The evolution of your toddler’s posture

It’s possible that you didn’t notice your own posture until your parents started correcting it in your teen years, but your posture actually starts developing much earlier. Baby’s posture is still a work in progress, but the easiest way to encourage her to have good posture is by modeling good posture for her yourself. Baby is working on her posture at this very moment, and her posture will continue to develop as she grows.

When she was a baby…

That round little ball of love didn’t have any posture! Baby had what is called “resting posture,” where her body would totally conform to the shape of whatever sling, bouncer, or snuggle she was in because her body was super flexible and her muscle tone was still developing. Her favorite pose was the fetal position because it was what she was used to from being in the womb. As she got bigger, she started stretching out a little more and trying to roll around and sit up.

When she started sitting up…

When Baby started sitting up, it was because the muscles in her core and spine were strong enough to support her head, neck and torso. Her spine was able to fully elongate and allow her to sit straight up. It’s possible for babies to be taught to sit up before their muscles and bones are totally ready, but this can lead to posture with a curved back while sitting, which isn’t good in the long run (it’s also not great in the short run). Ideally, your child has a straight head, neck and back when she sits upright.

When she starts walking…

Once  she started walking, when her muscle strength and balanced allowed her to move themselves forward, Baby may have started to walk with a wide base, for greater stability. She probably has flat feet, an arched back, and start to stand taller while she walks (and taller and taller as she grows!). As she gets older, her feet will lose their fat padding and reveal arches, and her gait will straighten out.

When she starts doing other stuff…

Good posture will become especially tricky when Baby starts eating at the table, sitting at chairs, and carrying heavier things. These can easily contribute to poor posture, especially when combined with adults modeling less-than-perfect posture to her. When Baby is using a chair or a table, encourage her to sit flat, not on her knees or leaning over the table on her feet. Try to keep any backpack or weight that she wears or carries at less than 10% of her body weight, and encourage Baby to sit “criss-cross applesauce” to distribute weight evenly and decrease strain on joints.

If you have concerns about your child’s posture, your healthcare provider will be able to answer any questions you might have or direct you to a specialist. This could be a good thing to check in about during your well-child visits as well!

  • T. Berry Brazelton, Joshua D. Sparrow. Touchpoints. 2nd Edition. Da Capo Press. 2006. Print.
  • “Physical Appearance and Growth: Your 2 Year Old.” American Academy of Pediatrics. December 21, 2015.
  • “Understanding normal variations in childhood gait and posture.” North East Valley Division of General Practice. Centre for Community Child Health & Ambulatory Paediatrics Royal Children’s Hospital. April 1997.
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