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 them to have good posture is by modeling good posture for them yourself. Baby is working on their posture at this very moment, and their posture will continue to develop as they grow.

When they were a baby…

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

When they started sitting up…

When Baby started sitting up, it was because the muscles in their core and spine were strong enough to support their head, neck and torso. Their spine was able to fully elongate and allow them 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 they sit upright.

When they start walking…

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

When they start 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 them. When Baby is using a chair or a table, encourage them to sit flat, not on their knees or leaning over the table on their feet. Try to keep any backpack or weight that they wear or carries at less than 10% of their 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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