Q&A: Exercises for Baby Not Walking

CME WebsitesChild Development, Walking

blockquote_bgMy daughter is 10 months old and she was evaluated by a PT for motor gross skills (early Intervention Program). She tested at 5 months for locomotion. Her muscle tone is within normal limits. She sits up, rolls both ways, pivots. She reached all these milestones late, around 7.5 months. She doesn’t bear weight on her legs. When I try to help her to stand, she wants to bounce. She also does that in an exersaucer. She is not pulling up from a sitting position. I am very concerned that she will not be able to walk. Can you please advise on what exercises I can do? We will start therapy in a few weeks, but I would like to do some exercises at home before that.

You have taken the best first step in having your daughter evaluated by EI, so that you will have PT services starting soon in your home. And keep in mind, that although you hear that babies often take their first steps at one year, children who walk even as late as 16 months are still considered within average, so your daughter has a long time to develop her strength and practice the skills needed for independent walking. In the meantime, I would limit (10 min. a few times per day) or eliminate if you can, the time your daughter spends in an exersaucer, swing, bouncer or any similar equipment. These devices do not help children walk, and in some cases they hinder walking by encouraging movements that are not conducive to learning to walk, such as building up calf muscles instead of quads and promoting toe walking (from children using tippy toes to spin exersaucers or move walkers forward). The best place for your daughter to practice the needed skills for walking is on the floor. Although your daughter’s muscle tone is within normal limits, she may need to increase trunk strength or upper or lower body strength in order to pull up to stand, cruise and eventually walk. You didn’t mention if she was crawling yet, but since you did say she tested at 5 months in the gross motor area, I would assume not.

This is our page on motor milestones for babies 9-12 months.

Below I have copied and pasted some exercises that were given to other parents with similar questions that were submitted to Ask a Therapist:

I would practice using a therapy ball or large playground ball that is big enough that your child can stand in front of it at about chest height. Make a game of singing and rolling her forward with her belly on the ball and then back onto her feet. Row, row, row your boat is a great song for that activity. She may even enjoy just standing beside the big ball and patting it as a game. You can also sit her on your leg, with one of her legs on either side of yours and raise her up and down encouraging her to press her feet on the floor and stand as you raise her up with support. Bouncing in this position can help her increase the strength in her quad muscles that she needs for walking. Do not wear shoes on her in the house, she needs to feel the floor under her feet to develop these skills.

Crawling is a very important developmental milestone, and can be encouraged by placing your son over your leg on the floor, with his knees bent and hands bearing weight in front of him, rock him back and forth and sing simple songs to make it fun. You can also tape some large cans together or roll up several towels to make a roll and place him over this roll in a hand/knee position. Gently rock him back and forth so he is encouraged to bear weight on both hands and knees. Place a mirror in front of him and place toys to the left and right side, encouraging him to bear weight on one hand while reaching for a toy with his other hand. You can also use a small playground or exercise ball and place him belly down on there and roll him back and forth bringing him forward to his hands and then back to his knees or feet.

Work on transitional positions, such as encouraging him to go from laying down to sitting by rotating his body, as well as going from sitting to hand knee. Place the roll to his left or right side (alternate) and help him rotate over into a hand-knee position. You can use a small box turned upside-down as a table, and place your son in a kneeling position beside the box for play to encourage weight bearing on his knees. Make sure his heels are under his bottom (don’t allow him to sit in a “W” position with his bottom on the floor between his legs) and help him pull up to a tall kneeling position. When he is able to tolerate tall kneeling, you can help him move one leg out into a half kneel position which he will need to pull up into standing. Sometimes furniture in the house is simply too high for little ones to pull up on, so use boxes, breakfast trays, lap desks etc, whatever works best for your son’s height. Ideally when he pulls to stand the object you are using for a table should be about armpit height or a bit lower.