If you were excited when your child started walking, just wait until he puts it in reverse! Walking backwards may sound like a silly movement milestone, but your little one mastering this maneuver is actually quite impressive and it offers a lot of developmental benefits.
Here are just a few reasons why practicing reverse walking with your toddler is so valuable.
Benefits of Walking Backwards
First, the most important reason to learn to walk backwards is safety. When your toddler falls forward, he can use his hands to soften the fall and push himself back up. Practicing reverse walking allows him to build up his ability to use his legs to prevent a backwards fall. He’ll slowly learn to counterbalance a backwards fall by taking a few steps back to regain his balance. Protecting his head and spine from these falls is the key motive of this movement milestone.
Strengthens Leg Muscles
If you’ve ever tried to walk backwards as a fitness exercise, you may have noticed that it involves different leg muscles than walking forward. Walking backwards engages your calf muscles, glutes, and quadriceps, which are very helpful muscles for mobile toddlers! Strengthening these leg muscles can help him achieve other movement milestones such as climbing, kicking, and even dancing.
Improves Balance and Coordination
Any type of exercise that improves a child’s balance and coordination is a good thing, and walking backwards just so happens to do that! Balance and coordination are at the root of tons of physical activities, such as learning to ride a bike or playing catch with a ball. Walking in reverse is not only great for your little one’s core muscles and posture control, it’s also a terrific exercise for his cerebellum too: Learning to balance while walking backwards facilitates the growth and development of neurons in the brain.
Strengthens Spatial Awareness
Walking backwards also helps to boost his spatial awareness, which is a cognitive skill that tells us our position relative to objects around us. Exercising his reverse skills allows him to understand how his body and his body parts move about a room without bumping into stuff.
Your child’s proprioceptive sense is his ability to internally determine where his body parts are and how much effort he needs to move them about. This internal sense helps guide his backwards movements without needing to look back, and prevents him from toppling over.
Walking Backwards Milestones
Between 16-18 months, you’ll most likely see your toddler mastering sideways movements and eventually taking a few steps backwards. For a while, he may look like a tiny, clumsy sailor doing the cha-cha! But as his muscles develop and his balance becomes stronger, he’ll become more and more confident backing up. Around 28-30 months, you’ll notice that his steps are becoming steady and stable, allowing him to move halfway across a room (approximately 10 steps) going backwards. A big feat for little feet!
Remember that little ones hit these movement milestones at different times and in different ways. If you’d like to encourage your toddler to try to walk backwards more, explore our BabySparks program for video instructions on how to safely practice walking in reverse.