Your baby’s first steps are something every parent waits for and anticipates with excitement. As you watch your baby grow and develop in their first year, you may be wondering: when do babies start walking?
Walking feels like the last major step towards your baby becoming more independent. However, learning to walk is the culmination of many other important milestones and skills that your baby has been developing since they were born.
As with other major motor skill milestones, every child will start walking in their own time, and premature babies will follow the timeline for their adjusted age. There is a lot happening when your baby is learning to walk and ways that you as a parent can teach your baby to walk.
In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about when babies start walking and how to teach your baby to walk.
How Do Babies Learn To Walk?
The timeline for when babies start walking is wide and varying. Because this milestone requires so many other skills and developments, every baby will take their first steps at different times.
Most babies will begin walking between 8 months and 18 months old. Generally, you can expect your baby to be walking independently about 2 to 3 months after they begin standing up on their own.
It is important to remember that even after taking their first steps, your baby will continue to learn how to walk for months and years to come. About 3-6 months after their first steps, your baby will begin walking more confidently and fluently. It will be another 5-6 years until your baby is walking in a similar way to adults.
So many factors contribute to your baby’s first steps. By building muscle strength, coordination, and balance through tummy time, sitting up, crawling, standing, and cruising, your baby has been preparing for their first steps their whole lives!
How To Teach My Baby to Walk?
When babies start walking depends on so many variables and skill sets but there are some activities and ways you can interact with your little one to help them strengthen their muscles, develop their skills, and get ready to take those exciting first steps.
Pulling Themselves Up To A Standing Position
As early as 4 months old, your baby may start pulling themselves into a standing position. This milestone usually happens around the time your baby is learning to sit upright or practicing sitting with assistance.
They may do this on furniture or by holding onto a parent or caregiver. You can help your baby practice this by spending time helping them pull themselves up. Sit on the floor with your baby and hold their hands or their arms to gently assist them in pulling themselves up onto their feet.
Cruising is one of the more immediate precursors to walking. Once your baby begins cruising, you can likely expect their first steps to happen around 2-3 months afterward. This is an estimate, however, and your baby will follow their own timeline.
Cruising is when your baby begins moving around a room using furniture to assist them in walking. You will notice that your baby is practicing not only their physical motor skills, but their spatial awareness and problem-solving skills as well.
Encourage your little one to move from one piece of furniture to another. You can begin to engage your baby in cruising by placing a favorite toy or item on the couch and coaxing them to stand up and reach for it.
You can also help them by pulling them up into a standing position and resting their hands on a piece of furniture. Eventually, your little one will begin initiating cruising on their own!
How to teach your baby to walk is all about practicing skills and developing muscles. This activity helps to strengthen your baby’s back, leg, and arm muscles to prepare them for the coordination and balance they will need to start walking.
To start this activity with your baby, you will need a baby-sized stool without back support. Have your baby sit down on the stool and place their toys on the floor next to them. Begin by asking and encouraging them to bend down and grab one. As their balance improves, you can make this harder by placing the toys further away.
This is one of the easiest ways to help your baby practice walking. While your baby is seated on the floor, stand behind them and take their hands. Help pull them up into a standing position and gently pull one arm forward, followed by the other. Your baby will follow these movements with their feet as their hips begin to rotate.
Practicing assisted walking with your baby as much as you can will boost their confidence, strengthen their legs and their core muscles, and familiarize them with the necessary body movements required for independent walking.
For more activities to help teach your baby to walk, download Kinedu to get more than 1,800+ activity ideas to support your baby’s development!
Why Walkers Don’t Help Babies Learn to Walk
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends not using a walker when trying to figure out how to teach babies to walk. While the name “walker’ implies that these devices can assist your little one in developing the skills needed to master this critical milestone, in reality, baby walkers can have the opposite effect.
Using a baby walker can hinder your baby’s ability to learn to walk by:
- Eliminating important floor time that helps your baby develop coordination and muscle strength as well as learning to bear weight on their pelvis and shoulders while crawling.
- Creates an unnatural use of their bodies and muscles that can result in delays in muscle control and depth perception.
- Encourages babies to walk on their toes, resulting in tightness in the leg muscles and delays in independent walking
- Skipping the important milestones of pulling themselves up and cruising which are critical to their development of balance and the precursor to walking.
In addition to delaying important developmental milestones, baby walkers are also a safety hazard. Babies who use walkers are at a high risk of falling down stairs, tipping over, and being able to reach for high and dangerous objects.
Wanting to help and encourage your baby to learn how to walk is wonderful, and your baby needs you to engage and encourage them in learning and developing all of the skills required to take their first steps. However, baby walkers are not the solution you are looking for.
When Should You Worry If Your Baby Isn’t Walking?
When babies learn to walk is one of the few milestones that have such a wide range of what is considered a normal age. And for parents and caregivers of premature babies, it is important to remember that your baby will be following their adjusted age when it comes to meeting important milestones.
As we said before, most babies will start walking on their own between the ages of 8 and 18 months. There is no need to worry if your little one has passed their first birthday without taking their first steps. However, there are some signs to look for to know when it is time to consult with your pediatrician.
- If your child is 15 months or older and hasn’t taken their first steps, call your pediatrician as this could be a warning sign of a health condition.
- If your child is 18 months or older and can not walk independently, call your pediatrician to have them rule out another health condition.
- If your baby has started walking and then suddenly stops, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible as this may be the sign of an underlying health condition.
- If your child is 2 years old or older and is unsteady when walking or seems to trip and fall frequently, call your pediatrician as this too, may be the sign of a health condition.
As with any milestone, remember to be patient with yourself and your baby, and to enjoy the process of teaching them and helping them develop and grow. Before long, your baby will be walking, and then running, into a whole new phase of their life!
For more information and help with fostering your baby’s growth and development, download Kinedu to get access to playtime sessions and individual guidance from experts in early childhood development.