The day our baby Ines took her first steps, we got our camera out to save this magical moment. That day marked a new era for the entire family: she started walking, and then quickly she started to run and climb the stairs, and pretty much everything else she was able to reach and tried to get onto! We looked at her Cocoonababy, remembering the peaceful days when she slept in it like an angel... those days were now way behind us!
You can offer your toddler a favourable environment to learn to walk, but also remember to let them train at their own pace.
Laurence Vaivre-Douret, Ph.D. Professor in Psychology and Neuropsychology of Development, recommends the following:
1. Let your baby explore the house (with a lot of monitoring of course!)
The more a toddler can drag himself on the ground, crawling, walking on all fours, the easier he will learn to walk. When the time of the first step will come, he will have more confidence in his abilities. He will have already learned to grasp distances, to get around an obstacle, to discover various materials, the carpet, floorboards, tiles, etc. He will have also had time to familiarize himself with the functioning of his body.
2. Encourage him, without forcing him, to straighten up
It is from the standing position, holding on to a piece of furniture or a stand, that your child experiences and works out his balance. Do not force your child into an upright position, instead wait until he adopts this position by himself, when he is ready to. By intervening, you risk short-circuiting the learning process and forcing your child to burn steps. He will not have time to set up solid foundations.
However, you can make it easier for him to learn, by making sure that the rooms he operates in have sufficiently stable supports at his height, ie a sofa, an armchair, the bars of a playpen, etc. You can also place his favourite toys a little high to encourage him to rise. Nothing more. When you notice that he lets his support go to free one of his hands more frequently, you can help him take a few steps. Be careful not to raise his arms in the air, as this will make him lose his balance. Instead, provide a light support by holding him lightly under the armpits.
3. Do not fit your baby with shoes too fast
To help your baby take his first step, leave him barefoot. He needs to feel his support on the ground: the direct contact of his sole on the ground provides his brain with detailed information which helps him adjust his balance. Once he gains confidence, he will be able to wear shoes comfortably. Choose light shoes to start off with, with shallow soles, reinforced on the back and sides to prevent his delicate ankles from twisting.
I personnaly love Old Soles shoes. They are really cute, comfortable and offer protection for kids feet, and they're available in a wide range of sizes and styles!
Once your child starts walking, help him develop his balancing skill by getting him to walk on different surfaces: sand, and inflated air mattress, the lawn, etc. Confronted with these varied supports, his brain will be forced to perpetually re-adjust the mechanisms of balance.
Do not forget to create a safe walking environment
The obvious ones are placing fences on each side of the stairs, and protecting electrical outlets with safety plugs, but creating a safe environment for your toddler also requires hiding all dangerous cleaning products and chemicals from the kitchen and bathroom in out of reach cabinets and securing all doors, cabinet and windows with safety locks. Bunnings have a very comprehensive range of child safety products at great prices.
Life becomes definitely more challenging with a walking baby but having a little hand grabbing yours is just one of the best feeling as a parent.
We would love to hear about your experiences with baby's first steps in the comment box below. Please feel free to share!