The Best Child Leashes to Buy in 2021

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on June 10th, 2021

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When you’re out in public with your little ones, keeping them safe and secure is your first priority. However, when you’re in situations that include large crowds or potential hazards, or when you’re the only one wrangling a few youngsters, doing so can be tough without a safety device like a child leash. Of course, when buying important gear like this, it’s important to know you’re making a pick will hold up to your child’s size and your usage needs, so take a look at our rundown of the best child leashes of 2020 as well as a handy guide to choosing the type that’s right for your family.

Buyer’s Guide

What are the most important safety tips to follow when using a leash or harness for my child?

  • Make sure the leash is not fastened too tightly: Your child’s leash needs to be fastened tightly enough that they can’t pull or slip out of it, but not so tightly that it’s squeezing their skin. Leashes that are too loose can be dangerously ineffective, while those that are too tight can be uncomfortable and may lead to fussing and rejection of the device.
  • Never leave kids unattended while they’re in the device: While leashes and harnesses are perfectly safe with proper use and supervision, it’s not safe to leave your child in the device unattended. They may unintentionally asphyxiate themselves with the strap, so the best safety practice is to make sure to remove the strap as soon as you’re done using it.
  • Make sure kids have a chance to practice their movement at home: Learning to use the leash and move in tandem will require some trial and error, and practicing at home first can take a lot of frustration and embarrassment out of the learning process. Practice adjusting the device to a comfortable and safe level of tightness, and practice walking around the yard slowly and safely to give your child a chance to observe their range of movement and get used to the way the leash feels.

What are my options when choosing a safety restraint for my child?

  • Harness: This restraint typically slips on like a life vest, and is secured with the use of adjustable straps and buckles at the front or rear of the device. A strap is attached to the back of the harness, which connects to a secured wrist strap worn by a parent or adult.
  • Backpack: As the name indicates, this restraint slips over the shoulders of your child like a backpack, and tends to offer a little bit of storage space for their (and your) on-the-go essentials. An adjustable connecting strap and buckle at the front of the restraint helps to stop it from slipping off your child’s shoulders. With these devices, the strap typically connects to the underside of the backpack and is attacked to a secured wrist cuff worn by a parent or adult.
  • Wrist strap: The most casual of these devices, this restraint is generally preferred for older kids who may no longer fit into or wish to use backpack and harness leashes. The restraint consists simply of two secure, adjustable wrist cuffs, one worn by a parent or adult and the other worn by a child.

How do I know if a child leash is appropriate for my situation?

  • Will we be dealing with a large crowd?: If you’ll be attending a big event like a concert, show, festival, or fair, keeping your child safe and close to you is priority number one; however, carrying a walking-age child all day can be exhausting. A harness or leash can free up your arms and let your little one explore without safety concerns.
  • Will we be near something hazardous?: While they’re a lot of fun for kids, trips to places like the zoo or a body of water can take a tragic turn if children are left unsupervised. If your little one is a runner who’s too small to know better and you’re planning a trip where that can be dangerous, a restraint can let you both enjoy the day while keeping them safe.
  • Am I the only adult caring for multiple children?: Any adult who’s ever managed juggling more than one child at once knows that it’s not easy to do. If you need to be sure everyone is safely contained, a restraint system might be appropriate.
  • Does the struggle to keep my kids in check prevent me from going out when I otherwise would?: If you’re finding yourself looking for ways to keep the kids entertained at home because going out is too chaotic, you may benefit from the use of a leash, harness, or wrist strap to keep them close and under control.
  • Are my kids old enough to understand basic safety?: When kids are little, they’re not able to use judgment to know when it’s important to stay close to you. If you want your little one to have the freedom to walk on his or her own two feet without the danger of wandering off, you may make good use out of a leash or restraint.

Our picks of the best child leashes

Editors Choice

Our opinion

Recommended age: 1 – 4 years
Restraint style: Harness
Color(s): Navy
Theme: None
Strap length: 14 – 25 inches

One of the more significant obstacles in finding a restraint system that works for your little one is their ability to tolerate the device. If they don’t like it, they’ll quickly let you know, and comfortable, minimalist picks like the Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper (check price on Amazon) often feel the least invasive to toddlers. The extendable strap can be adjusted from 30 inches to 42 inches, so it’s easy to give your kiddo more room to roam as they grow.

Putting on the harness only takes one simple over-the-shoulder motion, and padded straps mean it feels just as cozy as their car seat. The strap attaches to the harness with a clip that’s placed closer to your toddler’s neck, which is great for helping to prevent falls when using the harness with younger tots.

What we love
  • It’s a simple, non-invasive harness that often works for kids who reject other restraints
  • Both the strap and the harness can be adjusted, so it grows with your child; the strap is also attached near the top rear rather than the bottom, which is better for preventing falls in young children
Watch for
  • Adjusting the shoulder straps is a bit tight and can take some getting used to

Best For Evening Use

Our opinion

Recommended age: 2 – 12 years
Restraint style: Harness
Color(s): Blue and white
Theme: Elephant / reflective
Strap length: Up to 6.5 feet

After the sun goes down, reflective gear goes a long way in keeping kids safe from harm. This Reflective Toddler Harnes(check price on Amazon) keeps safety in focus, offering illumination in dim light which allows both parents and children to easily spot the harness, wrist cuff, and shrinking chain strap. It’s a simple over-the-shoulder harness with a bit of extra padding for their comfort and buckles which adjust for a secure and proper fit.

The shrinking chain coils for easy storage, and is crafted from plastic-coated stainless steel to be virtually unbreakable. It’s great for evening events where you’d rather skip the stroller, as kids can roam within a safe distance and there’s no clunky gear to contend with.

What we love
  • The addition of reflective coating makes it easy to spot the harness, cuff, and shrinking chain, even in dim light
  • It allows you to skip the stroller at evening events without having to carry your little one all night
Watch for
  • The harness is a bit dense and not very breathable, so it can be hot when the weather is warm

Best Budget Buy

Our opinion

Recommended age: 1 – 3 years
Restraint style: Harness
Color(s): Black
Theme: None
Strap length: 48 inches

There’s nothing cheap about having kids, which means that finding budget-friendly, highly-functional essentials like the Diono Sure Steps Harness (check price on Amazon) is a godsend. The simple black harness slips over their shoulders and features adjustable buckles to secure the shoulder straps to the required size. The impressively long four-foot safety strap connects to the rear of the device between your child’s shoulder blades, which is best for fall prevention in smaller children.

The simple harness can be washed with regular laundry or spot cleaned with a quick wipe thanks to its soft but durable fabric, which feels comfortable in wear. Parents should note that while this pick is an overall hit for durability, the main panel connects with Velcro and not buckles, which can be a bit less secure as kids grow.

What we love
  • The strap is a full 48 inches long, which gives kids plenty of room to roam
  • It is machine washable, but it’s also easy to spot clean
Watch for
  • The main panel of the harness connects with Velcro and not buckles, which means it’s not quite as secure for older kids

Best Monkey Backpack Leash

Our opinion

Recommended age: 18 months +
Restraint style: Backpack
Color(s): Brown
Theme: Monkey
Strap length: 36 inches

When you’re out on the town with your tot, gear that combines utility, durability, and a fun look is a clear winner. This sweet Monkey Backpack from Goldbug (check price on Amazon) doubles as a secure harness with a 36′ strap and wrist cuff. Putting it on is as easy as slipping the device over your child’s shoulders, and then adjusting and fastening the two front buckles.

The strap attaches to the harness via a clip which sits below the backpack, so they can easily take the lead while remaining safe. This also means that when your child no longer needs a harness, they can still enjoy use of their backpack. Not only is the monkey a cute, soft security animal, it also unzips to reveal a slim pocket for storing snacks and other essentials that are helpful on the go.

What we love
  • The adorable design, which both kids and parents will enjoy
  • It combines the security of a harness with the storage of a backpack, so one less piece of gear is required and your restraint is multi-functional
Watch for
  • It looks a lot like a toy, but it’s not safe for unattended play if the strap is attached

Best Toddler Harness Backpack

Our opinion

Recommended age: 1 – 3 years
Restraint style: Backpack
Color(s): Green, grey, blue
Theme: None
Strap length: Approximately 36 inches

Parents of toddlers already know that venturing out of the house without the right gear is a recipe for disaster. A backpack harness with a bit of extra storage capacity, like the Brica By-My-Side (check price on Amazon), can make a big difference when you’re on an excursion with your little one. The main body of the backpack unzips to reveal a spacious interior relative to its size, and the mesh pockets on the front and each side of the bag have a forgiving bit of stretch; the front is ideal for a sippy cup or thermal cup with easy access. The 36″ strap attaches to the rear of the backpack, so it’s usable both in combination with the strap and without, and a swivel clip allows the strap to rotate in order to prevent tangling.

What we love
  • It’s a relatively spacious backpack, including one large and two small outer mesh pockets
  • It can be used with and without the strap for years of function, and a swivel clip prevents the strap from getting tangled in use
Watch for
  • The only microflora strain in this supplement is bacillus coagulans, so there’s no probiotic blend here, which is sometimes more effective
Our opinion

Recommended age: 4 years +
Restraint style: Wrist strap
Color(s): Blue, black
Theme: None
Strap length: 59″

If you need a restraint system that works for older kids, or prefer to keep things simple, a wrist strap like the Anti Lost Wrist Link (check price on Amazon) might be just what you’re looking for. There’s almost no adjustment necessary, as simple hook and loop closures are used to secure the cuffs around the wrist of both parent and child.

The shrinking chain featured on this pick is a great space saver, as it coils in a loop for easy storage but can extend to a full 1.5 meters in length for safe exploration. Both wrist cuffs are lined with a soft, comfortable, spongy material which won’t be irritating even when worn for extended periods during events. The durability of the connecting chain is also top notch, as it’s made with plastic-coated stainless steel which is very difficult to sever.

What we love
  • There’s no buckles to adjust or harness to accommodate, as these cuffs simply wrap around the wrist with a hook-and-eye closure
  • The shrinking chain makes the device easier to store, extends to 1.5 meters, and is made out of plastic-coated stainless steel for extra durability
Watch for
  • Older children may be able to figure out how to undo the hook and eye closure of the cuffs

Best For Boys

Our opinion

Recommended age: 1 – 4 years
Restraint style: Backpack
Color(s): Blue, white, red, yellow
Theme: Outer space
Strap length: Approximately 48 inches

Cute, functional, multi-purpose gear is a wise investment for your toddler, and the Yisbo Outer Space Backpack Leash (check price on Amazon) with a removable strap has a lot to love. The fun blue and white design looks like a rocket blasting into outer space, and the removable strap tethers to the rear of the backpack for security during outings.

The lightweight neoprene knapsack has comfortable padded straps that can be adjusted to their size and won’t irritate your child, and is secured by front buckles which connect across the chest. You’ll also be able to stash their essentials in the backpack’s spacious zippered pocket, and a small mesh pocket attached to the front is perfect for storing smaller items.

What we love
  • The outer space theme will make the device more appealing to your tot, and it’s great for preschool or kindergarten when the tether is removed
  • There’s plenty of room for storing on-the-go essentials, so depending on their age, you may be able to skip the diaper bag altogether
Watch for
  • The neoprene may have a strong plastic odor when the product is brand new — letting it air out for a few days will remove this permanently

Best For Girls

Our opinion

Recommended age: 1 – 3 years
Restraint style: Backpack
Color(s): Blue, green, rainbow
Theme: The Very Hungry Caterpillar / Elephant
Strap length: 32 inches

One of the most famous and beloved children’s books of all time is Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The characters from the worlds he creates, like this fun bright blue elephant, have captivated the imagination of children worldwide; here, the elephant takes the form of a combination backpack and safety harness (check price on Amazon) that’s full of style and function. Their fuzzy elephant pal has a light blue striped belly and ears and rainbow feet, and unzips to reveal a spacious pocket for storing all their on-the-go favorites. The 32 inch strap connects at the rear of the backpack, and can be removed to allow the backpack to act as a comfort animal or standalone knapsack.

What we love
  • It has a fun elephant theme both kids and parents will enjoy
  • It’s multi-functional, acting as an independent backpack or combining with the harness for security on-the-go
Watch for
  • The harness portion of this item may run a little small compared to competitors

Most Comfortable

Our opinion

Recommended age: All ages
Restraint style: Harness
Color(s): Red, black, white
Theme: Mouse
Strap length: 42.5 inches

Your child’s comfort level within a harness is the ultimate determining factor of whether or not it will work for them. If it feels uncomfortable during wear, your little one will be quick to reject it, so comfortable picks like this Anti-Lost Leash (check price on Amazon) tend to be favored over those that look cute but are too hot, tight, or bulky when worn. This cute mouse-themed pick slips right over the shoulders and adjusts and secures in the front with buckled straps.

The strap can be detached whenever necessary, and tethers to the device between your child’s shoulder blades, which is best for preventing accidental falls in toddlers. It’s made of soft, durable cotton, so it won’t bother your little one’s sensitive skin, and the lengthy 42.5″ strap gives them a nice range of space in which to roam.

At a glance
  • The soft but durable cotton construction is very comfortable, so it’s not likely to be rejected by tots
  • The strap is 42.5 inches, so there’s plenty of room for exploration

And the winner is…

As we’ve established, something that’s crucial in successful use of a leash or harness is finding a pick your child feels genuine comfort while wearing. If they’re straining, struggling, and fussing, a temper tantrum is probably not far behind, and for obvious reasons — who would want to be restrained in an uncomfortable way? A durable, minimally invasive harness that’s comfortable to wear and attaches between the shoulder blades, like the Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper (check price on Amazon), is best for safety and is less likely to be rejected than a harness that weighs kids down or makes them feel overly boxed in.

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Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on June 10th, 2021

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