Hesperian Health Guides
Activities for Standing, Walking, and Balance
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Normally a child progresses through these stages:
|bears part of weight automatically when held like this
|automatically ‘steps’ if tilting forward
|sinks down when stood up,|
|0-3 months||0-3 months||3-6 months|
|pulls up to standing||steps sideways holding on||steps between objects||walks with 2 hands, 1 hand, and finally, no support|
|7-9 months||9-12 months||9-12 months||1-3 years|
You can prepare a child for walking by encouraging each of the above stages as the child develops.
|Hold the baby so that she uses the early stepping reflex to strengthen her legs. You can even bounce the baby gently.||When the child begins to stand, support her hips with your hands. Spread her feet apart to form a wide base. First do this from in front, later from behind.|
|Move her gently from side to side, so that she learns to shift her weight from one leg to the other.|
CAUTION! In children with spasticity, this activity may increase muscle stiffness. DO NOT DO IT.
|As she gains better balance, you can provide a light support at the shoulders.||Or have the child hold a hose or rope. Because it is flexible, he needs to balance more.|
Later, he can hold onto the rope with one hand only.
|To encourage a child to pull up to standing, put a toy he likes on the edge of a table.||When a child can almost walk alone but is afraid of falling, tie a cloth around his chest.|
|Hold the cloth, but let it hang completely loose. Be ready to catch him if he falls.|
|To encourage him to take steps, put something he likes at the other end of the table.||
CAUTION! Do not let the child hang by the cloth. Have him bear his own weight. The cloth is only to catch him if he falls.
Other activities for improving balance:
|Hold the child loosely under the arms and gently tip him from side to side and forward and backward. Allow him to return to a straight position. Turn it into a game.||At first support the child while you do this. When his balance improves, do it without supporting him—but be ready to catch him if he falls.|
|Practice walking sideways and backward.||It is better to hold a child:|
NOT LIKE THIS
His balance is centered in his body.
His balance is off center.
|Support your child only as much as he needs, until he can walk by himself.|
Draw a square on the ground and help him to take steps forward, sideways, and backward. Follow the 4 sides of the square, always facing the same direction. Make it fun by having him collect a different colored tag or piece of puzzle at each corner—or however you can.
|For the older child with poor balance, a homemade balance board will turn developing better balance into a game. Move slowly at first—especially with a child with cerebral palsy.|
|A balance board with a wide rocker is better because it rocks more smoothly.|
|Blocks to prevent rolling sideways.||Some children will need a pole to hold onto.|
|Simple homemade parallel bars can help a child with weak legs or a balance problem get started walking.||Homemade pushcarts or walkers can provide both support and independence for the child who is learning to walk or who has balance problems.|
|A simple wooden walker with plywood wheels helps this developmentally delayed child begin to walk.|