#1: DO allow them to be barefoot!
1) Being barefoot gives their body the sensory input that they need to improve their proprioception. It allows them to figure out where their feet are in relation to the surface and in relation to their entire body, which in turn helps them learn balance and coordination.
2) Being barefoot allows babies to flex and improve the strength of their forefoot and toes as they learn to crawl, pull to stand, and cruise along furniture - this applies to when they get older and the learn how to walk as well!
Shoes don't give kids as much sensory input as they would receive when their barefoot and they definitely don't allow kids to flex their forefoot and toes. If you are taking your kid outdoors, make sure the shoes are low profile, light weight, soft-soled and flexible to allow for as much ankle and foot motion as possible.
#2: DON'T place you kid in a baby walker!
1) The baby walker does not allow them to see their feet and legs, which is crucial for them learning how to move their legs and step properly. Imagine trying to knit a sweater for the first time but not being able to see the yarn, needles, or your hands! Kids rely heavily on their visual system in their early years to learn how to maintain their balance, so by being able to see where they are stepping and where their feet are going helps them tremendously.
2) The baby walker does not allow them to perform other gross motor functions to get them to walking, such as crawling, pulling to stand, or stepping with support. It is a completely dependent piece of equipment that does not allow kids the opportunity to explore their environment as independently as possible.
3) It put babies in an unnatural standing position. Although it is very exciting to have your baby stand, place them in standing positions that are more functional, such as holding your hands or having them hold onto a support surface.
I understand that life can get busy and baby walkers seem like an easy alternative if you need to keep your kid contained for a few minutes. I would suggest placing your child in a playard or a gated baby-proofed room as better solutions to keep your kid safe while giving them opportunities to learn how to move independently.
#3: DO use push toys!
#4: DON'T force them to stand or walk!
In order to do so...
#5: DO place toys up high and at different heights!
Some of my favorite toys to encourage reaching up for toys and letting go of the support surface include bubbles, balloons, and balls big enough that require two hands. Bubbles and balloons are fun because they can be unpredictable and require dynamic balance as they move their eyes, rotate their head and trunk, and reach out with their arms for the bubbles and balloons. Having them reach and play with a bigger circumference ball encourages them to let go of the support surface and work on weight bearing through their legs.
#6: DON'T stop your baby from falling, as long as it is safe!
And since we're talking about falls...
#7: DO let them explore different surfaces!
#8: DON'T compare your baby’s development to other babies!
#9: DO make her first steps into a big deal!
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