Every time I am talking to a crowd and I ask if anyone knows a child that walks on their toes or toe walks, at least one person knows of someone and most seem relieved to know an answer.
Toe walking is a sign a child needs vestibular input
Toe walking is a sign that a child is seeking vestibular input. The vestibular system is one of the systems of the sensory processing system that deals with a person’s balance. The vestibular system resides deep in your ear and works on telling your brain where your head is in space if it’s tilted or if it’s spinning. We adjust our balance when the vestibular system is given cues that our head is changing positions.
When I see a child toe walking, I provide the child with activities that provide vestibular input. The easiest and most powerful activity in a preschool setting is to have the child swing on a swing. If the child is very young, you can hold the child and dance playfully with them adding spins to the dance.
When you take a child’s feet off the ground, they are totally relying on their vestibular system for balance and not their vision or using their feet. Make sure both of these activities are comfortable and fun for the child. If the child is highly resistive and fearful then be sure to check with your occupational therapist to see if occupational therapy services are necessary.
What toe walking looks like
Further information on the vestibular system
If you want to know more about the vestibular system, how it works, what other characteristics, symptoms or behaviors you can see when a child is seeking input, and what to do about it, hire me for my Sensory Processing: It Does Make Sense training.