The theory is already behind us. 😉 Today I’ll cover more practical aspects of the issue. I will try to use all the information that has been gathered until now to clearly specify what your child needs in order to start their walking adventure. I will tell you how to do it in a safe manner without unnecessary distractions.
The final decision whether to use certain equipment should always stay yours. Nevertheless, in today’s post I am going to present all the “physiotherapeutic” arguments explaining if they are worth using or not. 😉
First let’s find out what a perfect walk and a perfect standing position should look like.
When we stand, the center of our body’s gravity is situated around the lesser pelvis, so that it’s projection is in the area of the support plane, which is our feet. In a standing position, parts of our body are positioned linearly- the head in the extension of the torso, legs usually hip-width apart, arms along the body.
Of course, when we walk, the center of gravity shifts (that’s why we alternate between “losing” and regaining balance). These fluctuations aren’t significant though.
While walking, the torso is straight and the head stays in it’s extension. The arms are working, also along the torso. Each step consists of many elements such as: heel contacting the ground, roll over of the foot, toes pushing-off, and a very complex work of the entire body.
A little baby walks in a bit of a different way than an adult. It does change over time. Gradually, the baby spends more and more time supporting their weight on one foot, the walk gets faster, the baby takes fewer steps per minute, the steps get longer and the support plane gets smaller. As a result, a 7 year old child usually walks like a grown up.
However, before babies learn to walk, they need to come a long way. 😉
How to support this process in the most natural way?
First of all … the eternal question:
ALLOW OR NOT?
A healthy developing child is naturally very eager to explore the world. The moment they find out that they can go higher, see more or even reach objects that used to be out of sight, they will want to do it as often as possible. If your child had no developmental issues and makes attempts to stand up on their own (i.e.without your direct help) for example against the furniture, there is no reason to forbid them. Just because your baby knows how to stand up doesn’t mean they will be walking in no time. Very often a few months have to pass between the moment your child stands up and the time they start to walk. 🙂 What you should focus on at that time is providing your child with a good surface and safe environment. Covering your furniture with corner and edge protectors should save you a lot of unnecessary stress. 😉
Your baby should not be laid down on whatever surface there is. That is a golden rule from the day of birth! The same applies to the time when the child starts to stand up. The ground cannot be too soft.. Otherwise, the feet will turn inward to an unnatural extent – and the child may have a tendency to develop valgus In order to provide safety, the surface should also be relatively even, medium hard, and not slippery A foam mat should work perfectly. Forget about bumpy paths for now. They might come in handy at the next stage of development. If the floor in your house resembles more of an ice rink, non-slip socks should do the trick. Make sure they do not slip off the tiny feet.
BAREFOOT AROUND THE WORLD?
Barefoot as much as possible! Definitely yes! However, if you go outside, make sure to protect the little feet from possible cuts or abrasions with proper footwear. The most important thing is a flexible sole and the right size The shoes cannot be too small or narrow, especially at the front, so that they do not put pressure on the toes. They must fit snugly to the inside of the foot especially to the heel and metatarsal area. As a result, the feet won’t “run away” inwards. Few more things to consider when choosing the right shoes are: a breathable material, if the shoes can be put on with ease and making sure they do not limit any free movements of the feet. All of these features will be appreciated both by your child and you as well.
The name suggests that it could be a fantastic device for walking practice. On top of that, modern walkers are equipped with various “distractions”. It is very tempting to just put your child in one of them and have a moment of peace and quiet. It also seems that a child is safe in it. And the excitement it provides for the baby! There are so many attractions and you can move in it! 😉 Wonderful! There is nothing left to do but buy it! 😉 However, there is one BUT. Is that really it??? Yes, the child is occupied, they move their feet, but it has very little to do with the correct walking pattern. Mature walking requires the presence of three elements: heel contact with the ground, roll-over of the foot and only then push off with the toes. In a walker, a child uses only the third element to move forward. If a child spends a lot of time in a walker, as a consequence they won’t be able to properly put enough weight on the feet. A walker simply does not give babies a chance to experience it. Apart from that, a walker protects babies from falling down which is a very important element in the process of learning to walk. When a baby falls, they learn that they have to get up or that certain movements are safe while the others are not. Such experiences improve a child’s defensive reactions. Otherwise, an infant wouldn’t know that a fall is painful and it is worth protecting yourself from it..
Some of you might say “I used to walk in a walker and I am perfectly fine”… I was actually born at the time when walkers weren’t that common. However, I know many grownups who used these devices as babies and “they’re ok”. Of course! Children are really amazing and deal well with various ideas of their parents. 😉 Most probably, the vast majority will be fine… But if we are aware that it is not helpful and does not support natural development in any form…then why do it at all? 😉 And what about the economical aspect? I would rather save some money and…space in my house. Don’t you think sometimes that your little one has gathered more stuff in those few months than you in your entire life??? 😉
If not a walker then what? Maybe a pusher?
Pushers have become very popular nowadays and in fact, the idea itself is very interesting. A child who’s afraid to take independent steps can hold on to a pusher and walk forward. It looks great. The only problem I have with pushers is that most of them are equipped with wheels. They make the pusher develop high speed which is not adequate for a baby who is just learning to walk. These two things put together and we get quite an explosive mixture. 😉
Interestingly enough, children often come up with their own solutions. It is not uncommon to see a baby pushing a chair or some other object in front of them. They are usually much more difficult to move than a pusher. That way babies do not have to “chase” their center of gravity and as a result they feel much more stable. Why not try a homemade pusher, made of a big box, for example?
At the same time, you need to remember one very important thing. Before your baby starts to walk forward, they should experience cruising, which is walking sideways while holding on to furniture or other objects. It’s extremely important for improving the stability of the pelvis and therefore the child’s future posture. So if you choose a pusher, don’t do it too early. 😉
I admit that when I first saw a child on a leash I smiled to myself and thought that the world had gone crazy. 😉 Later, I went with a 2-year-old and her siblings to a crowded supermarket and I figured that it could come in handy in such circumstances. 😉 But would it be useful in learning how to walk? Not necessarily. Why? First of all, when you support your child when they are about to fall, your baby doesn’t learn what consequences a fall contains. They do not get a chance to see what happens if they forget to be careful. Such a baby when let go without protection might be faced with many surprises. 😉
Of course, I do not urge you not to react completely when you see something bad is about to happen. You must keep in mind though, that a child needs variety of experiences.
I would compare it to skiing. When you learn how to ski, your instructor will first teach you how to fall properly. You need to know how to do it the right way, so that later you fall in a more controlled, thus safer way.
HOLDING BABIES BY THE ARMS
It’s a great feeling to see your baby standing on their feet, holding your hands and wanting to walk. Can anyone resist it? 😉 I don’t think so. Of course, doing it from time to time won’t cause much harm. But if this is your way to teach your little one to walk, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Why? When you hold a baby like that, their arms are up, therefore the center of gravity is also shifted upwards and often very much forward. If you look at such a child from the side, you will see that the tummy “goes” first and then the rest of the body. 😉
During an independent walk, the center of gravity is lower and the baby learns to control it. The arms are not raised that high either. While walking with no support from the parent, the baby has the opportunity to experience the consequences of their own actions. Practice makes perfect and each step becomes better and better.
If you really want to support your baby in some way, it’s better to do so by holding them in the pelvis area. Keep in mind, however, that a very important milestone for a child is cruising. That is why it is not worth showing them other options too early. 😉
STAIRS / OBSTACLES
Children have a natural tendency to always be, where we don’t necessarily want them to be. I bet that as soon as your baby masters moving around, they’ll go to drawers, flower pots, the toilet and of course the stairs. 😉 As an experienced mom of 3 children I also know that the more I forbid, the more my child will wander off to such places…
I live in a one-story house, which is why stairs have always been a luxury product for my family. But all visits to grandparents or aunts ended up on the stairs. 😉
How did I manage? I didn’t teach our kids to walk up the stairs by the hand at all. I let them climb them on all fours- both up and down. When they felt confident enough, they tried higher and higher positions- but on their own. Of course I was always near to provide technical support if necessary, but I tried not to interfere too much in their activity.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD?
– Do not force your baby to stand up or walk too early. The baby needs
time to learn how to function on two little feet. 😉
– Make sure your baby feels safe
My youngest daughter took her first steps the day before her first birthday and then… she blocked herself for another 2 months. 😉 It was probably because her older siblings didn’t help her to feel safe at all. They ran past her like a hurricane, so she preferred not to risk it. At least till she felt confident enough to go out into the world…despite the circumstances. With 3 kids all absorbed in their playtime, it’s not a matter of learning to walk anymore, it’s sometimes a struggle to survive. 😉
– Short distances!
It happened to me once that a worried mom came to my office. Even though her daughter had been standing up and cruising for a long time, she did not want to take a single step on her own. In the office she was standing by a cube, which was around one meter away from a box with toys, and suddenly…she went without any help. 😉 She was a very smart baby. 😉 It turned out that the house they lived in was very big and not yet fully furnished. Every distance seemed huge for her. That was probably why she never dared to take steps on her own. 😉 Since then her mom started to show her baby shorter distances and off she went! 😉
– Carpet/mat without pattern
Has it ever happened to you that on a patterned carpet, there was a tiny object…let’s say a block..and you stepped on it with all your might??? I know the feeling perfectly well. 😉 A carpet with a city pattern and Lego blocks: this combination can be very painful…
Sometimes, if a child has experienced something similar, they won’t be willing to walk on a patterned surface. Then, it’s worth moving to something more toned or plain. 😉
– Suitable surface
A medium hard, flat, non slippery surface, bare feet or well fitted socks or shoes, should help a beginner succeed. 😉
– Patience, empathy and no pressure from us. Just being there and accompanying your child. 🙂