Is my child’s clumsiness a concern?


Is my child’s clumsiness a concern?

Toddlers are aptly named for their unsteady walk as their young legs try to keep them standing and moving in the right direction.
It’s normal — good, even — for little ones to be clumsy as they learn how to walk, says Jennifer Lewis, senior physical therapist at Tidelands Health Center for Pediatric Development.
“We expect children to lose their balance as they’re learning to walk on uneven ground or taking steps over obstacles,” she says. “But if you see signs of children falling more, tripping for no reason, losing their balance more frequently after they’ve gotten their walking or their running down, those could be signs of concern.”

Gradual progression

Kids tend to begin walking at 12-15 months old, though some begin a bit earlier. You’ll notice children have a wide base of support where their feet are spread out to the sides and their arms are held up in the air. Gradually, their legs will become less stiff, and they’ll walk more fluidly. It’s around the preschool years they begin walking in a heel-to-toe pattern similar to adults.

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Regressing rather than progressing can be a sign that something’s wrong. Regular visits with your pediatrician can help screen for any issues. A pediatrician may suggest working with a specialist like Lewis to help figure out what’s going on.
A pediatric physical therapist will look beyond how a child walks and will examine how the child’s muscles and bones are growing, how the child feels sensations and evaluate the child’s vision, among other things. Lewis often gets referrals for kids who are walking on their toes or kids who are slow to generally develop the skill.

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“Each child is unique and so are their needs,” Lewis says.
In addition to regular visits with a pediatrician, one of the best things parents can do is let their children play and explore.
“Let them crawl on different textures, let them climb with some assistance, let them work on getting their balance,” she said. “They need that kind of exploration to develop new skills like walking.”


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