Walking is usually the milestone that every parent anticipates the most, along with talking, as their child grows. I’m splitting progressing to walking into different parts because there are a number of tips and tricks to do to help a child learn to walk.
The keyword here is Progressing, meaning that a child has to be ready to walk before you start practicing. Some parents force walking before their child is ready, like those that place children in those walkers discussed in a previous post. If you force walking early, then your child will miss out on the benefits of earlier milestones like crawling, which I also discussed in a previous post.
If a child can do the following things, then they are likely ready. If you still find yourself holding your breath when you see them doing these things when you aren’t right next to them, then they probably aren’t ready.
- Cruising around safe furniture all by themselves. They are able to pull to stand and lower to sit on the floor by themselves. You don’t have to worry about them falling over to the floor like a tree ( I like to call this “timbering” ha).
- They can stand with just one hand on the couch or table while they play with a toy with their other hand.
- They can stand easily while you hold both their hands.
- They can walk 4-5 steps while holding onto 2 both of your hands
- They can remain standing while leaning their back against a couch while playing with a toy.
- They can transition from crawling to sitting by themselves without falling.
- If they do fall while standing or cruising along furniture, they put their hands out appropriately to protect themselves.
- They are able to bounce in place while standing at a support surface. By bouncing, I mean they bend their knees and straighten again, and not actually jumping.
Now onto progressing beyond the above. Part 1 will focus on progressing cruising.
Now that your child can cruise around furniture well the next steps you can practice are:
- Cruising around corners. If you have a square ottoman or coffee table, this can be great practice, as a child has to adjust their feet accordingly to cruise around a corner, and has to use their hands to hold on, as it is hard to lean their body against a corner.
- Cruising and reaching between support surfaces. This again encourages holding onto support surfaces using only their arms. When an infant can only hold onto something using their hands, they have to use their legs and trunk more to stay balanced. You can practice this by putting space between adjacent support surfaces. Some examples include: reaching between couch and ottoman and reaching between different chairs.
- Cruising and rotating between support surfaces. Like cruising around corners, rotating between different surfaces encourages your child to reach farther than they normall would with regular cruising,thus challenging the standing balance even more. As a child improves with rotating between surfaces, I gradually increase the distance between the surfaces to make them really reach as far as they can to challenge their balance and also make them think about how to move their feet to move from one surface to the next. I got this photo from another great blog, click pic to go to the blog.
- Cruising along flat surfaces. This is much harder than cruising at couches and coffee tables because a child can’t lean their body against the support to stay balanced. They have to use their arms, trunk, and legs to stay standing. You can practice this by standing at a mirror and use vinyl clings that stick to the mirror to have them practice pulling them off the mirror. You can have them stand at your refrigerator with some entertaining magnets. And you never know, your child may become so interested in the magnets that they might just grab on to them and let go of the fridge and stay standing all by themselves! The pic is from another blog about raising a child with down syndrome like the blog from the picture above. Click the pics to go check out these insightful blogs! Leap Frog actually makes a great set of fridge toys that help with language development and fine motor skills. Check some out here: Amazon Store– check out pages 3 and 4. You can make this more challenging by having your child reach for objects on the floor and return to standing.
- Cruising along hand rails or crib rails. Lots of children begin cruising in their crib or pack and play. These are great practice as they have to practice letting go of the rails and transferring their hands to the next rail. This again challenges standing balance and trunk control (are you seeing a theme here??). You can practice this if you have any stair rails in your home or if you come across any rails in the community. Lots of parks have rails all around the play equipment. I sometimes take pre-walkers to parks for my therapy sessions to practice on this equipment if they don’t have any rails at home. You can make this more challenging by having your child reach for objects on the floor and return to standing.
If you noticed the running theme throughout all those suggestions, is that the key to progressing to walking is improving standing balance and trunk control, as well as improving a child’s awareness of where their body, arms, and legs are in space. This why a number of the suggestions progress to reaching farther away from a child’s body.
Okkk so there’s part 1 of progressing to walking. There are a lot of activities you can do to progress to walking, so keep checking in the coming weeks for other tips and tricks. And remember you can Like my page on Facebook to keep up with these posts.
Any parents/therapists do other variations of cruising to help progress walking?
Thanks for reading!