First Steps
A child's first steps can make parents' hearts swell with pride. Fourteen-month-old Ever is on the verge of walking.

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears demonstrates how to coax the big moment!

As toddlers develop balance, their walk will progress from a wobbly, stiff-legged gait to a bent-knee, heel-to-toe gait.

Walking Tips for Toddlers:

• Fit Your Child with the Right Shoes
Choose a sole that is flat and flexible, with a wide base of support.

• Encourage scaling
Scaling allows children to hold on to objects, such as couches and chairs, to maintain their balance.

• Blow bubbles!
Blowing bubbles in front of your child, just out of reach, will encourage your child to walk forward in an effort to reach the bubbles.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Don't miss Dr. Sears' biggest walking no-no.

Toddlers Wearing the Wrong Type of Shoes
The bones in a toddler’s feet are not fully developed and are soft like cartilage. An ill-fitting or too-tight shoe can cause serious damage.

“The best shoe is no shoe, if you’re inside” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. “It lets the foot breathe and flex.”

He demonstrates how to choose the right baby shoe, such as Pedipeds, which allow feet to develop properly.

Treatment for Intoed Feet
Beverley's daughter, 2-and-a-half-year-old Madison, has intoed feet. Madison started walking when she was 8-months-old, and her mother noticed her legs would bow out, while her feet pointed inward.

Doctors assured Beverley that Madison's legs would likely straighten as her hips rotated as she grew. As time went on, however, Beverley noticed that Madison's toes continued to rotate inward.

Beverley turns to podiatrist Dr. Ali Sadrieh for help.

"The best thing you can do for your child is early intervention," Dr. Sadrieh says.

"The sooner we start, the more conservative the care, and the easier it is to resolve this problem."

Dr. Sadrieh fits Madison with a pair of custom-made orthotics to properly align her feet, knees and hips. "At this point in time, this is the best option for her," the podiatrist notes.

Thwart Thumb Sucking

Parents often struggle to know the best way to get their child to stop sucking their thumbs. Many parents will try putting vinegar or hot sauce on the child’s thumbs, but Dr. Sears says the danger in that is it can get into the kid’s eyes. A sour nail polish is useful because the child will not like the taste of it and be inclined to stop sucking.  Coloring books are great tools, as well, because “if you distract them with something that requires both hands, he obviously can’t suck his thumb.

“I want you to relax about this, because most kids will stop sucking their thumb between the ages of 3 and 6,” Dr. Sears says. “If you relax about it, make it not a big deal, chances are he’s going to want to do it less.”

Dr. Jim Sears' Co-Sleeping Safety Tips
• Use a firm mattress. A soft, pillow-top mattress can cause the baby to have trouble breathing.

• Avoid waterbeds because the baby can get trapped between the bed and mattress.

• Keep pillows, covers and bedding away from the baby’s head.

• Don't sleep with your baby if you use alcohol, drugs, sedatives or smoke, because it increases your child's risk of injury.
• Avoid co-sleeping if parents are obese.

• Avoid placing the baby in between Mom and Dad, because Dad is not as sensitive to the baby’s presence in the bed. Have Mom in between Dad and baby.

• Have the baby sleep on his or her back. This reduces the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

More child safety tips.

Dr. Jim Sears' Tips to End Co-Sleeping

• Establish a routine bedtime ritual. Give your baby a bath, read a story, listen to some music and then everyone goes to bed. When you transition your children into sleeping in their own bed, use the same ritual. 

• Divide and conquer. For parents with multiple children, have Mom take one child and Dad take another and help them go to sleep separately in their own beds.

• Reward good behavior. Instead of suddenly sending your child into his or her own room, take their mattress and put it at the foot of your bed and let them sleep there. When you do move the bed into your child's room, reward your child for falling asleep in his or her bed, possibly giving a better reward for spending the whole night in their own bed.

• Be consistent. Make rules and stick with them. Also, wake your child up at the same time every day. By waking up at the same time every morning, your child is more likely to be tired at the same time every night.

Monster Go Away! SprayBedtime can be scary for young children. With developing imaginations, it is common for them to believe there are monsters in their room.

"Even normal cartoon characters get distorted and give them bad dreams, and they can think there are monsters in the closet or under the bed," Dr. Jim Sears says. "One thing you want to do is you want to acknowledge the fear. You never want to tell the kids, 'Big kids don't get scared,' or 'Don't be a baby,' because that's going to really make them feel bad,and then they'll be scared of monsters and afraid to tell you about it."

The Monster Go Away! Spray helps empower kids to control their fears. They can spray it wherever they feel the monsters lurk and be comforted that they shooed the monsters away. The spray contains all-natural, soothing scents such as lavender and sweet orange oils.

"It is a stage, a phase, and [kids] will get over it," Dr. Sears says.

Imagine That
Jewel tells The Doctors via home video that her son has an imaginary friend, and every time he gets in trouble, he blames his fictional pal. She asks The Doctors how to teach him to be more responsible for his own actions.

“In terms of imaginary friends, they’re actually a good thing,” Dr. Sears says. “It’s a sign of a good imagination and it’s a sign of intelligence. But I recommend to parents, get to know your child’s imaginary friend.”

Dr. Sears explains that by getting to know the made-up playmate, parents can gain insight into their child’s feelings. To do so, he recommends asking questions such as what he or she looks and acts like.

Dr. Sears also advises holding the child accountable if he or she does something wrong and blames the invented sidekick by explaining that they are still responsible for the friend’s actions.

Digging for Gold
Jackie sends a video question to Dr. Sears, imploring him to help with her 6-year-old daughter, who picks her nose incessantly. Dr. Sears assures Jackie that many children pick their nose, but too much picking can cause staph infections in the mucosal lining, as well as transmitting other germs into their system. Therefore, it’s a good idea that Jackie keeps her daughter’s nails trimmed and clean.

In addition, swabbing the inside of her nose with lanolin gel or KY jelly once or twice a day will increase the moisture in her nasal cavity and reduce her need to pick. He cautions against using Vaseline, which can actually dry the nose. A humidifier in her daughter’s bedroom can help to moisten the ambient air as well.

Bed-Wetting Blues

Seven-year-old Katie’s bedwetting is causing her and her mother, Heidi, sleepless and frustrating nights. Heidi sets an alarm clock to wake Katie up during the night so she can use the bathroom, but it doesn’t always work. “She’s such a deep sleeper that instead, it’s me who’s getting up and getting her out of bed,” Heidi says. “It’s like having a newborn again. It’s exhausting, and I really need this to stop, for all of us!”

Dr. Jim Sears makes a house-call to help Katie with her nightly problem. “This is actually pretty common,” he says. “Fifteen to 20 percent of kids this age are probably still wetting the bed at night. This isn’t an emotional or psychological problem. This is just a basic communication problem between her brain and her bladder.”

To help Katie learn to wake up and go to the bathroom when her bladder is full at night, Dr. Sears gives her a bed-wetting alarm, which fits inside of the pajamas and makes a loud noise when it gets wet. Even though it goes off once the child has urinated, “it gets the brain a little bit used to waking up around the time you’re supposed to go,” Dr. Sears says. “It’s kind of like your alarm clock in the morning. After a while, you start waking up just before it goes off. That’s how this works.”

When Should My Child Start Talking?
"We look at language development and it really goes along with brain development," Dr. Jim Sears says. "If language is progressing normally, then I'm happy that the baby is progressing normally.

"If you ever see regression -- the baby was talking and now is not -- or if they don't have any words at all by age 15 months, those are two danger signs to definitely mention to your pediatrician," Dr. Sears continues.

Listen to the stages of language development.

Language Development Tips:
• Narrate daily activities
• Read aloud to your baby
• Talk in complete sentences
• Avoid baby talk

He also suggests a “Sweet-Dreams Chart,” as a motivational tool that gives Katie a gold star for each night she stays dry. Heidi says the suggestions have worked after just a week, and Katie is staying dry at night! “It’s been wonderful,” she says. “Just having that piece of mind that this alarm is going to go off when she starts wetting the bed, it’s just helped so much. She’s actually stayed dry Monday through Friday!”

Though the alarm and chart may not work on every child, Dr. Sears explains that another alternative is using pull-up diapers. Also, staying away from sugary drinks, such as soda and juice, at night can help, as well. “Some kids just grow into it sooner, and some it’s later,” he says. “Children that still wet the bed are making a little too much urine, and they are such sound sleepers that they just don’t wake up. Just about every child, though, will eventually outgrow this.”

Bedtime Basics

Five-year-old Joelle refuses to go to bed, and her nightly ritual of stalling tactics is taking a toll on the whole family. Losing just one hour of sleep can cause permanent changes in the brain and be detrimental to its development, and Dr. Jim Sears explains that a child's brain develops all the way up until the age of 21. Sleep deprivation can cause moodiness, crankiness, depression, and binge eating.

Young children such as Joelle need 11 to 13 hours of sleep a night, which she is clearly not getting. Dr. Sears pays a house call to teach Joelle’s parents, Jennifer and Ken, the best way to implement bedtime rules.

Dr. Sears' Bedtime Do's and Don'ts: 
• Do make bedtime and waking time consistent
• Do make bedtime routine a happy time
• Do watch sugar intake
• Don't give your child caffeine
• Don't put a TV in your child's room
• Don't give in to the drama

Potty Training
Potty training can be a trying time for parents and children alike. Accidents often happen because children are still developing their sense of bowel and bladder fullness. “Kids just forget,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. “They’re out playing and having fun, and suddenly, ‘Oh! I had an accident.’”

To help remind children to use the toilet, parents can use devices such as the Potty Watch by Potty Time, Inc., which has a timer that plays tunes, and the WobL Vibrating Watch by PottyMD LLC, which has a timer that vibrates. The Potty Watch can be set to 30, 60 or 90 minute increments, and the WobL Vibrating Watch can be set for any increment of time. The devices are most useful for toddlers who are farther along in the potty training process.

And they’re not just for kids! Adults can use the WobL Vibrating Watch as a reminder to perform daily tasks, such as taking medicine.

“There’s actually a really good behavioral basis for this. Sometimes, kids, if you tell them to go potty, they’re just resistant,” Dr. Sears continues. “But if it’s something other than the parent, like an alarm or a watch, it’s cool, it’s fun.”

Dr. Sears’ Potty Training Tips:
• Watch for readiness
• Use potty props
• Don’t pressure your child
• Lead by example
• Never punish

Moms: Share your potty training tips in The Doctors Motherhood Survival Club!