Born to Run
Once children master walking -- usually by 15 months -- it seems that they immediately start to run. And why not? Running is a rush. Aside from requiring improved balance, running also teaches children a lot about terrain. After all, running on a bumpy road could lead to a nasty fall, says kinesiologist Rosa Angulo-Barroso, PhD, director of the Brain/Behavior Relationships in the Developing Child program at the University of Michigan. You'll see your child start to alter his gait depending on his environment -- maybe even get back down on all fours if the surface looks particularly intimidating. This assessing and adapting shows that your naturally egocentric child is starting to understand that the red carpet isn't rolled out everywhere he goes. There will be challenges, and he has to learn to adapt to them. And then he'll experiment. A 2-year-old loves to practice standing on one foot. Then it's just a matter of time before he's jumping, skipping, hopping, and galloping. "If the only thing you were to ever do was walk, and always at the same speed, you would develop only one set of muscles," Angulo-Barroso says. "But we need to learn how to use our muscles in different ways."
Your child's mastery of motion will result in many skinned knees to kiss and anxious tears to hug away. But before you know it, you'll have a toddler who can walk up and down the stairs (alternating feet, even) and run circles around the playground -- a child whose favorite line will be, "Mommy, look what I can do!"