In the coming weeks and months, your baby will start learning to walk–an exciting achievement for both of you! You will likely notice an obsession with this new skill as he begins to perfect and refine it. He’ll want to walk all day long until he feels satisfied with and confident in his ability. The urge to walk and experience the independence that comes with it is intense.
As your child shows signs of beginning to walk, NOTHING, including work with their hands, will seem as interesting or important.
Here are some tips to prepare for and encourage walking during this period of rapid transformation:
1. Keep Fine Motor Toys Available (Even When They’d Rather Be Walking!)
Continue to make fine motor playtime available, but don’t force it. Steering your little one away from walking has the potential to develop a power struggle that won’t disappear when the urge to walk does. Even with this new found mobility, be sure to have a small variety of toys available to your little one. His interest in them will return in a few short days or weeks. If his gross motor needs are met, your little one will still work on fine motor skills throughout the day, just less frequently and for shorter periods.
2. Development Occurs in “Explosions”
Development in children is not linear because it’s impossible for their brains to multitask when they are working on mastering big tasks like walking! You’ll observe development occurring in different “explosions” of interest and progress. When your baby begins walking, all of the fine motor work they have done over the past few months will seem to take a back seat to this big gross motor work. But each other area of development will have its shining moment. Language and social and emotional skills, for example, will have their own explosions later on!
3. Allow Opportunities for Maximum Effort
Offer opportunities to push, pull, and carry throughout the day to “feed the need” to walk. Early walkers and toddlers love to exert maximum effort while they practice their gross motor skills. An early walker might be caught doing 25 squats in a row at his shelf, or trying again and again to pick up a toy or book from the floor only to drop it and repeat! These are all exercises that just feel “right” to him as he persists in learning to walk. He will find new ways to challenge himself as he gets more comfortable walking. For example, he might carry objects of increasing weight, and dodge natural obstacles in the yard or on the playground. Try to give him access to a pull up bar, heavy ottoman, weighted laundry basket, or radio flyer wagon in his play space to provide regular opportunities to pull up and push forward.
4. Starting to Walk Is Just a Phase
Remember that these bursts of development are transient. Give yourself and your little one a pass while you work through them, and don’t feel pressure to make sure your baby is getting practice in all areas of development every day. Once you take the pressure off of everyone, you can relax and focus on the “task” at hand (or in this case, foot!). And you’ll feel prouder and more confident throughout the process. Dr. Montessori had faith that each child would progress along his own path of development when given the right environment and the tools to do so.