Ever noticed how most toddlers tend to move through the world like they're on their fourth margarita? There has to be a reason why toddlers are such clumsy little creatures. Remember that hilarious video of the 2-year-old "trashing a bar" from way back in 2011? (If you haven't seen it, it's quite a treat.) The child star of course is not actually drunk. She is simply 2. And clumsy.
Pediatrician Whitney Casares is the author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One, and she tells Romper the reason for a little one's unsteady gait is actually pretty simple: "Toddlers’ muscles and bones grow rapidly, and it takes time for them to coordinate. This makes them more clumsy as they start out."
Remember — this whole ambling around business is all quite new to them. They've spent their days being wheeled around in strollers or toted in carriers, and now they're braving their world on their own chubby little legs. This takes some practice and getting used to. But... is there ever a time when a toddler's clumsiness might be a sign of something more serious?
Urszula Semerda is a pediatric occupational therapist, and she says there are many reasons children might be excessively clumsy. "Some may have vision problems such as nearsightedness or difficulty with depth perception. Others may not have been exposed to many opportunities to freely roam and test their bodies to gain the needed coordination. Children may also present with muscle weaknesses, orthopedic difficulties, or have a developmental coordination disorder."
Another thing to watch for, according to Today's Parent, is if a toddler seems to favor one side as they toddle. "An unbalanced gait could point to a weakness of one of the hip or leg muscles, or a sore foot or joint, or they may have an injury. It could also be an indication of an autoimmune disease," the website noted.
But as with any physical or developmental concerns regarding your child, Semerda says to trust your instincts and go ahead and reach out to a pediatrician if you're worried. But in general? The toddler drunk-walk is totally normal. "The typical range for babies to start walking is between 9 to 18 months of age," Semerda says. "Each child needs lots of practice to build their coordination and gain control over their bodies. It’s typical for kids to trip and tumble during this stage. By about 3 years of age, their balance and coordination should improve and you should see less falls and collisions."
Indeed, practice makes perfect. Which means you need to get your kiddo out of that City Mini and steer them toward a patch of grass, where they can teeter and stumble without fear of a scratch or bump. "Toddlers need the opportunities to move and explore, says Semerda. "These opportunities help them integrate their body senses which lay the foundation for the development of many complex skills, such as balance and coordination."
Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P. is the author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One
Urszula Semerda, pediatric occupational therapist, owner of Sensory Lifestyle, a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based play ideas.