What is cruising? Cruising is when your child begins to walk while holding onto a stationary support surface such as a couch or coffee table. This is a pre-walking activity that almost all children go through when learning to navigate around their environment and it usually happens between crawling and walking.
There are many factors that go into cruising. It is really beneficial if your child knows how to pull to stand first although this is not a requirement. If your child is standing (i.e. able to bear weight through their legs) they can begin cruising. The hardest part for children (and their parents) to grasp is that taking that first step is really hard. Your child needs to shift their weight onto the foot that is in the opposite direction of where they want to go so that they can pick up their leg in front and take a step. The second step is much easier, they just have to lean in the direction they are already going and bring their back leg along.
In addition to having to shift their weight away from where they want to go, most kids are extremely reliant on their arms when they first begin cruising so they are leaning on their support surface for dear life. This makes it really hard to shift the weight on their feet. And, by relying on their arms they tend to think that if they keep moving their arms and upper body in the direction they want to go, their feet will come along naturally. Now all of their weight is in front, on their arms and trunk and yet they are supposed to pick up their front foot and take a step. No wonder frustration ensues when a child is developing this skill!
Some kids may prefer going in just one direction but I would encourage them to go in both directions as much as possible. Make it a game where they are putting pieces in a toy and the pieces are on one end of the couch and the toy is at the other end. You’d be amazed at how often your child will repeat a skill if they are engaged in a distraction! As they improve with weight shifting and overall balance you will see them begin to hold more with just their hands, and not have the full body lean on their support surface. The next step after this would be to have them start cruising around corners (inside corners are much easier than going around outside corners) and then cruising between surfaces. Usually the next support surface is able to be reached from their current support surface without them having to let go until they’ve made contact on the other side! Then the trick is to begin moving the support surface further away so they actually have to let go of all surfaces during the transition (as seen in the photo above). Early stages of this may not look pretty, usually it involves free standing and then leaning their body towards the new surface – they eventually learn that moving their feet helps a lot in this process!
So, cruising is a great ‘step’ prior to walking as it allows your child to practice weight shifting and progress their balance.