can either face forward or face towards you. On a double modular stroller there are two seats that can face forward, face towards you, or face each other). Single-seated or double-seated strollers refer to classic strollers where the seats can only face forward. A single-seated stroller may only accommodate one seat that will only face forwards. A double-seated stroller is a classic side-by-side. Although the initial thought that comes to mind when thinking of a side-by-side stroller is that they must be huge; in reality, side-by-side strollers are often only the width of one-and-a-half of their single counterparts. Some things to consider when deciding what you would like out of your stroller seats:
- Do you want the convenience of having your infant who is too big to sit in their car seat now, but too small to be all alone in their seat, to be able to face towards you so you can keep an eye on them?
- What is the weight capacity of each seat? Sometimes the second-seats on double modular strollers can have a lower weight capacity.
- If you already have both of your children, do they play well together or do they tend to aggravate each other? If they tend to aggravate each other you may want to consider a double seated stroller so each child has their own space.
- Do you usually use your stroller in wide open spaces or in smaller ones? Double seated strollers are wider, whereas double modular strollers are usually in-line strollers.
- How far back are you able to recline the seat? This can determine the age at which you can begin to use the seat with an infant.
- Is the canopy and harness height adjustable? This is definitely a consideration especially when you have taller children.
- What kind of a fold are you looking for? Single and double seated strollers tend to have a more convenient quick-fold, whereas single or double modular strollers tend to have a two-handed fold.
DO I WANT MORE THAN ONE STROLLER?
Most families own 2-3 strollers. One is almost always a full-sized stroller and the second is usually an umbrella stroller. The third occurs if they run and are in need of a jogging stroller. Why so many? Because each one offers a different set of features. A full-sized stroller is convenient for those day trips where your littles are going to need to be sitting for a long period of time, possibly taking naps in the stroller. An umbrella is ideal for parents with older children who may just need a place to sit for a minute before bouncing out again. And the joggers, well, that's self explanatory. If you do not want to purchase more than one stroller then you will want to consider the following:
- Are you a jogger? If so, then consider a jogging stroller that is more of a hybrid - not incredibly bulky and extra-large tires, but smaller tires and a smaller footprint.
- Are you wanting to use only an umbrella stroller? There are deluxe umbrella strollers that sacrifice few features for the convenience. However, only a few are capable of becoming a travel system and being used from birth. Look for umbrella strollers that are able to fully recline or have a car seat attached like the UPPAbaby G-Luxec or the Nuna Pepp.
- How many children are you having? I know, personal question here. If you are having more than one child and planning on them being fairly close together then you will want to consider a full stroller that is single and double modular. This will give you the benefit of growing with your family. They are often great for brisk walks as well. Or, if you're wanting something more heavy-duty if you're having multiples, the Valco Baby Twin Tri-Mode is a great option - it can hold up to 4 children and is an all-terrain stroller so you can use it anywhere.
CAN I USE THIS STROLLER FOR JOGGING?
Most hybrid strollers will allow you to take a brisk walk or a [very] slow jog, but there are only a few strollers on the market that are true joggers. In order to protect your baby from the inevitable jarring
shocks that a baby will experience while you jog you need a true jogging stroller. What makes up a "true jogger?"
- Large, air-filled tires: These will both reduce the shock and stress that your baby will experience and they offer a reduced rolling surface which will in turn reduce the amount of effort you need in order to push the stroller. Most joggers offer rear tires that are 16" in diameter and a front tire that is 12" in diameter.
- Suspension system: You want to look for a stroller that has a great suspension system. Most have shock absorbers on each tire and a sling-type seat that takes out even more of the shock. The name of the game here is reduced stress on your child. This will make longer jogs better for both you.
- Locking front wheel: The reason that this is important is because an unlocked front wheel can create serious vibrations on the stroller which makes running uncomfortable for both you and baby. The wheel may also get caught on something and veer off, causing the stroller to tip over and possibly injuring your child. If you are a serious runner look for joggers that allow for tuning of the front wheel. This will help you achieve a perfectly straight tire.
- The front wheel is ahead of the stroller: The best joggers have the front wheel positioned in front of the stroller (so that it is not underneath baby). This allows for any up and down movement the wheel may experience when going over bumps, protecting baby from any added stress.
- Seat angle: True joggers will always have a slightly reclined seat, even when in the "fully upright" position. Why? Because again, it reduces the stress placed on your child's body. When taking those hard bumps, the force will be spread throughout their head, back, and bottom instead of just their spinal column due to the slight recline of the seat.
If you are planning on jogging a lot with baby, consider all of the above features in each stroller you look at. Keep in mind as well that it is never recommended to jog with an infant before they are 6 months old, and even then you should consult your pediatrician prior to running with them.
There are a few other features that we need to take into consideration as they will effect the functionality of your stroller.
- The storage basket. Although you may not use this right at the beginning, you will most likely utilize the storage basket the older your children get. So, what do you need to consider when looking at a stroller?
- Strength: If you are a city dweller this will be especially important as you may be placing groceries and other heavy items in the basket. Most baskets have a weight capacity of about 15-20lbs, but some can accommodate up to 50lbs (almost as much as the seat on the stroller!)
- Size: This is important for city dwellers, park goers, and mall crawlers. You are all going to need a storage basket that is on the larger side to place your groceries, outdoor toys, and shopping bags. If your first item takes up the entire space then you're kind of out of luck, though!
- Ease of Access: This is a BIG one for anyone! Make sure that at whatever angle the seat is at you will be able to easily access the basket. Some baskets have a size zipper that you can unzip when the child is reclined - nifty feature, eh?
- Adjustable handle bars are the next feature you need to consider. There are two types of adjustable handles: telescoping and pivot. A telescoping handle bar can be adjusted for taller or shorter individuals by sliding in and out of the frame. The angle of the handle will remain the same no matter the height. A pivot handle bar adjusts by moving up and down from a fixed point on the frame. The angle will change and this can sometimes make the handle taller, but most likely at an awkward angle. If you are shorter a pivoting handle should fit you will as there will only be times where you will be in taller or shorter shoes. But, if you or your spouse are taller you will definitely want to look at strollers with telescoping handles.
- The sun shade is the often left-out feature (because all shades are created equal, right? Wrong!). There are a few things to know about how shades
work for each type of stroller, though!
- Full-sized strollers: These shades are often large enough that they will cover a child's entire body from the sun, leaving just their legs exposed. Some have extra flip-out sun shades that basically place your child in a bubble to protect them from the sun and it's rays like the Nuna Mixx!
- Umbrella stroller: Obviously, these generally have the smallest (or zero) shades. Because these are usually made with older children in mind manufacturers figure that these kids will most likely have a hat and sun glasses on. There are a few deluxe umbrella strollers you can purchase, but most of them still leave something to be desired.
- Joggers: The sun shades on these are extra large and often can be moved all the way forward. This is so that if you are running straight into the sun, your child will be completely shielded from it and continue playing their game or taking a nap!
- The seat size is something you will probably have to think about before your little one arrives and before you know what they'll be like. You're going to have to guess about how long you're going to want to use your stroller for (or have the ability to use it). Although almost all stroller seats go up to a 50lb weight limit, not all of those seats are the same length or the same height. If you and your spouse are taller or you have taller children, get a seat that is going to accommodate a tall child.
- Included and available stroller accessories are an important feature for anyone. Some strollers come with car seat adapters, others have them available as an extra purchase. Some come with everything you would possibly want, others do not. So, what kind of accessories are you wanting for sure and what can you live without? What is the cost of the them for one brand versus another brand?
- The stroller weight is an important factor for everybody, but especially city dwellers, mall crawlers and joggers. If you are walking around town, lifting a stroller in an out of a car frequently, or jogging you are going to have to be pushing that stroller for long periods of time with a child anywhere from 5-50lbs inside. That's a lot of weight! When testing out a strollerfold it up and then lift it. If it is not too difficult for you then you should be able to push it for long periods of time and put it in and out of a car no problem!
- Ask yourself: how easy is it to fold this stroller? A good amount of full-sized strollers now have a one-hand quick fold. These are great options for those that are constantly on the go or want the convenience. Other full-sized strollers require a two-handed fold that is usually not as quick but still easy.
- Tire Specifications are one last thing to think about. Tires determine how well your stroller will take bumps as well as maneuverability.
- Small, hard tires: These are the most common types of tires. Often made from hard plastic they are easily dented and not suitable for uneven surfaces. These types of strollers are ideal for those who only use their stroller indoors.
- Hybrid tires: These tires are common to higher-end full-size strollers. They have a hard plastic outer layer with a layer of foam on the inside. The idea is that these wheels will provide the same control over rough terrain as all-terrain without having to worry about the tire deflating.
- All-terrain tires: These tires are common to jogging and all-terrain strollers. Since they function like regular bike tires they handle rough terrain extremely well. You will need to watch out for tire deflation from time-to-time though just like with a regular bicycle tire.
Phew! That was a lot of information! But good job, you made it through. Now, remember: for most you will never find that "perfect stroller" that has every single feature you want. The goal is to find the stroller that best fits you. If you are local to Utah come on down to our baby store in Lindon, Ut where our Cubby Mom's will be ecstatic to try and help you find the stroller best for your lifestyle. If you are not local, feel free to call the store anytime to chat with one of them! Good luck!
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