Learning to Stand, Walk et al

My son has just taken up standing on his own (more or less) for a second or two before he falls over. Good for him. But if not for his mother and I holding him up and bouncing him and his watching everyone else walk and stand, would he of come up with this idea on his own? I seem to remember reading something about “wild children” not walking per se, but rather loping about like an ape or something. How much of walking is instinctual for man?

“I guess one person can make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Ok, try this:

Touch the ground on every third step, and walk to the corner store, and back.

When you get tired, you can stand up and walk.

Very small children learn to use their hands to assist in locomotion because they are close to the ground, very flexible, and have a very different center of gravity than an adult. Walking is learned behavior, but it does not require a teacher, for a normal human. Moderately retarded people generally learn to walk, as well, even without assistance, although it takes them longer, even without physical handicaps, which are frequently associated with the existence of the mental handicap.
Profoundly retarded people, even without physical handicaps are less able to learn to walk, and since they are likely to be quite large when they begin actually trying it, they tend to have abnormal gait patterns, including a tendency to touch the ground, or other objects. The reason is not that they are more comfortable moving that way, the reason is that they are afraid of falling down, since that happens to them as they learn, and they are much higher, and heavier when that happens.

“Wild children” are more common in literature than in real life, and their lives generally include enough external variables (such as near starvation, physical injuries, and emotional trauma) to overwhelm any information to be gained from how they walk. The very few well-documented cases of feral human development are touted for much more insight into human development than they deserve. I recommend the works of Piaget as a better source.

Ever wonder why little kids walk with their hands up in the air? It is simple. Their parents hands were just about that position, when they first learned to walk, and the learned behavior remains patterned for a while, when they first begin ambulating independently. Kids who learn to walk in walkers tend to walk squatting down, at first, for the same reasons. Learning to walk without crawling has side effects as well, on gait, and on learning methodology. Some think that patterning lasts into adulthood.

Interesting point. My wife and I never held our son up by the hands very much when he learned to walk, and we didn’t put him in a walker either. We pretty much let him learn by himself, just taking care that he didn’t get hurt. (We thought this would be a more useful experience.) When we did hold him, we usually gave him a hand at breast height for support rather than pulling him up, because it seemed more natural.

We he did walk on his own, he never held his hands up. IIRC, he mostly held them outstretched, maybe to find a hold somewhere if he fell, or to drop onto his hands if necessary. I never made a connection there; in fact, I never thought it was typical for small kids to walk with their hands up in the air (or to walk in a squat, which he didn’t either). Seems quite logical, though.

As for the OP, it seems to me that kids get a lot of ideas all by themselves, from gripping things to using tools to vocal communication (not really speaking, though, without a language given). They may not do it the same way we do unless they actually learn from us, but they usually do it in sensible, efficient ways after a while. Specifically, my son never really saw people running a lot, but running came to him naturally once he could walk. So I’d conclude that a kid left alone will find a way of using his/her arms and legs purposefully, which will boil down to upright walk to keep the hands free. And since, given our anatomy, real upright walk is more natural, more efficient, and more comfortable than dragging our knuckles across the floor, they’ll finally discover that too.

To some extent our walking ability is instinctive. Very small children (one to four weeks) will use a walking motion in the proper circumstances. Anyone who has been around a baby has felt the baby flex its muscles as if to stand.

Our feet are the most dramatic departure from the general primate anatomy. We are designed for bipedal, upright locomotion. Given that the hardware is in place, it seems natural that some programming to operate it also exists.

“If ignorance were corn flakes, you’d be General Mills.”
Cecil Adams
The Straight Dope

Trisk, fair point about the “wild children”. I was mainly going by what Cecil had said in one of the books (I believe). At any rate, like most child development questions, the only way to tell for sure would be to throw a baby in a box for 5 years and see what happens. Not a very practical test for the obvious reasons.

Part of what got me asking is simply that he seems to cruise around fine on all fours. Now mind you, shag carpeting is easier on the knees than are twigs and rocks, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of incentive for him to spend a lot of time and pain learning to walk on two when four is doing him fine. Except, that he sees the rest of us doing it and we encourage him to do so as well. While loping on your knuckles to the corner might seem like a bad idea, it’d be easier to crawl than to lope and if you didn’t know it’d be even easier to run, why would you try?

Anyway, you all raise some valid points which make a bit of sense. Not trying to argue with anyone here :wink:

“I guess one person can make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

On a personal note, my oldest son could crawl really fast when he learned to walk. He would walk for us if we wanted him to, but when he really wanted to get somewhere he’d go down on all fours. Then one day he discovered that if he walked, he could carry stuff! He never looked back.

One thing that might answer the original question is that blind children learn to walk, even though they’ve never seen anyone do it. Of course, they would get the same assistance from their parents, but they wouldn’t have all the visual cues that sighted children have.

slight off target…

Jophiel…now that your son is at that wobbly stage, say goodbye to your peace of mind.

The early bird gets the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.