Summer is the time that we get to closely observe our kids while they’re home for the holidays – and for many parents, this means picking up on little things they’ve not noticed before about the way their child sits, runs and plays.
While some things you notice will be nothing to worry about, others may indicate that there’s something more going on that requires further attention and care. But what are these things that you should be looking out for and what do they mean for your kids? Our podiatrists here at Sole Motion Podiatry in Point Cook have filled you in!
The W sitting position is where kids sit on their bottom with their knees forwards and their legs out to the sides and behind them – forming a ‘W’ shape. While their flexibility allows them to easily and naturally sit like this, this position actually encourages the hip bone to turn inwards, which can lead to in-toeing.
The stable position that W sitting creates also means that kids don’t have to engage their core muscles when moving their body and reaching in this position, meaning that they can delay the regular development and strengthening of essential muscles if they sit like this often. Instead, encourage your kids to sit with their legs crossed.
The good news is that both in-toeing and out-toeing are considered normal parts of a child’s lower limb development, with kids often going through both phases (or none at all) on their way to normal, straight-footed gait.
The bad news is that if either of these conditions continues past the age of 6 or 7, it may be a sign of an underlying problem that can be corrected with a little help, so should be checked. These conditions can become noticeable once your child starts walking, so if your child is born with significant in-toeing, they may have a condition called metatarsus adductus which needs attention too.
Much like in-toeing and out-toeing, knock knees and bow legs have normal periods where kids are developing, building their strength and coordination, and learning to walk. If your child’s knee position is causing any pain, however, like if the knees keep knocking against one another as they walk or run and you can see bruising, swelling or they’re in pain, definitely bring them in for a check. Neither of these conditions should persist beyond the age of seven or eight.
Tripping once or twice, here and there, is likely an accident or an external factor like spending the day running across uneven or bumpy ground. Tripping – or even worse – falling regularly, however, is a sign of an internal cause, like their foot or leg position or function, muscle weakness or tightness, balance or coordination issues, and a number of other problems.
Every child develops at their own pace so we never try to compare too much, however, if you notice that while your kids are playing with their friends this summer that they’re really struggling to keep up with their friends during running or playing, to the point that makes you a little concerned or you start wondering if something is wrong, then that’s the indication to get their feet and legs checked. There may be some problems with their muscle strength or neuromuscular function that can be addressed with relative ease.
If you – or anyone else – has ever described your child as clumsy beyond the initial early learning to walk stages, then there may be something disrupting their balance, coordination or neuromuscular control.
If your child’s movement appears awkward, it’s likely worth checking out too. Sometimes, it may be something as simple as getting into a habit of toe walking for fun. Using the same example, it may also be a contracted Achilles tendon or extremely tight calf muscles that make your child no longer able to comfortably place their heel on the ground during walking, and so they walk on their toes as a way to manage pain and discomfort.
Foot and leg pain is never ever normal. Growing pains aren’t normal, leg aches (even after a long day of running around at school or preschool) aren’t normal, any swelling isn’t normal. Pain never happens for no reason – we are designed to feel pain when something is wrong, so we know to address it and manage it.
If your child is in any pain, always bring them in.
This is along the same line as foot and leg pain, except for the shy or nervous child that doesn’t want you to know that they’re in pain, make a big deal about it, or has had negative experiences with healthcare professionals in the past and knows admitting pain means a trip to see someone ‘scary’ that may have big needles.
If you see your kids passing on their favourite activities and sitting on the sidelines, or are hesitant to show you their feet or legs, it may be a sign that something is wrong or causing them pain that needs attention.
Here at Sole Motion, we’re parents too, and so we understand how concerning it can be when you notice something unusual or unexpected with your child’s health. We promise that there is no problem too big or small to bring your little ones in. We’re big fans of following our gut and intuition – so if yours is telling you to have your child’s lower limb health checked, we’re absolutely here to help.