Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

May 23, 2013

Tips from a Pediatric PT: Helping Your Child To Walk Backwards

According to the Denver II, 25% of children can walk backwards by 12 months, 75% by 15 months, and 90% by 16 months.  Once your child has learned to walk forwards successfully, they will then attempt to take steps backwards.

Walking backwards is a critical skill for children to learn.  This skill is essential for protection from falling backwards.  If a child falls forward they can catch themselves with their hands, but if they are falling backwards they have to be able to take steps to regain their balance to keep from falling on their behind‚Ķor worse on their head.

Protective backwards stepping is developed last, after forward and sideways protective stepping.  Similarly, children walk significant distances forward first, then sideways, and then they learn backwards walking for distance. 

How to help:

¬∑        When a child is first learning to walk backwards, stand in front of them and hold onto both of their hands.  Help them take small steps backwards while continuing to hold their hands.  As this becomes easier, try holding just one of their hands while they walk backwards.  I like to make it more fun by saying ‚Äúbeep‚Ķ beep‚Ķbeep‚Äù like a truck is backing up. 

¬∑        I love playing this game looking at a full length mirror.  Then I can walk forward holding the child‚Äôs hand with both of us facing the mirror.  Then, we walk backwards together.  When kids are just learning this, I like having 2 adults, one on each side of the child holding their hand going quickly up to the mirror and then backing up slowly.

¬∑        Give your child a cart or stroller to push.  At first have them push the cart forward, then slowly back up the cart for them for them to recover and step backward.  Silly sounds when going backward make this more fun. 

¬∑        Give your child a pull string toy (like the xylophone, duck or puppy dog toy) or a 1 hand pull toy (such as the classic popcorn popper or a pretend vacuum cleaner) to encourage them to walk backwards.  I like the pull string toys particularly because when you pull the string and walk backward, you can see the toy work!

¬∑        Try playing ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to get you‚Äù with your child.  Crouch down with your arms up and in ‚Äúsneaking up‚Äù position and walk toward them to encourage them to step backwards to avoid letting you ‚Äúget them‚Äù.

¬∑        If your child is not bad at backward and you just want more of a challenge, give your child a path to follow.  Place small markers, such as carpet squares, a sidewalk chalk path drawn on the driveway or pieces of paper taped down to the floor.  Tell them to take steps backwards with each foot hitting a marker or staying inside the path.  If this is too hard, start off with 2 hands held, fade to 1 hand, and then work to independently.


Need help?

If you want help with these suggestions or notice developmental warning signs, a Physical Therapy evaluation can determine if your child is simply showing normal variability in gross motor development or if your child can benefit from intervention.  Call me today at (704) 332-4834 ext. 114 to set up an evaluation.


“Your Child’s Walking Timeline.” BabyCenter. Baby Center, Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.

“Gross Motor Skills for Toddlers: 12-24 Months.” Child Development 12 to 24 Months. Early Intervention Support, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.