This post is a follow up to a previous post-
After your child is relatively safe with cruising around different surfaces in your home and other environments, the next step is to start practicing taking steps forward and not just sideways as in cruising. You have probably already started practicing walking forward which is fine, just make sure you’re not dragging your child across the floor with walking or pulling them too hard.
so none of this:
When walking holding onto 2 hands, better to have hands at child’s shoulder height:
and not at all the way up in the air like this –>
Because kiddos usually learn to walk and balance themselves in standing by keeping their arms at shoulder height and not up in the air like the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man…
Once your child is walking well holding onto 2 hands, you can progress to walking with 1 hand. You’ll know your child isn’t ready to walk with 1 hand if they start dragging or letting their legs give out while you hold them, or if they start spinning around while you hold 1 hand.
After learning to walk with 1 hand, you can progress to walking holding onto your child’s hips. This encourages them to use their trunk more with balancing instead of just hanging by their hands.
While your child is learning to walk using any of the above strategies, you can start to encourage your child to walk using a push toy. Walking with a push toy encourages practicing walking forward, but also works on increasing hip strength as your child needs to control the velocity of the push toy to make sure they don’t fall flat on their faces. If the push toy is too lite, it may be hard for your child to walk with it, I sometimes have parents add a dumbbell (5-10lbs) somewhere on the push toy and that usually helps until your child has better balance.
Remember NO baby walkers! –> You can read my previous post here.
Once you feel like your child has good balance and doesn’t struggle with any of the above activities, you may start seeing them start to let go of various support surfaces and just stand a few seconds by themselves while they play with a toy. I get excited when they don’t even realize that they’re letting go, which means they have more confidence and balance than they think they do. If they’re starting to do this, it means they are likely ready to take some steps by themselves!
You can practice standing your child up and having them take steps between you and mom/dad, or anyone else they find interesting to walk to (sadly, the PT is never the person my patients want to walk to haha).
If you’re alone, you can also try leaning your child’s back against a couch and have them take steps to you that way. With either activity, practice increasing the distance to have them work on standing longer and walking farther. If they aren’t a fan of leaning against a couch, you can also sit your child on a stool with their feet touching the floor, and have them practice rising from sitting and taking steps towards you.
You may be very eager for your child to take their first steps, but if you feel like you are greatly struggling or working too hard with any of the strategies above or in my past post, then your child probably isn’t ready for that yet. If your child is still in the appropriate range to take their first steps (about 12-15 months), then don’t create a stressful environment by forcing them to do any of the above if they’re not ready. If they are over 16-17 months and still not comfortable with walking with 2 hands or cruising, consider seeing your pediatrician.