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Toddlers and roads do not mix, period. As they start to assert their independence, they become reluctant to hold hands or sit in the stroller and you have to look for a way to keep them safe. Once upon a time the only choice was whether the reins you bought would be made of leather or webbing, but today there is a far greater choice of restraints available. Once two year Freddy had started walking I knew it was time to look for a suitable restraint and rather than going down the old-fashioned harness route, I decided to try a combined backpack and wrist-strap, and the Lindam Toddler Runner in particular. With Lindam being established in the field of child safety over many years, I felt this was a manufacturer I could trust, especially as I already have two of their safety gates in place and have used their harnesses over the last twenty years.
The Lindam Toddler Runner cost me a very reasonable £9.95 from Argos, but it is also available from Amazon for a similar price. The backpack/harness section fits neatly over the child's head and is secured via a clip under each arm. The harness is fully adjustable, with both the shoulder and chest straps being made of webbing that can be easily lengthened and shortened via a buckle arrangement. This means that the harness will fit over Freddy's thickly padded winter coat, but can be adjusted to also give a good fit when he is only wearing a T-Shirt. Freddy is a fairly chunky child and there is plenty of room for growth, while at it's smallest it should give quite a snug fit for the more petite child. While the straps are made of webbing, the remainder of the backpack and harness section are formed of a tough, flexible, waterproof, plastic-like material that is easy to wipe clean. There is slight padding across the back and up into the shoulder area, which reduces chaffing and makes wearing the harness more comfortable for the child. What I particularly like about this harness is that there are several pieces of highly reflective material added, which makes it easier for motorists to see the child in the dark.
The actual backpack has a zipped opening and while the zip runs smoothly, it is not quite as child-friendly as it could be. Personally I feel it would have been better if the zip was a lot chunkier as this would have made it easier for Freddy to manage on his own. There isn't an awful lot of room in the backpack, we can just about fit a small fruit shoot and a snack pack, but to be honest if it held any more it would probably be too heavy for Freddy to carry. At the top back of the backpack there is a padded handle that can either be used by the child to hold the back pack (minus the strap) or by the parent to hold the child wearing it close at hand. I also find this handle perfect for hanging the backpack on a stroller handle or coat hook when it's not in use.
The parent strap is detachable and connects to a small webbing hook just below the handle. The clip that attaches to the strap is difficult for me to remove, and almost impossible for Freddy to operate. The majority of the strap is once more made of webbing, while the handle is made of the same material as the backpack, only slightly padded to add a small element of comfort. At approximately 60cm the strap is a good length, that allows you to hold onto the handle while still giving your child a little freedom, but not allowing them to move more than a step or two away from you. While tending slightly more to the masculine side the Runner's colour-scheme is still unisex, with the bright blue, yellow, red and orange making it easy to spot your child if they are wearing it while in a park full of children.
We've been using this harness/backpack for about six months now and it goes everywhere with us when out and about. I find it easy to put onto Freddy and he loves wearing it, knowing that he is going to be allowed to walk rather than be confined to his stroller. I find it easy to adjust the straps so that there is a good fit and none of the straps rub, and I find the clips easy to open and close, while Freddy cannot manage to undo them himself. Although I always insist that Freddy also holds hands when on the street, the harness gives me that little extra peace of mind that should I let go he will be unable to move further than a couple of steps away from me. Where this harness comes most in useful is when we make one of our regular trips to the zoo. Not only does Freddy feel a little more grown up carrying his own drink and snack, but it also gives him the illusion that he is free to explore, while still allowing me to keep control and prevent him getting into dangerous situations. As with all wrist-strap style restraints, extra care needs to be taken when using lifts and other automatically closing doors (such as on trains and buses), it's not something that's ever happened to me, but I have heard of doors closing so that the parent is on one side and the child on the other with the strap in-between and there is no safety release mechanism.
The strap has held well even when Freddy has tried pulling against it with all his strength, but I will say that the parent's handle is not as comfortable as it could be. I've never got any blisters, but the material it is made of is quite stiff and it does rub the area between the thumb and forefinger leaving it a little tender and red after a long day out and about. Luckily, I've never noticed any redness on Freddy's shoulders after the same long day though (even when worn over a T-shirt).
If you are looking for a safety restraint for an older toddler, I can't recommend the Lindam Toddler Runner enough. Unlike a regular harness it doesn't look at all babyish and the back-pack element means that the child gets a sense of feeling grown up carrying their own snack. While in no way a substitute for holding hands, it provides an extra little piece of mind that allows your toddler a little freedom while also keeping them safe. If you toddler is newly walking and a little unsteady on their feet then I would suggest leaving this style of restraint until they are a little older as unlike a traditional harness it will not help keep a stumbling child on their feet. But if they are steady then this is perfect and by removing the strap can be used simply as a backpack once the need for the restraint has passed. I'm going to give the Lindam Toddler Runner four stars out of five, with the loss of that star being down to the slightly uncomfortable parent's handle.