Feel at Home with Early Intervention – Walking

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Authored by: Mary Welage, teli Pediatric Physical Therapist

Developmental Milestone: Walking and Early Intervention

When should my child begin to walk?
early intervention and walking

Parents are very focused on two goals: walking and talking.  Physical therapists providing Early Intervention services often hear concerns from parents on a regular basis about the timing of walking for their child.  It is a complex process that requires a child to build up to walking with some foundational skills like coordination of their legs and arms to begin to crawl.

When do children take their first steps and what should I look for?

While every child is different, the range for most children to take their first step is between as early as 9 months, but most children walk between 12 to 15 months. To walk a child must build strength and coordination along the way. Parents should look for:

  • Crawling
  • Pulling themselves up to a standing position
  • Transitioning to sitting from a lying position. Transitional activities moving from their backs to sitting and sitting to hands and knees.
  • Rotating their trunk to coordinate low back and core muscles. Using their core strength to play in a variety of positions such as side sit propping with one hand and playing with the other.

Why walking is so important to your child’s development?

Learning to walk has many obvious benefits not the least of which is the ability of your child to explore their world and socialize; as you must be mobile to engage with others. Their new-found mobility will enable them to gain strength in their leg and core muscles as they develop greater coordination.  Importantly walking begins to be associated with a purpose such as walking to the table when it is time to eat. Additionally, exercise at an early age is important in building confidence, strength and flexibility .

What can I do to encourage my child to walk?

To learn to walk a child needs to master the building blocks and parents can help! Some of the important “steps” include:

  • Crawling is an important first step where one half of your body has to coordinate the other side. Try fun games creating tunnels under soft furniture to encourage them to crawl or pile up pillows for them to crawl through and over.
  • Hold your child’s hand no higher than their shoulder height encourage them to walk forward. To improve your child’s weight shifting gently encourage them to step backwards while holding their hands and quickly have them walk forward.
  • Sit on the floor with them and put a toy or stuffed animal a short distance from your child on the floor and encourage them to move toward the item and move through their environment. This should go before the crawling activity.   While your child is sitting in play on the floor encourage them to reach for toys a distance from them to encourage them to move out of sitting to get the toy.
  • Have your child sit on a small stool where their feet are on the floor or they can sit on your lap with their feet on the floor.  Place a toy on a supportive surface (couch) and encourage them to come to a standing position to get the toy, moving from your lap to supported standing.  Move the activity back a bit to encourage a few steps after coming to stand.

Early Intervention Services can help your child achieve the developmental milestones to enable them to reach their full potential. If you have questions, call teli at 412-922-8322.

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