So you’re at the stage where your little one looks like they really want to take off! You want to let them learn for themselves, but secretly you are itching to see them take those first steps! Well, you just have to be patient! Children generally start to walk unaided from a range of 9-18 months of age. That’s a pretty big window hey! Essentially, every child is different and they will get there when they are ready.
Here are some ways you can encourage and build confidence in your toddler to take those steps on their own.
1 – It all starts with balance!
The best way to help your child learn how to balance starts from birth. Encouraging as much tummy time as possible on the floor and placing fun colourful objects in front of them will help them reach out. They will be using all the right head, neck and back muscles to lift their head & grab what’s there.
2 – Play some tickling games
In your downtime with your baby or toddler, you can get silly and play some tickling games. Tickling under bare feet will make the foot instinctively flex and stretch which strengthens foot muscles and gets them working. You can start this at birth. How cute!
3 – Keep them barefoot when they are indoors at home
Now even we will say this! Barefoot is best for toddlers that are transitioning from crawling to pulling themselves up on their feet. Yes, even without socks.
Walking barefoot really starts to stimulate the nerve endings in the foot which sends signals to the brain. It helps children walk with their head held higher and improves proprioception. Now, this is the thing that allows us to be aware of where we are in comparison to what’s around us. Walking barefoot also contributes to good posture & increases the strength of the foot’s arch, not to mention the development of muscles and ligaments.
So let them go bare. When you are out and about, you can then protect little feet with a pair of soft-soled/flexible shoes.
Once they walking, still keeping them barefoot at home indoors is a great way to continue strengthening the foot muscles.
4 – Play chasey around furniture
If your toddler is pulling themselves up and holding on to things around the house for support, then chasey is a perfect game. Chase each other around good old household furniture like the coffee table, the couch and the kitchen chairs. They won’t even realise that they are moving around and practicing lots of steps. Before you know it, they will gain the confidence to let go!
5 – Dance!
Children love watching adults dance and it gets them moving about. They bob up and down, sway from side to side, stomp around and all the while are actually improving their balance and coordination as well as strengthening their back muscles. They might begin their dancing while holding on to your hands or something for support. Children are like little parrots and copy what adults do so if you get up and move about with lots of energy, they will want to do it too!
So bottom line is – make walking fun! Remember also to praise them for every little bit of progress that they make. And maybe savour the non-walking phase because once they’re off, they are OFF!