Noah has been pushing his walker for awhile now. His favorite would be the Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Stride-to-Ride Dino that he is using in today’s video. (Which also made our list of top toys.) We’ve been trying to get him to walk on different surfaces since he is becoming a pro on the carpet in our house. Today we took him out in the backyard to get to experience walking on grass for the first time. The options for different textures that your child can walk on are endless from sand, tile, gym mats, to puddles just to name a few. All of these different surfaces are helpful not only with walking but also with sensory development.
Balance and Muscle Control
Just look at that balance!
Walking on sand, grass, and other softer surfaces activates different muscles than walking on a hard surfaces. The child is having to counteract the movement of the surface with their body, especially their core (better known as balance). Balance is something that a lot of children with Down syndrome can struggle with due to hypotonia and changing up their walking surface challenges this weakness. We all know that we get a much better workout if we go running in the sand than around the track for the same reasons. It is also the theory behind those popular shoes that are supposed to tone the lower body (are those working for anyone?). It will help the child become even more controlled on a firm surface helping them master walking.
Changing up the surface with a push toy in particular will change the resistance the child is working against. Grass and sand offer a lot of resistance so the child really has to push, where as tile may cause a face plant the first few times you try it out as the toy can get away from them. Even carpet was initially hard for Noah as the toys could get away from him too quickly, so putting him in the grass offered him a way to push the toy on his own as well as build muscles. The resistance also activates the core, and if you have learned just one thing from our therapy visits it is that the core is the center of the majority of motor milestones.
Keeping those feet bare will help with sensory integration for the child as well. We have talked about how swings are also important for this as well. Experiencing textures helps their brain process all the different sensations from the poking of grass, to the coolness of tile. I encourage you to get the added benefit of plopping your child down on surfaces so their hands can get the benefit too. Noah is not a big fan of touching grass, but the more exposure he gets the better he does. Sand is an awesome texture for sensory integration as they can really dig their toes and fingers into it. We’ve heard shaving cream is pretty awesome too, but we aren’t quite ready for that mess at our house.
By the way, be sure to check out this list of our favorite fisher price developmental toys!
Does your child like walking on a particular texture? Any unique ideas for textures to try?