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Kneeling 101

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

By Dr. Emily Stefan, PT, DPT

Kneeling is a great position for children to play in because it helps to build strength in the core, quads and glutes. These are all REALLY important muscle groups that help us with learning to crawl, stand up, and walk!

When your baby is sitting independently, they might be ready to try some kneeling. You may see them in short kneeling first, where they rest their bottom on their heels. They will experiment in this position then they will start to bounce and even pull up into tall kneeling. Here are some tips to encourage more play time in kneeling for your child!


Getting In and Out of Kneeling

If your baby is showing initiative of transitioning in and out of the position by reaching, this is one way to help them. Face your child sideways and have them reach with the closer arm first. Help them guide their body over and use your hand at their ankles to help get hips right over feet.

If your child has a more difficult time with this transition due to a neurological diagnosis, cognition, or tone, try this method. Hold one hand at the ankles and one at the trunk. Guide the whole body down to the floor and once the feet are in place, place their hands on the surface that they are playing at.


How to Support at the Legs

You may find initially that your baby's legs tend to "frog out" or that they are sliding away from each other. There are a couple of ways that you can support their legs so that they can focus on using their upper body and core at first. With more practice, you can decrease your support at their legs and allow them to play independently! These are two ways that I find helpful to support a child.

You may find it beneficial to use your hands at each side of the legs to prevent them from sliding out. Then, they can engage with the toy in front of them, bounce and attempt to push up to tall kneeling.

If you find yourself wishing you had 10 hands like me, you might find this helpful! Often times I will use my feet on each side of the child's legs to support them. This way, my hands are free to help the trunk if needed and press buttons on toys to keep them occupied! :) Warning: you have to be pretty flexible for this one!


Assisting Short to Tall Kneeling

If your baby spends a lot of time in short kneeling and needs some help for pulling up to tall kneeling, try placing a toy too high so that they are required to push up into tall kneeling in order to reach it. You can try to give them a boost by placing your hands around each thigh with your thumbs on each glute and gently pushing them upwards. You can also try to give them a cue underneath their armpits to pull up. See these two tips in this video:


How Different Angles Change Difficulty

Increasing the angle of the toy to make it more vertical (like the push toy above) will encourage your child to recruit more muscles in their legs because they aren't able to rely on their arms to pull through as much. Decreasing the angle to make it lower and more horizontal (a couch cushion) may make it a little harder on the core, especially the neck and trunk extensors. Make sure you try kneeling at multiple surfaces and see which ones are challenging for your little one! In addition to the items used in this post, you can try kneeling at a stool, coffee table, your thigh, an activity table (either take one/two leg(s) off to make an angle or have them pull up to it as a table), and even vertical surfaces like a wall or refrigerator!

*This is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your pediatrician or a physical therapist with questions and/or concerns about your child's development.

What questions do you have about kneeling? Have you tried this yet with your little one? Let me know if you have!

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