A child who has not yet learned to walk knows the importance of the act of walking. Everyone around the child walks, even the family dog. The child sees that getting about on all fours gets you from place to place and imitates that motion. But then, standing on two legs, in the same way that mommy and daddy do, becomes a goal for the child, even if the parents do not emphasize the need for a child to walk.
Children pull themselves upright on furniture and stand wobbly on two legs. There’s a new view of the world — see, there’s toys over there, a patch of sunlight and doorways to new places. A parent can use both f those motivations, one for seeing new things and the other for using new things, as incentives for the child in the toys and other items used to acclimate the child to walking.
Weighted push-toys with handles to grasp and wheels that roll enables children to pull themselves upright, lean into the toy and move along by pushing, yet keeping the physical support the child needs. Get-the-ball is not just a game to play with your pet — a child sees the ball and wants the ball and will move to go get it. Setting an example of how to bounce a ball will not only amuse a child, but will also encourage the hand/eye coordination and muscular reactions that are necessary for walking.
Before your child reaches that about-to-walk stage, you can start in earliest infancy by encouraging curiosity and the urge to explore in your child. By the time a baby is four months old, give your child toys that require reaching out and holding: squeeze toys that reward a grab with a squeak, balls that you can roll toward and away from your child, stacking toys that require reaching and holding, push/pull toys that show a child what movement is. Reaching will also teach a child balance and stability.
One of the first actions a toddler learns when pulling on something is that pulling moves the thing closer, but only some of the time. If the thing is much bigger than the child, pulling on the thing lifts the child upright — what an amazing discovery! Rather than depend on furniture with dangerous corners, like a coffee table, to be that type of object, provide your toddler with a wheeled walker cart that has some weight to it.
This type of cart should have a handle low enough for a child to grasp, but high enough to let the child pull themselves up. It should be stable and heavy enough so that it won’t tip over. The wheels should be capable of rolling smoothly over both smooth floors and carpets; the wheels should have brakes that can be set by an adult. The wagon should have several cargo sections and pockets for storing toys and other things — the child will adore being able to put their things in the cart and will start rolling it all around the house.
Just as with any toy intended for your child, be sure to look the toy over for any sharp edges or pieces that might easily break off and become a choking hazard.