Family travel essentials – when you should consider using toddler reins
Before I had children of my own, I remember first encountering a toddler tethered to his mum by a harness and reins. I remember thinking, How incredibly ridiculous is that? She can’t even keep her bub under control enough to let him move around on his own. When I’m a mum, I will never resort to such foolishness.
And then I had my own children. Oh, how I wish I could travel back in time and apologize profusely for my ignorance.
As you might imagine, using harnesses or backpacks with reins can be an incredibly divisive parenting issue. In terms of travelling and going to events with your children, undoubtedly toddler reins can be greatly beneficial. They can also be stress-relieving for parents of special needs children who require secure boundaries.
We’re here to help you find the Best Toddler Reins for any situation, and we won’t judge you one bit. Trust us, we know the terror of losing a toddler in an airport, and we wouldn’t wish that panic on anyone!
This post is part of our Travels with Toddler advice series – you can find all our tried & tested toddler gear for travel here
What To Look For In Toddler Reins
You may be asking yourself, are reins actually good for toddlers? So, before we introduce the different types of toddler reins, let’s go over the pros and cons of using them.
As previously stated, the use of this particular product is a hot button parenting issue for several reasons. However, many parents swear by toddler reins and call them a lifesaver while travelling.
Pros and Cons of Toddler Reins
- Allows child to have freedom of movement
- Child can walk next to you without having to hold on to your hand
- Less bulky alternative to stroller in airports and crowded places
- Most are easily stored in your diaper bag
- Greatly beneficial when traveling with more than one child
- Allows you to keep child close by in potentially dangerous areas
- You’ll be negatively judged for using them
- If a child tries to run while you’re holding the reins, they could fall and be injured
- A child could experience humiliation due to reaction from others
- Lacks physical reassurance of hand-holding
Features of Good Toddler Reins
Adjustable Tether Length: It’s helpful to be able to adjust the length of the tether strap to fit different traveling and social situations. Some tethers also have shock absorbing features for added flexibility.
Durable Tether Material: The last thing you want is for the tether to snap after the first or second use. Choose a toddler harness, backpack, or wrist rein made with extra durable material.
Comfortable Straps: Your bub’s comfort comes first, so choosing a harness or backpack with reins with padded straps and even weight distribution is key.
Easy to Clean: You’ll want to choose toddler reins that are washable or at least waterproof, since there is a good chance you’ll be using them outdoors. Young children are also notoriously messy, and there is a solid chance that the reins may end up wearing some of that ice cream from the amusement park stand.
Different Types of Toddler Reins
Toddler Harness: This style of toddler reins is simply a harness that fits around your child’s torso or upper body and has a leash attachment. Many toddler harnesses come in bright colors or have wing designs to catch your bub’s interest.
Backpack with Reins: Similar to a harness, this style has a buckle that fastens across your bub’s chest and a backpack to store items such as snacks and that essential toy that just can’t be left at home. The leash attachment clips to the backpack and can be removed.
Wrist Link: These reins are adjustable cuffs that go around yours and your child’s wrists and are connected with a flexible coiled tether.
In general, are reins safe? When used mindfully and correctly, yes. Here are some general safety tips for any type of toddler reins that you choose:
- Practice using the harness with your child at home first. They need to be able to understand your expectations and their limitations while wearing it, otherwise a public meltdown is a virtual certainty.
- Make sure not to fasten the harness or wrist link too tightly. Work on communication with your bub and check with them frequently to make sure they’re comfortable.
- Be mindful of the limitation of your child’s movement. It will be a learning process for your little one to figure out how to keep their balance and just what the range restrictions are with their new safety reins.
Best Toddler Reins
Toddler reins are a fairly inexpensive purchase for the peace of mind they bring. Here are our favourites in each of the different styles:
|Diono Sure Steps Safety Harness and Reins||Harness||1 to 4 years||Extra long straps great for winterwear
|HappyVk Safety Harness for Kids||Harness||1 to 4 years||Can be attached to an adult waist band
Adjustable leash length to 6.6'
|Blisstime 2 in 1 Toddler Leash -Anti Lost Wrist Link for Toddlers||Harness||1 to 4 years||Coiled teether 6.6'
wrsit link only for 4 years +
|Brica by-My-Side Toddler Safety Harness Backpack with Leash||Backpack||18 months +||Tether is 3'
Good size backpack
|Yisibo Kids Backpack with Safety Leash||Backpack||1 to 4 years||Tether is 4'
|Goldbug Animal 2-in-1 Safety Harness||Backpack||18 months +||Tether is 3'
Storage pocket not full backpack
|Blisstime Anti Lost Wrist Link Safety Wrist Link||Wrist Link||4 years +||Extends to 5'|
|Betertek Anti Lost Wrist Link with Magnetic Induction Lock 2 Pack||Wrist Link||n/a||2 pack with 4.9' and 8.2' options|
|DUALOVE Upgraded Anti Lost Wrist Link||Wrist Link||2 years +||Velcro straps
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Best Harness Backpacks for Toddlers
Our Top Choice: Diono Sure Steps Safety Harness and Reins
Sometimes the best choice is the simplest one, and this couldn’t be more true for the Diono Sure Steps Safety Harness. This light and compact toddler harness can easily be stored in a purse or diaper bag while travelling, and it easily adjusts to grow with your bub.
- Comfortable, supportive straps
- Intended for children ages 1-4
- 4′ strap with a wrist loop
- Lightweight and washable
- Extra-long shoulder straps to fit over winter clothing
- 4” wide velcro fastener for extra secure closure
- Swivel clip prevents strap tangles
- Product Dimensions: 45 x 10 x 10 inches
- Leash can be held or attached to included adjustable belt
- Heavy-duty metal clips and D-rings for connecting leash
- Adult waistband has an adjustable length from 28”-49”
- Leash length can be adjusted from 39” to 78”
- Safety harness is made to fit children 1-4 years of age
- Harness made of breathable lightweight mesh material
- Clean by wiping down with a wet cloth
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.5 x 7.1 inches
Pros: We like that the leash clip is centered on the back of the harness, making it easier to distribute tension if an adult has to pull on the tether. Everything is adjustable, making it a versatile choice for children and adults of different sizes.
Cons: The adult belt may not fit those with fuller figures, and the harness could use more upper body support for the child.
- Anti-lost wrist link can be attached to harness or to included children’s wrist link
- Coiled tether extends to 6.6 ft
- Padded, adjustable shoulder straps
- Wrist links made with double-layered, breathable cotton material
- Metal connectors have 360 degree rotation
- Harness intended for children ages 1-4
- Wrist link intended for children 4+
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.34 x 2.36 inches
Pros: It’s nice to have the option of the wrist link or the harness, depending on the situation you’re using them in. The flexible coil instead of a strap tether also lessens the possibility of whiplash if your child tries to go beyond their limits.
Cons: The harness may not be able to be adjusted tightly enough for very young toddlers or children who are small for their age.
Best Harness Backpacks for Toddlers
We now have a detailed guide that looks at harness backpacks for toddlers in much more detail over here – our favourites below!
The quality that sets this Brica By-My-Side Toddler Safety Harness Backpack apart is the shock absorbing removable tether and added pockets to allow for extra storage.
- Roomy compartments and pockets, including a toy loop
- Swivel clips keep tether from getting tangled
- Shoulder and side straps adjust to fit your child snuggly
- Shock absorbing tether extends to 3 ft
- Available in a variety of colors
- Reflective safety strips for added nighttime visibility
- Perfect size for children 18 months and over
- Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 7.8 x 2.8 inches
- Fun, engaging designs
- Detachable padded tether
- Breathable mesh fabric
- Ergonomic, padded straps
- Waterproof neoprene material
- Adjustable shoulder and chest straps
- Tether length is approximately 4 ft.
- Intended for children ages 1-4 years
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 3.5 x 8.3 Inch
Pros: This backpack is just the right size for small children and is perfect for the space-obsessed bub in your life. It’s roomy and lightweight, and the transparent front pocket adds a fun element to this creatively designed backpack with reins.
Cons: The tether is not adjustable, and the product does not say it is machine washable.
- Available in a variety of plush animal versions
- Storage pocket on the back of the plush animal
- Available tether attaches on the bottom of the harness
- Double chest straps for added stability and support
- Polyester material
- Tether length is 3ft.
- Intended for ages 18 months and up
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 4.5 x 12.6 inches
Pros: Many children love having a stuffed animal as a comfort toy when they travel, so this definitely fits the bill. The small storage compartment on this reins backpack for toddlers is useful for snacks and other small toys.
Cons: This toddler reins backpack may be hard to wash, as with stuffed animals in general. The rein is quite short and may not be ideal for very young children in terms of height difference.
Best Wrist Strap/Rein for toddler safety
Rather than sitting over the child’s shoulders, a wrist band is less restrictive in their overall movement and designed for having your child stroll nearby without becoming separated in a crowd. Best attached to another grown-ups wrist although it can be used attached to a stroller if you are pushing along younger siblings.
Our Top Pick: Blisstime Anti Lost Wrist Link Safety Wrist Link
The Blisstime Anti-Lost Wrist Link is easy to wear, simple to adjust, and the connecting rein is made of stainless steel wire encased in plastic. The durable construction eases our fears of getting separated in a crowded area, and it also provides your child with a reasonable amount of freedom.
- Shrinking rein extends to almost 5 ft
- Child’s wrist strap can be adjusted up to 5.5 inches
- Soft double layers of hook and loop
- Connecting rein made of stainless steel wire
- Metal connectors have 360-degree rotation
- Intended for children 4 years and older
- Easily stored in nappy sack or purse
- Product Dimensions: 6.89 x 4.41 x 1.69 inches
- Magnetic unlock design
- Reflective strip to increase nighttime visibility
- Comes in 2-pack with multiple rein lengths
- Rein made from anti-cut stainless steel materials
- Wrist straps made with ultra-soft breathable padding
- Rein lengths extend to 4.92 ft (pink) and 8.2 ft (blue)
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 1.5 inches
Pros: The magnetic induction lock adds an extra level of security.
Cons: For those concerned with gender-specific colors, having a set of only blue and only pink wrist links would be more reasonable.
- Induction lock with sturdy snaps
- 360-degree rotation stainless steel cuff links
- Adjustable wristband made with super soft air cotton
- Wrist link connecting rope engineered with tough 301 Steel
- Waterproof velcro straps
- Wrist rein extends to 6.6 ft.
- Intended for children ages 2 years and older
Pros: Wrist straps are very comfortable and keep children securely connected while giving them added freedom with the generous 6.6 ft. length.
Cons: Some reviewers found the length a bit too stretchy and generous, and preferred something shorter to keep children closer.
Will toddler reins suit your travel needs?
Although we’re ALL aware that traveling and being in crowded areas is not encouraged at present, life will eventually resume a somewhat normal rhythm, and venturing into new territories will once again be a possibility for your family.
We hope that we’ve given you some excellent and practical options for the Best Toddler Reins to help your child stay safe while still providing them with the freedom to explore.
Want more toddler travel product tips?
We have taken plenty of worldwide adventures with our little ones – and travel at this age isn’t always light when it comes to gear, but still oh so worthwhile! Here are just some of our favourite picks for the best toddler gear to invest in:
- The best carriers & hiking backpacks for toddlers – on longer treks, there are no guarantees even a confident walker will make it all the way; it’s well worth investing in a suitable carrier if you plan on hitting the trails with a toddler.
- Portable cots & toddler beds – ideal if you don’t like the idea of borrowed cots and your tot sleeps well in their own bed; here are the best portable sleep solutions from baby to toddler age.
- The best compact & lightweight strollers – so small they can even fit on a plane! Here are the best ultra-compacts worth investing in for frequent travellers.
- Top items we pack in our toddler’s backpack – no need to overpack for the toddler age group, here are some essentials you’ll want though on a longer journey.
- The best car seat travel bag – don’t chance it when checking your value valuable toddler travel gear in a plane hold. Protect your car seats on the move with these car seat travel bags.
You’ll find all our favourite toddler travel gear over on the toddler travel essentials home page.
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