All the parents at your playgroup are raving about push toys and your little tot is crazy about them, too. Even your pediatrician has gotten on the bandwagon, telling you that they are good for your toddler's gross motor development. You may be wondering how a push toy can help your little one develop the skills needed to walk.
1. Walking is a Major Milestone
As your baby transitions to toddlerhood, she is working hard to master the most basic gross motor skills: walking, climbing and jumping. Walking is actually a complex movement that requires strength and balance. It is particularly difficult for young children because their center of gravity is still higher than an adult's, which explains why they fall over so easily. Given that, it's no wonder toddlers like getting an assist from a push toy as they master independent walking.
A baby's first foray into the world of walking is usually cruising: pulling herself to her feet and scooting around by holding onto a piece of furniture. As her balance improves, she begins to briefly let go of the stabilizing object. Once she is steady on her feet, swapping out the couch for a push toy provides some support while allowing her to work on her balancing skills on a whole new level. Start her off with a stable push toy such as a miniature shopping cart, until she is fully confident in walking.
Once your toddler is confidently marching along, push toys begin to serve a different purpose, challenging her strength rather than assisting her balance. To move a toy wheelbarrow loaded with sand or a pretend stroller filled with board books, your child needs to engage her muscles -- and her willpower. Outdoor toys, such as miniature lawnmowers, wheelbarrows and wagons, often require toddlers to maneuver over uneven ground or through thick grass. Pushing a doll or stuffed animal up a gentle hill strengthens your toddler's legs and torso.
4. Reluctant Walkers
While some tots leap right into walking, others are easily discouraged, preferring to stick to skills they've already mastered, such as sitting or cruising. In that situation, introducing a push toy adds excitement and fun to the process for your little one. For those needing an added sense of security, whether because of a timid personality or because of developmental delays, a push toy can give the illusion of having something to hold onto. Keep a variety of push toys in your child's indoor and outdoor play areas: miniature strollers, vacuums, lawnmowers, shopping carts or animal-themed push toys are all good choices.
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