Crutches can be an important part of your child’s recovery following a leg or foot injury. They work by reducing the amount of weight placed on an injured leg while the child is mobile. By teaching your child to use their crutches correctly, they can be active while their injury heals quicker.
How to teach your child to walk with crutches
While sitting have your child hold both crutches firmly in one hand forming an ‘H’ shape with the crutch handles. Keep their non-affected (good) foot flat on the floor. Then have them lean forward and use their other hand to push up from the seat or armrest.
Have your child back up close, feeling the back of the chair behind their good leg, followed by taking their hands out of the crutchers and hold with one hand. Using their other hand, have them reach back for the chair and lower themselves down.
Throughout the walking sequence your child wants to keep their crutches in a position that is neither too wide, nor too narrow.
Lead with their crutches first, 2-3 feet in front of them. Have them lean forward to bring their weight over the crutches and then, pushing through their arms, hop-forward with their uninjured foot/leg. Try to only bring their good leg forward to an imaginary line between the two crutches.
Keeping their injured leg and crutches together, move the crutches forward 2-3 feet. Place the toes only on the ground (small amount of weight through their toes). Encourage them to imagine there is a strawberry or tomato under their foot that they do not want to squash. Follow by stepping through with their good leg.
Weight-bearing as tolerated
Keeping their injured leg and crutches together step forward and put as much weight through their injured leg as they feel comfortable. Push through the crutches to bring the good leg through to meet the crutches.
It’s important for your child not to just pivot on their good foot, rather they need to hop around to change direction. Start by having your child hold their crutches out at their sides and then get them to take small steps or hops around in the direction they want to turn – they want to keep a similar turning motion to that of the hands of a ticking clock.
Going Up Stairs
If it’s unsafe, it can just be easiest for your child to sit on the lowest step and shuffle up step by step on their bottom. If they are intending to walk up with their crutches, start by having them place their good foot and crutches close to the first step. Next, have them lean forward, bringing their weight over their crutches and have them step up (avoid hopping) to the first step with their good foot. From here have them continue the sequence while trying to keep their body leaning slightly forward. If you have one handrail, use this with one crutch. Use the crutch in the same sequence as if you had two. Hang the other crutch around your forearm or have a family member take the crutch up to the top of the stairs.
Going Down Stairs
Again if it’s unsafe have your child sit on the top step and down on their bottom. To walk downstairs with crutches start by having your child place their crutches carefully down to step below them. Place the crutches on the outer half of the step near the edge. Have them move their injured foot out in front of crutches and then lean slightly forward to bring weight through the crutches. Next, have them while pushing firmly through arms, step down on their good foot to the step below. Stop on each step to check their balance before continuing slowly down the stairs, repeating the sequence.
Additional safety tips for walking with crutches
- Prevent slips or tripping by avoiding loose mats or rugs.
- Avoid areas where there is surface water, uneven ground, grass or cracked sidewalk.
- Make sure your child is wearing non-slip closed-back shoes and never let them walk with crutches while wearing socks – as they are too slippery.
- To avoid tripping over them, try to keep your family pets contained as much as possible during their recovery.
- Continue to review the ferrules (the rubber bits at the end of the crutches) for wear.
- Use a backpack or your pockets to carry things so that their hands are kept free to use their crutches.