Toddler standing balance and stability checklist

When toddlers first learn to stand without holding on their balance is quite precarious - they fall down quite a lot as soon as their balance is challenged in any way. 

But over time active toddlers with good coordination learn to shift the weight distribution on their feet, adjust the alignment of their trunk over the feet and to take little steps to regain balance when it is disturbed. 

These adjustments are learned with experience; active toddlers spend a lot of time on their feet, they fall over frequently are generally not upset  by the falling experience and get and get back up onto their feet again.  Mostly they do not get hurt falling down except perhaps when they knock the head against close by walls and furniture.

Young children with movement difficulties are often less active, may be less willing to try new things and may get upset when they fall over. They may need extra practice to improve their balance skills.

What a 2-4 year old can do

Below are a few tasks you can let your child do to check their standing balance and stability. They will also give you an opportunity to observe the adjustments a child needs to make to maintain balance. 

Stand and turn to look to the side and behind

To do this the child needs to shift the weight on the feet and may even take a small step to look backwards. 

pam look behind.jpg

Check this ability
Let your child stand on a small raised step keep him/her in place. (A large book makes a good small step)
Stand 2-3 meters first to the left, then right and behind your child, call his/her name.
Can your child turn the head and shoulders to look at you keeping the feet in place?  

Stand and reach to the left and right 

To do this the child needs to stabilize the trunk, shift the weight to the left or right and adjust the alignment of the trunk over the feet to maintain balance. 


Check this ability

  • Let your child stand on a small step.this keeps the feet in place. 
  • Hold or place a toy just out of reach to the left of the child just  at about shoulder height.
    • Can your child reach for the toy and keep his/her balance without taking a step? 

Stand, bend down to pick up an object 

Bending down to pick up an object from the floor requires good leg muscle strength as well as ability to bend the knees and tip the trunk forwards to maintain balance. 

bend to pick uo ball.jpg

Check this ability

  • Put a soccer sized ball or 1 liter plastic bottle 1/4 filled with water on the floor in front of your child.
  • Instruct him/her to pick up the bottle and give it to you. 
    • Is he able to bend the knees and tip the trunk forwards to pick up the bottle or ball?
    • Can he stand up again and pass the bottle to you?

Stand, hold and move a large or heavy object

Young children love picking up and moving big or heavy objects. In order to do this the child needs to steady (stabilize) the head and trunk and adjust the alignment of the body over the feet to maintain balance. The child may also take a few small steps to maintain balance. 

Check this ability

  • Let your child stand facing a low table or two kitchen chairs next to each other. 
  • Put a 1 liter bottle of water or a ball that has some weight (such as a soccer ball) on the table in front of the child. 
  • Place a book on the table slightly to the right of the child.
  • Encourage your child to pick the bottle up and place it on the book.   
    • Does she/he hold the trunk steady and erect? 
    • Can she/he stretch, shift sideways and put the ball on the book and maintain balance?

Josh-pick-up-ball.jpg    Josh-Pick-up-move-ball.jpg

Stand and lift one foot up onto a step 

In order to lift one foot up onto a step the child must shift all the body weight onto the other leg and stand on one leg briefly. This is a very important ability and needed for stepping up onto a step and over obstacles. 

Check this ability

  • Let your child stand facing a small step - about five cm high.
  • Draw a large cross on the step and instruct your child to put first the left, then the right foot on the cross. 
  • Can she/he do this action without holding on or toppling over? 

   Josh-facing-low-step.jpg     Josh-foot-low-step.jpg

More about toddler gross motor skills 

Functional strength training for toddlers: what a toddler should be able to do 

Developmental Gym Training Activities 

Functional task training for improving a toddler's strength, balance and coordination for walking, running, steps and stairs, uneven and soft surfaces. 

Activities graded: start with activities that provide a small challenge but allow for success, move on to  exercises that are more demanding and lead to increased levels of skills. 

Subscribe here to access training tips and exercise instructions. Just $20 for a 12 month subscription

Activities include: 

Ball activities for trunk and arm strength, balance and coordination.


2y 11m catching rolled ball.jpg   2y 11m lifting ball to throw.jpg

Stepping up, down and over for leg strength and balance 

   T 2y 1m step down 30 cm 4.jpg

Walking on different surfaces for balance and motor planning 

2y 6m walking on soft surface.jpg

Lifting and carrying for balance, strength and motor planning 

T aged 22m playing boxes_1.jpg