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How to Make Your Child the Stair Master in 6 Steps!

For young toddlers, stairs may seem intimidating as it challenges their balance, depth perception, motor planning and strength.  Many toddlers are scared to walk up and down the stairs and prefer to crawl or receive adult support. By the age of 2, children should be walking up and down stairs with handrail support using a step to gait pattern. They should begin using a reciprocal pattern by the age of 3 with decreasing handrail support when going up the steps. Descending stairs is more difficult due to decreased eccentric muscle control and mastery of an alternating foot pattern without support is not common until around age 4. Below are tips and exercises to perform with your child to help promote a reciprocal gait pattern when using stairs!

1. Start Small

As stated earlier, stairs can be intimidating and many children are fearful of them.  Start with 3-5 stairs and work your way up to a full flight. If that is too difficult, practice stepping up and down from a small curb or step stool.  

2. Give Visuals

Place colored shapes on the stairs to promote an alternating foot pattern. Have two colors and associate one with the left leg and one with the right. Place each colored shape on every other step and on the side of the body they are matched with. This visual will show your child where to step by matching their foot with the colored shape. Initially, you may have to place the child’s foot onto the next step to promote the reciprocal pattern. As your child gets more familiar with the pattern, slowly fade visual prompts by taking away the colored shapes on the stairs and see if they can maintain independently.   

3. Work on Balance

When performing stair climbing, you have to stand on one leg for a short duration while the other leg is stepping. Many children are fearful of performing single leg activities and prefer to keep both feet secure on the ground.  A great activity to get your child more comfortable with this movement pattern is having them place one foot on a pillow while one is secure on the ground. While in this position, have your child play at a table or play a tossing game to add a more dynamic component.  As they improve, change the foot position from a pillow to small step stool. Make sure to perform on both legs!

4. Improve Eccentric Muscle Control

It is important to have good eccentric quad control when going down stairs. Eccentric control is when the muscle lengthens.  A great way to work on eccentric control is having your child slowly lower themselves down into a chair and then return to standing. Another good exercise is having your child hold a wall squat while counting to 10, singing a short nursery rhyme, or playing catch.  Last, you can strengthen the thigh muscle by stepping up and down from a small step stool

5. Decrease Support

Many children will try to put both hands on the handrail as a way to feel safer and help them control their body when climbing up and down stairs. To promote single handrail support, have your child hold a small toy in their opposite hand. As your child prepares to use no support, have them place their arms in the air or hold a large object, i.e. a playground ball, in both hands, to keep them from reaching for the handrail. Remember, start small and work up to a full flight of stairs. Also, stand close until your child becomes more proficient for safety.

6. Keep it Fun!

Stair climbing is an everyday routine that loses interest fast, especially for toddlers. Make stair climbing a game by throwing a bean bag up the steps to determine how many steps you have to climb. Another fun game, is throwing a toy parachute man down from the top step, retrieving him, and returning him to the top. Last, place numbers and letters on the steps and have your child retrieve one at a time, carry them down the steps, and place them in alphabetical, word or number order.

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Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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