Are you ready to hear your little baby’s feet tapping on the floor? This is one of the milestones of growing up that parents anticipate the most, and we’re sure you are no different, which is why you are reading this article after all. And there are many great reasons to be excited about your baby’s first steps.
Walking is the result of a really complicated set of movements, but as we grow older, we tend to forget how difficult it really is. Babies’ legs first need to gain enough strength to carry their body weight, but walking isn’t all about strong legs – your baby is going to need power in their core, hips, and ankles, as well as an immaculate sense of balance to succeed in this endeavor. With that many parts in play, it goes without saying that some babies will start walking earlier than others.
So, when do they learn to walk? While there are always examples of kids who figure this particular developmental milestone quickly than others and start walking at 6 months old, most babies learn to walk between 9 and 18 months old. We’ve singled out some signs to look out for to see if your baby is ready to start walking, as well as some of the strategies on how to get them to walk sooner.
As you might have guessed, babies don’t just wake up and start walking one morning. In order to develop the skills they need, there is a whole series of milestones they must progress through before beginning to take their first steps.
The road to walking actually starts surprisingly early, as soon as your baby starts lying on their stomach and lifting their head to look up. This will help them strengthen their neck and develop proper control of their head. This type of ‘exercise’ is the first step to learning how to roll over and eventually sit up. From there, the natural progression is usually to start crawling, usually when they are around 7 months old. This leads to pulling themselves up into a standing position, at around 9 – 12 months, immediately followed by ‘cruising.’ This term is used for those first tentative steps when babies are still holding onto furniture or their parents for support.
In this period, make sure everything within reach has been baby-proofed since there are now way more opportunities for all sorts of accidents than ever before. Usually, this will take a few weeks, after which your baby will start walking independently. That being said, obviously each kid is different, and the timeline presented here is meant to be used as a general guideline, giving you a bit of an overview of what to expect, and NOT as a ‘be-all and end-all.’
Some children may only crawl for a few days before getting up to cruise, some kids will get ‘stuck’ cruising for months before taking their first independent steps, and some babies don’t even crawl! It’s important to remember that any of these scenarios is perfectly fine, and there’s probably nothing wrong with your kid if they are not following our timeline to the dot.
Basically, when your baby starts cruising more confidently you should stay alert as this they could start making those first independent steps at any moment. If you’re lucky, this will not take too long, but you may need to be patient as well. We tend to forget that babies are just smaller humans, meaning they each have a different personality, and it plays a massive role here as well. Even if your baby has the required skill to walk, it might take them longer to get up the courage to do it. If, on the other hand, you have a little daredevil on your hands, they might start trying even before they are ready.
Here’s some good news right off the bat – you don’t need any special equipment to help your baby start walking sooner. As we mentioned earlier, it all starts with building their neck muscles during tummy time, and the skills keep building up until they are finally ready to take their first steps. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should let your baby figure everything out on their own – there are definitely some steps you can take (pun intended) to make the process quicker.
First of all, try to spend as little time carrying your child as possible. This is a hard one for many parents since it’s no secret how much we all love to hold our babies, but research has shown a correlation between time spent in their parent’s arms and a tendency for delayed walking in children.
The key here is the attitude – basically, if you’re taking your kid wherever they want to go, they are less likely to develop the motivation to move on their own. Also, it reduces their time on the ground during which they can get to know the limitations and capabilities of their own body. If you want your baby to start walking sooner, give them plenty of time to develop their skills and, crucially, their interest in actually getting around on their own.
All this doesn’t mean, however, that you should let your kid spend too much time in a playpen either. A confined area like that might be a safe environment for your baby to play around in, but it’s not going to help much in the development of their movement skills.
If your baby is stuck in a playpen, there just isn’t going to be enough room for them to roll over, stretch out, crawl or stand up, which could cause a delay in the development of these critical skills. A safe floor, free from clutter and any furniture that hasn’t been baby-proofed is your best bet.
So what if your baby hasn’t started walking by the time of their first birthday, or even by the 18-month mark? This doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything to worry about. Some babies just start walking later than others, and that’s fine. Make sure to report whatever concerns you have to a pediatrician so they can let you know if there needs to be any further testing done. But don’t forget that experts say that personality is more often than not the reason for a baby’s slow progress on the walking front.
Again, the timeline presented here is far from set in stone, but you should pay attention if your child is showing a regression in their skill, or if there’s a lack of motivation to progress. For example, your child not even attempting to crawl at 12 months may be cause for concern, but cruising for months without having the courage to let go and try walking independently, may just be a personality trait. Another thing to look at is their progress with other essential milestones like sitting up for prolonged periods and recognizing objects. If they are doing well with other stuff, there’s almost certainly nothing wrong.
The bottom line is – you most likely have nothing to worry about as long as your baby is showing motivation and some sort of progression, however slow it may seem. They are most likely just taking their time for whatever reason, and you should too. This period only happens once, and when your baby starts walking, you’ll be wishing for these days to come back.