Toe-walking is a condition where only the ball of the foot rests on the ground while the child is walking 1. When learning to walk, most toddlers will occasionally walk on their toes. However, if your child is older than 3 years and still consistently walking on her toes, a pediatrician and/or an orthopedist should evaluate your child to determine the cause. In some cases, there may be a physical or muscular problem. In other children, the problem may be due to a sensory or developmental disorder. Whichever the cause, there are exercises that can help your child learn to walk properly.
Sometimes kids may walk on their toes because they lack the body awareness to walk flat-footed. One activity to help improve balance and body awareness in toe walkers is a game of pickup. Place 10 marbles and a bucket on the floor. Have your child pick up the marbles, one by one, with his toes, and place them in the bucket. Continue until he has picked up all 10 marbles, then have him repeat the activity with the other foot.
Another way to help improve your child's balance and sensory awareness is to have him stand on a pillow while doing his regular activities, such as doing a puzzle, playing cards or a board game, or drawing. This will force him to be aware of the position of his feet and legs and balance accordingly.
Motor control activities improve your child’s control of specific body movements--which muscles to move, which way and how fast. One exercise to try is to make a Mouse House. Stand with weight spread evenly across the feet. Next, raise up the arch muscles on the inside edge of the feet, creating more space under the feet--room for a mouse. Make sure to keep the weight evenly spread so the feet do not roll in toward the middle.
In some cases, toe-walking is caused by tightness in a child's calf muscles 1. To stretch those muscles, have your child stand on an incline plane, and raise up onto his toes, then lower himself using his calf muscles to control the downward movement. This exercise is designed to lengthen the muscles in the calf 2.
The type of physical therapy or exercise your child will need if he walks on his toes will depend on the cause. Consult with your doctor or a physical therapist before beginning any exercise or therapy program.
Whichever the cause, there are exercises that can help your child learn to walk properly. Sometimes kids may walk on their toes because they lack the body awareness to walk flat-footed. One activity to help improve balance and body awareness in toe walkers is a game of pickup.
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