Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Growing and Going!
Here you go! You and your toddler are about to embark on an endless journey of trials, tribulations, and joys. Everything he does will be new to him, so it will feel new to you as well.
The first sign of independence for toddlers between the ages of 12 months and 24 months is walking. Once this is mastered, watch out!
Crawling before Walking
One of the most exciting milestones for you as a parent will be seeing your child take his first steps. The accomplishment can also be somewhat daunting, because trying to keep him corralled can be a challenge! Most kids learn how to crawl at around nine months, and walking begins to occur between 13 and 15 months. Walking independently doesn't happen all at once, however, because there are several skills your toddler must master first. In addition, your child might alternate between crawling and walking for some period of time before he is ready to become a full-fledged walker.
The first sign that your toddler is getting ready to begin walking is that he will hold firmly to a support object, such as a chair or a coffee table, and pull himself up to a standing position. The object will hold his weight, and if he moves, he will not take his hands off but will instead move sideways so as not to lose contact. Once he is a little more confident, he might pull back from his support object and try supporting all of his weight on his own, but those little hands will remain on the support to keep him balanced.
If there are some support objects that are relatively close together, such as the sofa and the coffee table, he will begin to navigate between the objects, with one hand always holding on for safety. You might want to create an environment of closely positioned support objects if one doesn't exist already so that he can master this new skill when he is ready.
The next part of learning to walk can be scary for you as a parent to watch, but it is a necessary skill for your child to learn. If your toddler spots something he wants, he will try to figure out how to get to it, but only if he continues to have support. When the space between support objects is too large, however, your toddler will be tempted to take a couple of steps on his own. You do not need to force this; your child will decide when he is ready to take that new risk. As long as he is somewhat protected from hurting himself, you need to let him do it on his own. If he falls, don't rush in to rescue him unless he is truly hurt. Remember, we really do have to learn to crawl before we can walk, and there is a method to this madness!
Once these skills have been learned, your toddler will be ready to start taking steps on his own. You've probably observed babies who are beginning to walk. They look like noodles, curling and bending and drooping all over the place. They are wobbly, uncoordinated, and actually sort of goofy-looking. This is perfectly natural, as this is the time they are learning coordination and balance. Some children take longer to develop coordination than do others, but each child will usually set his own pace, and there is not much you can do to hurry this along or to slow it down.
During this time, your presence is crucial to your toddler's feelings of security. If you change locations or disappear from sight, it can be incredibly frustrating and scary for him! He does not want you to move at all. If you decide to move, you'll find that your toddler won't follow you but will raise his arms for you to carry him. This is normal developmentally, so don't be impatient or irritated. He won't learn to follow you until he's a bit older.
Now that he's got that walking trick down, the next new and exciting activity your toddler will learn is climbing. He will be much more excited and curious about this than you will be, but he is going to do it whether you like it or not! At about the age of 15 months, a child will climb using his hands. In other words, he won't realize that he can use his hands and his feet at the same time to reach his destination. Climbing becomes more dangerous a few months later, when he finally figures out that he has to use his hands and feet together to reach what it is that he wants. The problem with the newly successful climber is that he will sit wherever he chooses and whenever he feels like it. It does not occur to him that he cannot climb up a set of steps and then sit backward without falling. So while you want to encourage climbing as a natural part of learning to get around, you'll need to remain close for safety.
You'll notice at around 24 months that your toddler is running much as he used to walk. He will fall down and appear uncoordinated, and you may begin to worry that there is something wrong. It takes time, energy, and focus for these little people to learn the task of walking and climbing and running. Your toddler is not concerned about whether he's coordinated-he simply wants to get to another spot! He is learning by the act of doing, and unless he is in danger of being hurt, you're going to have to leave him alone.
Back to Crawling
Don't be alarmed if your toddler regresses at times and begins to crawl again. This can happen for any number of reasons. Your toddler may have taken a bit of a rough tumble and gotten scared. Other toddlers crawl when they are not confident about walking. For example, if your toddler is in a new situation, such as being in another relative's home or on vacation, he may feel unsure about his ability to walk and will begin to crawl again. There is no need, however, to worry that your child will continue to crawl until he is five years old! As you are no doubt learning, toddlers have minds of their own, and they will get up and walk again when they are good and ready.
Helping Your Toddler as He Learns
There are some fun activities that you can do with your toddler as he begins this new adventure. One is to play pull-up games with him. If he is showing signs that he is ready to stand, there's nothing wrong with holding out your hands and pulling him into a standing position. Praise him and communicate that this is fun and exciting. The key is to help him see that this is a positive experience and one that you are enjoying as well.
Toddlers at this age rarely walk with toys in their hands because they are focused on just trying to learn to stand on their own. You'll notice that if your child wants to play with a toy, he will sit down and engage in play, but he will drop the toy or whatever he is doing so that he can begin walking again.