From about the age of 6-7 months most infants will start to put their feet down, stiffen their legs and take some weight when held vertically with their feet on a firm surface. Some infants seem to really like doing this and prefer to stand rather than sit on a carer’s lap.
Here you see how Will (8 months) first bends his legs, then extends them in readiness for standing when he is picked up.
Some infants do not straighten their legs in readiness for standing
There are a group of infants who do not straighten their legs in readiness for taking weight on their feet. When you pick them up, they bend the legs and may even hold them straight forwards as if they are sitting on air. There is no good explanation for why some infants do this and in most cases they eventually start to take an interest in standing on their feet.
All the infants whom I have seen doing this have been hypermobile, so there may be some link to hypermobility. And walking has been delayed.
What you can do to encourage your infant to start standing
The trick is to get your infant used to putting the feet down on the floor and putting some weight onto them, and then to start pulling up into standing.
Start by practicing sitting on a low step
The best way to go about this is to get the infant taking some weight on the feet when sitting on a low step with the feet on the floor.
Now play games that encourage the infant to lean forwards to retrieve, bang, pull, push or knock over a toy.
These pictures show how Will at 8 months leaning forwards to grab my hands. You can see how this action brings his weight forwards over his feet. (Here he is sitting on a 10 cm high high density foam block.)
Reaching forwards transfers some of the weight over onto the feet and provides the first experience of pressing down on the floor with the feet when in the upright position.
You may need to provide some support to stop the legs flopping out sideways.
You can use your hands to do this or let the infant sit between two boxes that keep the legs in place.
Here you see how I am supporting the thighs to stop them flopping sideways and also pushing down a little on his feet to get him used putting some weight through his feet.
Sitting on a higher surface encourages more weight shift onto the feet
Here you see Toesies leaning forwards a lot further. Because he is sitting on a higher surface he is getting more weight onto his feet. I am supporting his thighs to stop them from moving side. Holding his legs in position like this gently stretches the tight muscles at the sides of his hip.
Initially you may also need to provide some support at the ankles to keep the feet flat on the floor. I prefer not to use little boots to support the ankles as these restrict the forward bending movement at the ankle needed for standing up and the support provided by the boots means that the muscles are not stimulated to work to provide ankle support.
The infant who refuses to put the feet down on a hard surface
If your infant does not like putting the feet down flat on the floor you will need to spend some time desensitizing the feet. Here are some ideas.
Start with the infant sitting on a low step. I use a 10-15 cm high very firm foam block. A couple of telephone books taped together also make a good step.
Sit in front of your infant and support the feet just above the ankles. Now you can play stomping games – stomp the feet alternatively on the floor as if they are marching. Sing a marching song or count in a fun way.
Try this barefoot or with shoes on, whichever works best for your infant.
You can also try letting your infant sit with the bare feet on different surfaces such a pillow, soft rug, grass or sand to get the infant used to the feel of these.
Encourage your infant to be more active sitting on the floor
Infants who move from sitting into crawling and kneeling positions use their feet for leverage and will often put them down flat on the floor. This not only helps to strengthen the leg muscles but get the infant used pushing down on the floor with the soles of the feet.
The pictures below show Toesies moving from sitting to positions where he is supporting himself on his hands and feet in different ways
Encourage your infant to start pulling up into standing
There are different ways to do this. You can let the infant sit facing a low table or sturdy dining room chair that can be used as support to get up and also to balance in standing.
Infants like to stand up facing a carer
Getting up from sitting on a low step is easier than getting up from sitting on the floor and helps to strengthen the leg muscles.
It helps to start with the infant sitting on a step that is a bit higher so that it is easier to stand up. I like to use my leg so that I can give a little bit of a lift in the beginning.
Here you see Roan pulling on me and my clothing to balance in standing.
It is best not to help the infant to stand up
Let her do the work all by herself. If you help her she is not learning to coordinate her trunk and leg muscles to get the action right.
Games that will get your infant reaching and pulling up
Try these ideas when you are encouraging your infant to stand up using you for support.
- Put a hat on your head – or any toy that will rest on top of your head.
- Put your infant’s clothes on your head – they usually find this funny.
- Peek-a-boo games using a scarf over your head.
- Hold toys in your mouth – infants find this very funny and will grab them.
- Put a string of beads around your neck – be sure that they are strong enough not to break when pulled on.
GAMES for encouraging standing up and walking
For Infant Games and Toddler Games subscribers (Just $20 for a 12 month subscription)
Before you start
It is very important that your infant has been seen by a physician to check that the hips are healthy and that it is safe for your infant to engage in a program of exercises to strengthen the leg muscles for standing and walking.
If your infant has significant developmental delay, a referral for physical therapy is the ideal. However, if this is not available time spent training your infant can beneficial.
Gentle stretches for tight hip muscles
If your infant tends to sit, crawl or stand with the legs wide apart, you will need to spend some time working on increasing the flexibility of the hip muscles.
My infant won't put their feet down to stand
How to get your infant onto her feet
Getting up into standing
Working on standing up from sitting strengthens the infant's leg muscles and trains coordination and control.
Improving balance in standing with support
Infants need to learn to balance in standing using one hand, and to shift their weight across the feet before they are able to take a step and start to crusie.
Standing with support and learning to balance
Some infants needs extra practice in order to learn to stand with support and reach in all directions.
Learning to bend the knees
Infants with developmental delay and joint hypermobility (low muscle tone) may need some extra help to strengthen their leg muscles and improve balance and coordination to get them ready for standing with support and cruising.
Stepping, cruising and walking with support
Once infants feel confident standing with support at a table, sofa or bed they start to step sideways holding onto whatever support they can find. .
How to train your toddler to fall well