Stepping up onto a step

Toddlers first learn to step up onto a low step using hand support on a nearby surface to help with balance, but with practice they learn to negotiate low step without holding on.

It usually takes some time before the child learns to step up onto a higher step (such as the steps in a flight of stairs) without hand support. , 

Activities for training stepping up

Stepping up onto a low step
Place a 5 cm high step close to a wall or other support surface such as a low table, dining room chair or bed. 

  • Encourage the toddler  to step up onto the step and down the other side. 
  • The toddler may choose to use hand support on the nearby support surface to assist with balance. 

Step up low step touch support.jpg

A series of steps, with gaps between, provides the toddler with repeated opportunities to step up and down.  

Start with the steps about 40 cm apart, and later move the steps a little closer. . 

Step up series steps.jpg

A good way to encourage a child to negotiate a step is the position the step in a doorway and then play a game that requires moving through the doorway to fetch a beanbag, ball or plastic water bottles.

Because the step spans the width of the doorway, the toddler has to step up and down to get through the door. He cannot walk around and avoid the step. 

Step door frame.jpg

Giving the toddler a large toy that needs two hands to hold sometimes will get them to negotiate the step without touching the wall. 

Step up holding a ball.jpg

Once the toddler is confident negotiating the low step, raise the step to 10 cm and provide opportunities for stepping up onto it. 

Step up higher step.jpg

Stepping up onto a high step 

Toddlers often encounter steps that are relatively high in relation to their height, and are too high to use the usual stepping up strategy.

Most often a typically developing toddler when will select a hands and feet strategy to get up the step. One foot is lifted up onto the step, the hands are lowered onto the step, the leg at the back is lifted up onto the step and the child stands up. 

Stepping up 21.jpg   Stepping up 28.jpg   Stepping up 31.jpg

With time and practice the child learns to step up onto relatively high steps, at first with hand support, and later without holding on. 

This series of pictures shows how stepping up onto a high step really challenges the child's balance. 

Stepping up 20m step 3.jpg      Stepping up 20m step 9.jpg   Stepping up 20m step 11.jpg  Stepping up 20m step 14.jpg


Stepping up and down when out and about 

Provide the toddler with a range of opportunities to practice stepping up onto steps of different heights and in different contexts.  Look around your home, garden (yard), and all the places where you go regularly for steps and stairs. 

Encourage your child to go up and down independently using whatever strategy he chooses to use. 

Rather than holding your child's hands, stand next to the child so that he can touch your leg for balance. 

Remember that lots of different experiences builds confidence and teaches your  child to cope with new circumstances, and to choose a strategy that allows him to succeed at the task at hand.