A child harness (alternative: child tether, walking harness, British English: walking reins) is a safety device worn by children when walking with a parent or carer. Child harnesses are most commonly used with toddlers and children of preschool age, though they may also be used with older children, especially if they have special supervisory needs such as ADHD or autism. Typically, a harness consists of waist, shoulder and sometimes crotch straps with a lead (tether) or rein attaching behind. However, a simpler version consisting of a single strap connecting the child's wrist (sometimes called a wrist link) or waist to an adult is also common.
Child harnesses are designed to provide safety for a child when walking by preventing them from being separated from their parent or carer. Additionally, some may be used to make a child stay seated in a stroller or high chair. Typically used for children between one and four years of age, the use of a child harness depends on a variety of factors including the age and maturity of the child, as well as any perceived dangers such as busy roads, large crowds, and potential distractions. Other factors such as neurological and health conditions may also be considered, especially for older children with special supervisory requirements.
The devices are becoming more popular, which has prompted retailers to add more designs. Newer versions often include a backpack or a stuffed animal, with the lead attaching underneath, which softens the appearance.
A harness usually consists of a waist or chest strap, and two shoulder straps. A walking lead or rein attaches at the back or sides and is held by the parent or carer behind the child. Some harnesses can also be used to make a child stay seated in a stroller or high chair. While originally made of leather, modern webbing versions are lighter, often washable, and more compact to store.
Harnesses are being designed for use with children from either birth or six months and up to four years of age.
A wrist link (sometimes called a wrist strap or wrist rein), is a simple length of webbing with loops at each end. One loop is worn on the child's wrist, and the other is held by the parent or carer. Usually, the loops are adjustable for size, and the strap often features an elastic section to prevent injury by absorbing shock from any sudden movements. Some wrist links use a strong coiled plastic line instead of webbing.
Similar to harnesses, wrist links are normally used for children between one and four years of age, however they are sometimes used with older children who have outgrown a harness.
Backpack harnesses integrate the functions of a child harness and a backpack. Designs may be based around a basic backpack, a stuffed animal, or well-known children's entertainment character. Backpack harnesses have many of the same features as standard harnesses, but are designed to be more appealing for the child, parent, or onlookers.
Similar to standard harnesses, backpack harnesses are normally used with children between one and four years of age.
Sometimes older children and adolescents also wear harnesses but in larger sizes. This may occur in for instance in especially crowded areas, where the risk of getting lost is substantial, but also for children who have special supervision requirements due to health or behavioral conditions.
Within the European Union, child harnesses and reins have to fulfil standards and safety requirements as defined in EN 13210:2004. This norm applies to devices for restraining children up to 4 years of age including harnesses and wrist links for the purpose of walking or attaching them to child care articles; excluding devices that are an integral feature of other child care articles, intended for children with special needs or restraints in motorised and power driven vehicles.
The norm refers to the general safety of toys in regards to mechanical and physical properties, sharp edges and protruding corners, small parts, and the migration of dangerous substances including heavy metals or nickel.
The norm requires all straps and belts to have a minimum width of 20 mm, defines adjustment to minimal sizes for waist and shoulder straps or wrist loops, depending on the product being used from birth or from six months of age. It does not define any maximal sizes for the straps, with the exception of the walking rein not to be longer than 1200 mm.
The walking rein is considered a leading rein when attached to a single point on the waist belt and a training rein when attached to both sides of the waist belt.
No adjustment mechanism may slip more than 20 mm when pulled 10 times with a force of 100 N.
For the dynamic strength test, the harness type restraint is applied to a test dummy, consisting of a bag (300 mm x 470 mm) filled with compacted sand that is hung from a rack. The wrist link is simply hung into the rack with closed wrist loops.
In all tests, the restraint is statically preloaded with a test mass of 20 kg, attached to the rein hanging down from its defined attachment point(s), via a spiral wire spring (stiffness 28000 N/m). Within the 20 kg, a dynamic load of 13 kg is moveable so it can fall 300 mm within the construction, creating a dynamic impact.
The dynamic test requires the dynamic load within 5 minutes to be released 5 times to fall the 300 mm. The restraint being tested must not break, stitchings and link elements must not being damaged and the device must remain fully functional.
Finally, the restraint has to carry durable markings referring to this norm and year (EN 13210:2004), identification of manufacturer or retailer and the product, and cleaning instructions. Instructions, in summary, have to provide certain warnings about dangerous situations, the intended age range of the child, fitting and wearing instructions, signs of wear or damage, and the information not to leave the child unattended even when harnessed.
A new version of the standard is under preparation (currently draft prEN 13210:2019-04), in which part -1 will focus on Children's harnesses, reins and part -2 on Children's harnesses incorporating backpacks and reins.
There exists a difference of opinion on the use of child harnesses, where some approve and others do not. Some adults disapprove of the use of child harnesses. Those in favor argue that both safety and freedom are improved compared to hand-holding or confinement of children to strollers. In other cases, caregivers who are experienced with children with special needs may find the practice of using child safety harnesses to encourage neglect rather than attentive childcare. Those opposed to their use prefer restraining children through hand-holding or confinement to strollers.
- Mann, Effie (14 April 2013). "Parents take lead on child restraints". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- British Standards Institution. (November 2004). BS EN 13210:2004 Child Use and Care Articles — Children’s Harnesses, Reins and Similar Type Articles — Safety Requirements and Test Methods
- Minett, Pamela. Child Care and Development, 7th Edn. London: Hodder Education, 2017. p.120
- The National Autistic Society, (2017) Autism Services Directory. Available: http://www.autism.org.uk/directory/resources/4262.aspx. Accessed: December 28, 2017
- Autism World Magazine, Resources for Special Needs Handbook (MagsWest Publishing Pty. Ltd., 2015), p.44
- Draft BS EN 13210-2 Child care articles. - Part 2: Children's harnesses incorporating backpacks and reins - Safety requirements and test methods
- Murphy, Eliza (25 June 2012). "Extreme Parenting: To Leash or Not to Leash?". ABC News. Archived from the original on 27 June 2012. Retrieved 2016-03-10.