As your baby is now an active crawler and seeking more interaction with the environment, the next big milestone your baby will reach will be standing up and then walking. Once major neurological and developmental milestones have been met, babies typically walk between nine and fifteen months when the right amount of balance, co-ordination, strength and confidence has been attained. Walkers and other commercially available movement aids may in fact hinder development and can cause serious injury to the child. They give the child misinformation about where his or her “space” or body ends, and how legs really work; they restrict movement and may actually delay the child’s mental and motor development according to a Mayo Clinic pediatrician Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
Listed below are some suggestions to aid your child to develop skills required for walking. None of these rush the child; instead they help give the opportunity for practice and gross motor development.
- Rolling toys and soft balls that only move a short distance give the child a challenge to move forward in space.
- A walker wagon, which is weighted for pushing and not pulling, provides enough stability to the child to support her/himself. Typically children begin pushing the wagon and the can enjoy the activity for a long time. When the child reaches the end of the straight path ahead s/he will require some assistance in turning the wagon around. It is a good idea to create some resistance by weighting the wagon with something heavy like a bag of potatoes. This will ensure that the child will slow down and enjoy her/his walking experience. Push and pull toys are great fun for the budding walker!
- Another aid we can give the child as s/he is embarking on walking is to provide a low bar attached to the wall, or a heavy and stable piece of furniture for safely pulling up and “cruising” sideways. A bar attached to the wall of the child’s room, or a garden wall in warm weather, helps the child to be able to pull up at will, whenever it is the best time for her/him to practice, and to remain standing until s/he is ready to sit back down. It is very rewarding to see the confidence, balance, poise, the physical prowess of a child who has been allowed to develop in a natural way according to her/his own efforts.
- The budding walker is in the sensitive period for climbing stairs as well. Climbing or crawling up the stairs is much easier to do than climbing down. We encourage you to find a place where your child can practice climbing stairs safely under your supervision. Closely monitor and assist your child with initial explorations and once s/he has figured out climbing up and crawling back down, allow independent movement.
Please ensure that the stairs and landings are protected with gates in good condition and child proof locks. Since the child is the in the sensitive period for climbing up and sliding down the stairs, parents must be extra vigilant to ensure the child’s safety. Please ensure that your child is never left unattended when s/he is learning to climb the stairs.
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