First Steps: Activities to Prepare For Walking
As your baby develops and starts to move around independently, it’s hard not to get excited thinking about those first wobbly steps! So when should you expect them? As with many developmental milestones, there is a range of what is considered “typical”. Some babies will take their first steps as early as 10 months, others not until 18 months, with most averaging their first steps sometime between 12-15 months. Walking requires a foundation of strength, range of motion, balance, coordination, motor planning, and sensory processing. There are many activities that your little one can do to prepare for walking even before they are ready to take their first steps...let’s talk about a few of them!
Crawling. I want to first preface by saying that not all babies will crawl before they walk. While crawling, also referred to as creeping on hands and knees, is not a necessary skill to master before walking, it is a powerhouse skill. Encourage crawling by moving desired toys slightly out of your little one’s reach while on their tummy. As they begin to belly crawl towards the toy, move it a little more! Typically, we see belly crawling first. As your baby starts to work onto the hands-and-knees position, encourage reaching in that position, with progression towards moving a toy out of their reach to encourage crawling on hands-and-knees.
Tall Kneeling at a Surface. Tall kneeling, or high kneeling, is a fantastic core and hip strengthening activity, both very important for walking! One way to do this is to help your child tall kneel while placing their hands on a stable surface in front of them for support. You can place a toy they love on the surface as motivation to hold the position while they play with the toy.
Pulling to Stand. Encouraging your child to pull up to a standing position helps to develop core and leg strength. Encourage your little one to use their arms to pull up on a secured, stable surface by placing a desired toy on the surface. Some examples might include a couch, coffee table, secured storage shelf, or activity table. Initially, your little one will use primarily upper body strength to pull themselves up. But as strength is gained, you will notice increased use of their legs to transition up to standing.
Cruising. Side-stepping while holding onto furniture is a walking prerequisite skill! Cruising is very important in the development of hip muscle strength, the intrinsic foot muscles, balance, and weight-shifting. Once your child has mastered pulling to stand and is starting to reach for toys while standing, begin to move toys farther away to encourage them to side step while holding onto a stable piece of furniture to get to the toy. Always practice moving to both sides!
Climbing. With close supervision, climbing is a fantastic skill to help develop strength and coordination. Provide hands-on assistance initially and always provide very close supervision for safety. Some options include climbing over your leg while you sit on the floor or climbing over a pillow or couch cushion placed on the floor! You can progress this activity by practicing climbing up a step or on a toddler foam step and slide.
Push Toy. Yay! Your little one has mastered pulling to stand, squatting to pick up toys while holding onto a stable surface, and cruising! Push toys are great for practicing those first forward steps while still having something to hold on to! Skip the walker and let your little one push, push, push! You may see a combination of tall kneeling and standing to push the toy; both are great ways to strengthen the core and legs!
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