A: Once a toddler masters walking, usually by about 15 months, it seems that he immediately starts to take off running. Although it can be hard to watch your child tear across the playground knowing that he'll probably trip and fall, force yourself to let him go. Not only does running require a higher level of balance, but it also teaches children about terrain. 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, which all help your child learn how to use his muscles in a variety of ways. No doubt, 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!" Just don't leave home without the bandages. --Cynthia Ramnarace
Copyright 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of American Baby magazine. Updated 2009