Skip to main content

Is it safe for your toddler to be running?

Your baby is now a toddler, opening up a whole new world of discoveries and milestones. As your toddler grows, he or she will be conquering more and more of those milestones. Running, like walking, is a major gross motor milestone for your little one. Gross motor skills are movements the human body does with its larger muscles. Developing gross motor skills involve more than just muscles. Balance and cognitive development also come into play. Accomplishments such as walking, running, jumping, and skipping are important because they mean the brain, muscles, and nerves are all on point and working together. So, about when should a toddler hit the ground running?

Time to lace up your toddler’s sneakers

Your baby officially becomes a toddler after his or her first birthday. The toddler time span runs from 1 to 3 years of age before your little one becomes a preschooler. Pediatricians expect most toddlers to begin running between 18 to 24 months, but the key word here is “most.” There is a huge range that is considered by doctors to be normal as far as when a toddler starts running. If your child is a late walker, chances are he or she will take a bit before bolting away at top speed at the most inopportune times.

Toddler boy running in the park
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When is not running a red flag?

Since gross motor milestones for toddlers like running and jumping are paramount, it is easy to become worried when other toddlers are racing around on the playground and yours isn’t, but try not to stress. Before a toddler can take off running, he or she needs to build up the necessary muscles as well as balance. Cues a toddler is ready to start running are when he or she has begun to master skills like walking up and down stairs confidently, bouncing, and even dancing when a favorite tune comes on.

There are certain red flags that if noticed should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician. If your toddler walks on his or her toes most of the time or if one side of the body doesn’t seem to be in sync with the other are two to mention to your doctor.

Flat-footedness is pretty common in toddlers because arches develop as children grow though some people never do, which won’t impact running development. Pigeon toes or intoeing is another issue often noticed in toddlers. This too usually corrects itself and also isn’t thought to hinder gross motor development.

My toddler isn’t running

It’s hard not to stress when it comes to your toddler, but stressing over your child not zipping down the grocery aisles like a playmate won’t help he or she start running any sooner. If your toddler doesn’t have any of the previous red flags and is in the midst of the wide range of normal pediatricians have for running, then take a step back. Try not to compare your toddler to playmates, relatives, or siblings. There aren’t any hard and fast rules for early childhood development, and some children just take longer to reach certain milestones than their peers.

Since gross motor development is essential to running, make sure you’re giving your toddler plenty of time each day to work his or her leg muscles. Life is busy, and if toddlers are going from the car seat to the stroller, they may not be getting enough opportunity to stretch their legs.

When doing short quick errands with your toddler, skip the stroller and have him or her walk. If you’re picking up a sibling at school, park a little farther away and have your toddler walk to the pickup door or the bus stop to meet big brother or sis. In the house, make sure your toddler has ample room to roam around freely and safely. This will help build up their confidence.

Toddler girl and boy having fun running in the park
AlohaHawaii / Shutterstock

Time to run

When your toddler finally does start running, remember it’s not always a smooth transition. Just like walking, toddlers new to running may be unsteady and fall a lot. They will also try to test their newfound skill indoors, so it’s probably a good idea to keep the baby gates up a while longer.

As your toddler learns to navigate this developing skill, it also takes a bit of time to process commands like “stop” or “slow down.” Remember, running involves muscle movement and cognitive functions, so your toddler won’t be able to stop on a dime. Eventually, he or she will get it. Keep giving those gentle reminders because as your toddler picks up speed, he or she will become harder to catch.

It is extremely difficult to not worry about your child’s development. Most toddlers are off and running by 2. At your well visit, the doctor or nurse will typically ask about major milestones like running, but if you’re concerned, bring up the topic at your toddler’s next appointment. In the meantime, be conscious of giving your toddler ample opportunities to develop their gross motor skills through walking and play. Before you know it, he or she will be zipping around the playground with the rest of the kids.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
Need a fantastic theme for a fifth birthday party? Consider these
Birthday party ideas for five-year-olds they'll love
5-year-old girl celebrating her birthday

Turning five is fabulous. It marks the end of the preschooler stage, which makes it a milestone birthday. That first day of kindergarten is right around the corner. Planning a five-year-old birthday party is super fun. Kids at this age are pretty easy to please. They love running around and playing games. There is also a plethora of awesome five-year-old birthday party ideas that rock. In honor of five, let's take a peek at five fantastic themes for a fifth birthday that get the guests moving because that is what five-year-olds love to do.

5-year-old birthday party ideas
Since most of your guests will be four turning five or five already, an outdoor party or one at an indoor venue where kids can get active is a perfect pick. Having structured activities is key with this age set. If you do decide to hold your kiddo's fifth birthday party outside, be sure to build in a rain date. Always have extra hands to help keep the games and activities focused. Tweens and teens are great for this. Here are five fav five-year-old birthday party ideas that will be a huge hit with the guest of honor and friends.
Kick it
The four and five-year-old set need to be active, and many of them probably just started lacing up the cleats to give soccer a try. If yours is loving soccer, then a soccer party is a major score. Plenty of indoor facilities host soccer birthday parties, but if you don’t want to use a venue, you can certainly hold your own. If your backyard is large enough, you can turn it into a soccer field. Otherwise, look for field availability at a neighborhood park or high school. Sometimes, permits are required, so check with your town’s recreation department first.

Read more
12 amazing tween birthday party ideas your kid (and their friends) will actually enjoy
Tween birthday party ideas they'll love
Pre-teen girl smiling, holding birthday present

Remember, planning birthday parties when your kids were little? Those were always super fun and relatively simple. Times change though when your once little ones become tweens. When kids get older, planning birthday parties becomes a bit more challenging. For tweens, party planning can be difficult because they are in the transitional phase between tween and teen. Tweens have outgrown the typical kid birthday parties, but they also aren't ready for celebrations more geared toward teens.

The tween age is the years from 9 to 12. So, your soon-to-be 12-year-old is almost a teenager and there are many sensational teen birthday party ideas. The problem is your tween isn't quite there yet. That's okay though. There isn't any need to rush the teen angst. It will arrive soon enough, and there are plenty of exciting tween birthday party ideas to make the guest of honor and the invitees happy.

Read more
The best third birthday party ideas for a fun and stress-free celebration
Birthday party ideas to celebrate turning 3
Birthday cake with a number 3 candle on it

All birthdays are special when it comes to your kiddos, but three is a truly monumental birthday. You are ending the toddler phase with the third birthday, and that is certainly something to celebrate. Those terrible two are going bye-bye, and your toddler is about to become a preschooler. A three-year-old birthday party is probably the first one your little guy or gal will be inviting some friends of their own.

Kiddos love birthday parties, especially when all the gifts have their names on them. Of course, you want to throw a party your child and his or her friends will totally enjoy without making you crazy. Don't start stressing already. There are lots of birthday party ideas to make your little one's special day amazing while keeping your stress level to a minimum.

Read more