By: Bridget Hobbs PT, DPT
A child’s first year of life is so full of milestones… first smiles, first solid foods, and the first time s/he sits up on his/her own. As the first year is coming to a close, many parents desire to see their little one taking their first steps around the time of their first birthday. The typical window for children taking their first steps is anytime between 9 and 15 months, which is a big spectrum of time.
Below are some things that parents or caregivers can do with their child to help them get walking when they are showing signs that they are ready.
- Set a good foundation for your baby. Walking involves strength from the entire body, not just the legs. Believe it or not, creeping on hands and knees is an important milestone to achieve before walking. Also, climbing over obstacles, such as couch cushions or parents’ legs is another good way to help build a solid core, or base for walking. You can also help build strength in the core, arms and legs by teaching your child to crawl up steps. Try placing a favorite toy on the landing as motivation.
- After a child learns to pull up and stand at the couch or coffee table, place toys away from their body so that the child has to rotate their body away from the support surface to reach for the toy. This technique will not only help build important rotator muscles in their trunk but will also gradually encourage them to stand with less support.
- Once your child is standing supported holding onto furniture, have them practice little squat to stand movements. For example, motivate your child by placing a stacking ring at the height of their knees. While supporting them at their waist, encourage them to bend at their knees and hips to pick up the ring and then stand back up to help them place the ring on the stacking toy.
- When your child is pulling up to stand, cruising side to side along furniture and starting to experiment with standing on their own, they are likely ready to start taking some steps. Hold onto one end of a hula hoop or small ring and encourage your child to hold onto the other side. While facing your child, encourage them to take a few steps while holding onto the ring for support. You can also use a motivator, such as walking to pop bubbles or to grasp a puff snack as encouragement to get your child to talk some steps.
- Weighing down a push toy, such as a small shopping cart or ride on toy will provide them the support they need to take forward steps. Often times these toys will move too fast, causing a child to face-plant forward if they are not weighted down, so place a gallon of milk or carton of orange juice in the shopping cart or ride on toy to help with this.
If your child is not showing any signs of pre-walking skills, such as pulling up to stand, walking along furniture or walking with hand held assist, and they are at the age when many of their peers are starting to walk, it’s always good to talk to your pediatrician about possible reasons why they are late to walking.
To learn more about Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website.