Children typically learn to walk between 9 and 18 months of age, it is suggested that children crawl for approximately 3 months to facilitate core strength and stability, as well as visual perceptual skills. It has been reported that children need to take over 3,000 steps before they can begin to walk independently; this is when children cruise (furniture walk) stepping sideways. Therefore, increasing leg strength to facilitate independent walking.
Here are a few tips to encourage independent walking.
· Encourage barefoot exploration allowing children to experience different tactile surfaces along the bottom of their feet and developing the arch of the foot. This also promotes natural weight bearing and weight shifting to build static and dynamic balance.
· Move everything from the floor to higher surfaces around the play space encouraging standing and kneeling. The various heights encourage improved strength at kneeling, squatting, standing, and sitting.
· Encourage reaching overhead and down below activating their base of support, engaging dynamic balance, promote trunk strength, and stability through their legs.
· Promote standing with toys in both hands and discourage reaching for support and encourage activation of trunk muscles.
· Encourage transitions; sit to stand from low bench, promoting knees over toes pushing up to standing, floor to stand transition using tall/split kneeling promoting trunk and leg strength and stability.
· Pushing; pushing ride on toys, large therapy ball, moving through space with less reliance on a static source of stability.
· Encourage walking up ramps, climbing stairs, and climbing stairs to promote trunk and lower body strengthening.
· Ask for help. Pediatric Physical Therapists can offer activities, equipment ideas, and help assess any underlying reasons for any concerns you may have.
Written by: Carol Chamblin, PTA
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