I’ve been watching Hailey over the last couple of weeks as she is trying to walk. She seems to have mastered the art of pulling herself up even though I still see her attempting new ways everyday.

She no longer needs to grab hold of something with her fists. She has figured out how to bear hug my leg to pull herself up. Yesterday she discovered leaning on the radiator to stand up. Each day is a new adventure.

One of the most interesting aspects of her learning is watching her fall. At first, she toppled at almost every attempt. Those days were filled with lots of tears from her and anxiety from me. She was a “walking” disaster.

Over the last week or so, I have observed a new skill. The first time I noticed, I was sitting on the couch and she pulled herself up to standing right in front of me. Then plopped down onto her bum. Pulled herself back up. Dropped down. Up. Bum. Up. Bum. Up. Bum. She must have done this well over 20 times in a row. Literally, as soon as she was up she was down and as soon as she was down she was pulling herself back up.

This mystified me at first. Did she want up or did she want down? It turns out she wanted neither. She was practicing falling.

It amazes me how smart she is. She realized that the skill of falling was just as important as standing or walking. It deserved the same amount of practice and effort. Since she began practicing her falling there are far fewer actual tumbles resulting in tears and injury. She knows what to do when she is off-balance. Falls are becoming a non-issue.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my husband a few years ago about teaching children to fall properly in sports. We had heard that this was no longer being taught out of fear of lawsuits. I don’t know if that’s true. My experience with children’s sports is minimal.

Falling is something that both my husband and I were taught during our competitive sports days. Falling properly was one of the most valuable and useful skills I ever learned from gymnastics. I still remember how to fall. This skill has saved me from many injuries. I am able to adjust my falls as I’m falling.

If you’ve seen me play soccer you have probably seen me stumble into a somersault. I can be a bit of a disaster on the field. However, when someone trips me (or let’s be honest, if I trip myself) then a somersault is much safer than a face plant. Plus, I can usually roll right back up onto my feet and continue running in a ninja-like way that often surprises my opponents! tehehe 🙂

I still remember my gymnastics coach yelling at me (yes yelling at me) when I stuck my hand out on a backward fall. If I was to stick out my hand to break my fall then my fingers better be pointed toward my body, not away. Otherwise I would break my arm or collarbone. I can remember several times many years later slipping on ice and redirecting my arm mid-fall.

The other falling skill that comes to mind is the one I learned from a judo class. We were taught to smack the mat when we landed to displace the energy across our entire body rather than having all of the momentum travel through a small portion of the body. I have applied this skill while somersaulting out of control down a hill after a spill on my snowboard. Tucking in as I tumbled prevented the snapping of limbs but slamming all limbs into the ground as I hit slowed me down.

It’s actually neat when I really stop and think about it. In the time of seemingly out of control falls I’m actually able to recall and apply what I learned before the age of 12. And all within a split second.

Falling is a must-learn skill that every child should learn. Hailey is well on her way with her bum plops. She inherently knows that learning to fall is just as important as learning to acquire her walking skills. I wonder if this link is as intuitive as we get older. It’s awesome to see her make that connection.

I love observing her while she is learning to crawl, pull herself up, and walk around. It’s been a joy to watch and I’m so proud of how quickly she is learning. But I can honestly say that I’m equally proud that she has taught herself to fall safely. I wasn’t expecting that.