Baby Tips

How Can I Help My Baby Learn to Walk?

Learning to walk is a significant developmental milestone for babies! It’s an essential skill that they’ll use throughout their lives, and it can be frustrating. 

You’ve soaked in your baby’s first smile and sweet cooing. They mastered tummy time long ago and controlled their head with ease. Now they’re sitting and scooting, crawling and standing.

All these milestones go by so quickly in the first year or so. And as your baby approaches their first birthday, they might even start cruising and — gasp — walking.

So what are some things I can do to make this stage of development easier? Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.

Here’s what you need to know about your baby’s gross motor development during this exciting time, how you can safely encourage walking and some notes on what might be more harmful than helpful.

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When to Expect Babies to Start Walking?

Many children graduate from pulling up to cruising (or walking by holding on to furniture) around month 9 or 10. 

When cruisers “reach altitude” and make their first attempts at letting go of whatever piece of furniture (or part of Mom or Dad’s leg) they’re using to stay upright, you could see your child’s first toddling steps. 

Most children don’t take their first independent steps until well after their first birthdays (around month 14, on average), although it’s not unusual for them to start as late as 18 months (or, in some cases, as early as seven months).

Some of it may be in her wiring: Your little one may follow in your or her dad’s (early or late) footsteps. 

Build and temperament play parts, too. A lean, high-energy baby will probably strut her stuff sooner than a mellow Buddha-baby. And some kids are more cautious and only want to take a step when they’re positive they won’t tumble; others are daredevils and will dive right in — literally.

One thing’s for sure: Your toddler will eventually learn to walk — but on her timetable, not yours. 

Sure, there are ways you can lend her a helping hand (and a couple of clapping hands as she racks up her triumphs!), but rather than focusing on the finish line, embrace all the baby steps along the way — a journey that will make her victory lap seem that much sweeter.

Tips to Get Your Baby or Toddler Walking

Baby Tips

Babyproof Your Space

Before anything else, you need to set your baby up for success:

  • Clear your floors from the clutter that could present tripping hazards.
  • Move fragile decorative items someplace else.
  • Put on outlet covers and corral excess cords.

And if you’re finding babyproofing your entire house difficult, close off rooms that are particularly tricky or consider creating a safe space by gating off an area of your home that’s free from danger.

Why it helps: Even if your baby isn’t walking, encouraging mobility means that they’ll be into anything and everything in their path. Baby Proofing will protect them from injury and probably give you both some added confidence along the way.

Start With a Strong Core

You’ve probably heard the old saying that you must walk before you can run. Well, you must sit before you can walk. This means that your baby needs strong core muscles to support standing and walking.

You might even consider having your babysit on a tiny stool (or bench, foam roller, cube chair) with their feet on the floor (supervised, of course!). Ask them to reach for toys on the ground to practice moving up and down and all around.

Why it helps: Moving in this way allows your baby to practice transitions, like rising to stand. With cruising and pulling up, your baby tends to use the strength in its upper body. Sitting on a stool puts the focus on the legs and developing muscle in the lower body. It also emphasises placing the feet under the body for support.

Be Sure They Have Met All Previous Milestones

Make sure that your child is at a developmentally appropriate age and level for them to walk. Don’t push them to do it too early or before they’re ready.

Your child should already be able to crawl, stand while holding on, stand independently, and cruise (walk while holding on) before you expect them to walk alone. 

Of course, crawling doesn’t have that much to do with walking, as some children walk instead of crawling. However, crawling is a significant milestone that I recommend every child do before walking.

If they have hit all of those stages, then you can start teaching your baby to walk. If not, start working on standing and cruising before taking independent steps.

Go Barefoot

If your baby or toddler hasn’t started walking yet, here are some tips for teaching your child to take steps and learn to walk independently. Make it fun & easy.

No socks. No shoes. Just bare feet. There are tiny muscles in the feet that need to start developing and strengthening, and the only way to do this is by bearing weight on them.

As bipeds (animals that walk on two feet), we have so many tiny muscles that help us to balance and give traction as we stand. When you stand barefoot, the muscles in your feet have an easier time ‘grasping’ the ground. 

This will help those tiny muscles work harder to find the perfect way to mould to the ground to help your baby walk.

Not only does going barefoot help with walking, but it’s a great sensory experience for your child, too. All the nerve endings in the bottom of their feet will get to feel different surfaces and textures. 

These sensory signals get sent up to the brain and provide more awareness to the feet. This can even help with walking, as well.

Barefoot means no socks, as well. Socks will cause them to slip and don’t provide enough traction for new walkers.

Why it helps: It’s called proprioceptive feedback. Shoes may dull the messages your baby’s brain gets about what surfaces are underfoot. Not only that but walking barefoot helps to strengthen the muscles in the foot to increase stability further.

Sturdy Shoes

If your baby or toddler hasn’t started walking yet, here are some tips for teaching your child to take steps and learn to walk independently. Make it fun & easy.

Get rid of those baby crib shoes with soft soles. Those aren’t going to work anymore.

Your baby needs a shoe with good support at the ankle and the sole. You might want to check out My Baby Nursery’s biggest range of the best baby clothing.

Remember, your baby has not yet used the muscles of their ankle and lower legs too much yet so you may need to provide external support to get those muscles working.

Although barefoot is the best, when you’re out and about, your child will need shoes. 

Also, since every child is different, your baby may not do well with bare feet and may stand better with sturdy shoes.

They can keep their ankles from rolling or wobbling or make them feel sturdier.

Baby Steps

Start small, and don’t expect that your child will jet across the living room when they first learn to walk. 

They will slowly begin to take 1 or 2 steps at a time. While you are teaching them, remain very close. If they can only take two degrees right now, don’t sit 3 feet away from them. 

Gradually increase the distance as they get more confident.

Give Support

If you want to lead your little one on a small walking excursion around the living room, do so by supporting their trunk and not their hands.

When you support their trunk, you help your baby develop a more natural gait and one that’s not tilted forward onto the toes. 

Babies need to distribute weight throughout their entire foot — including the heel — to develop a strong motion pattern throughout the lower body.

Why it helps: Again, leading with hands means your baby tilts forward and doesn’t bear weight evenly through the legs and feet. Be sure to let your baby be in control as they take steps — even if they’re very slow at first.

Encouragement and Motivation

If your baby or toddler hasn’t started walking yet, here are some tips for teaching your child to take steps and learn to walk independently. Make it fun & easy.

Be sure to celebrate every attempt, and that will encourage your child to do more! 

We all need a little motivation to do things, so celebrate every minor victory, whether it is two steps or even just an attempt to take action.

The biggest motivation for a child is a parent’s smiling face. Make sure you’re actively engaging with your child and should start to see their abilities strengthen.

Reduce Their Fear

Keep objects and furniture close so they know that they always have something sturdy to hold on to. 

Again, make sure you’re always standing close enough to them with your arms open wide, ready to catch them if they fall. 

Once they realise that they won’t get hurt if they fall, their fear should be reduced, and they may be more confident to take a few more steps.

Set the Stage

Your baby may need some extra motivation to get moving. Try sitting on the floor with them. Please take one of their favourite toys or stuffed animals and hold it out a couple of steps in front of them.

As your baby’s mobility increases, consider placing toys in a trail throughout a room to see if they’ll move around from one toy to the next. Rotate toys every so often to keep them fresh.

It helps: This activity works with both crawling and walking — and both movements are beneficial when it comes to developing gross motor skills ultimately needed to walk. 

You’re giving your child a reason to move throughout the space they’re in. It turns the hard work of walking into a fun game.

Gradually Reduce Support

You can hold your baby under their arms, on their trunk, or their hands. As they learn and gain muscle strength, they will need less and less support. 

Ensure you are decreasing the amount of support and assistance you give them as they learn to walk. 

Provide Good Role Models

What’s more encouraging to a child than seeing another child do it? Watching another child their age try out walking will often give your baby the push they need to get started. 

They may like to see them fall and get up again or see that the other child got a lot of praise for walking.

This is where a daycare or childcare facility is helpful; however, if you have other siblings, cousins, or friends, make sure to have plenty of playdates for them to engage with others.

Strengthen Their Muscles

As mentioned before, your child needs to develop and strengthen their leg and trunk muscles to start walking. Make sure that you’re giving them exposure to do so.

The best way for your baby to develop the muscles of their legs is by standing. If your child can’t hold themselves up yet, you can support them under their arms. 

As long as they bear weight on their feet with their legs straight, they work out those muscles.

Practice and Consistency

This is always my biggest tip for learning any new skill. Practice makes perfect!! 

Don’t think that by attempting to walk with your child once a day, they will begin walking independently. Set aside several periods throughout the day to practice with them.

Whether in the morning when they first wake up, after lunch, or right before bath time, aim to work on your goal several times. 

Be consistent with these tips and activities. The more your child gets familiar with your expectations of them and what action is coming up, the more confident and excited they will feel.

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Always Place Them Down on Their Feet

After holding your child, place them down in a standing position instead of sitting. 

You may be used to putting them down while sitting, and that may be most straightforward for them, but you want to take every opportunity to get them bearing weight into their feet. 

Even if they plop down as soon as you place them down, you’re still letting them know that your expectation is for them to stand up.

Push It

Mini shopping carts, baby strollers, and other push toys provide another opportunity for supported walking on the go.

When choosing a plush toy, you’ll want to make sure it’s sturdy and provides enough resistance to whatever type of flooring you have. 

Read reviews, as some work better on carpet versus hardwood floors and vice versa.

Note that your baby powers plush toys. Some move faster than others. If you’re concerned about that, consider buying one that allows you to weigh it for slower motion.

Why it helps: Push toys allow your baby to gain some independence while still having added: “dynamic support” they need as they move through the stages of walking. They also offer fun activities to encourage movement in other ways, like squatting and reaching.

Allow Them to Cruise on Furniture

If your baby or toddler hasn’t started walking yet, here are some tips for teaching your child to take steps and learn to walk independently. Make it fun & easy.

Your baby will first learn to walk while holding onto furniture. Ensure all the pieces are sturdy, as they will be pushing most of their weight onto it. 

Give them access to long lines of furniture (couches and coffee tables) to provide them with opportunities to cruise along with it.

It helps: Cruising is a type of supported walking that works the muscles in the hips and thighs. Over time, your baby will rely much less on their hands or possibly forget they need the added support at all.

Start With a Firm Surface

Although it can be scary to allow your wobbly, unbalanced infant to walk on hardwood floors or tile, this is the best place for them to learn. 

Once they’re a little steadier on their feet, use those soft or uneven surfaces to challenge their balance a bit more. 

Once they get the hang of standing and walking a bit, using various textured grounds like carpet, beds and couches (while supervised), and the grass is excellent for the sensory experience and improving their balance.

Two Adults Are Better Than One

When having a child learn to take a few steps, it’s best to have two adults instead of just one. 

This merely provides the encouragement and motivation that your child may need to get started. This way, one adult can encourage the child, giving him support at the other end.

What Not to Worry About

Baby Tips

Every baby develops differently and at her own pace, so if your baby is not cruising by month ten or walking by her first birthday, it’s not a cause for concern. 

There’s not much that parents can do to speed up a baby’s development timeline besides providing lots of safe, fun, supportive opportunities to practice during playtime.

There are also several idiosyncrasies you’ll notice as your child waddles around — all of them perfectly normal:

Trips and Falls.

When your little one first starts walking, she may remind you of a boxer who’s fighting her way through a rough match: She bobs, weaves and sometimes dives. 

Of course, she’s still refining her walking skills. (Plus, she’s still nearsighted and doesn’t yet have the depth perception of an older child or adult. 

Add in an adorable lack of coordination, and it’s no wonder she probably didn’t spot that armchair before she bumped into it.) 

Ensure your home is childproofed, and oversee her at all times — then try not to stress over her inevitable (and numerous) tumbles. 

Sure, your little one may cry if she falls, but chances are she’s more frustrated than injured. 

Remember, she’s got built-in bumpers (that chubby tush and cushy diaper) and a still-flexible skull designed to take a licking and keep on ticking. She’ll likely forget her trips and tumbles long before you do.

Flat Feet.

Take a good gander at those chubby legs and little flat feet, and you might be amazed that she can get around at all. 

But even though her feet look flat, that’s just baby fat plumping them up. 

By age 2 or 3, the extra “fluff” should melt away, and you’ll be able to see her natural arches. Her feet may also curve inward, almost like half-moons. That’s another infant holdover, which likely started in the womb and took its sweet time to straighten out.

Pigeon-Toed Feet.

Also standard is “toeing-in,” or being slightly pigeon-toed, which comes from “internal tibial torsion” — meaning that the shin bones are turned inward. 

Luckily, it will usually correct itself within six months of her first step without any outside help. If it continues longer, your child’s doctor can give you stretching exercises to fix it. 

In another variation, some kids toe-out during their second year, only to pivot into toeing-in when they’re 3 or 4 years old

Even if the toeing-in doesn’t wholly correct itself, it’s probably not a big deal unless it gets in the way of her walking and running. (If it does, talk to your doctor; corrective shoes can help.)

Bowed Legs. 

After spending nine months curled up inside you, she may have slightly bowed legs, too. 

Bowed legs typically go away by about 18 months (but may also linger until she’s three years old). Even before she’s walking, you can help those gams straighten out by holding her while she stands.

Tiptoe Walking. 

Some toddlers have an insatiable desire to totter around on their tiptoes — which, strangely enough, helps them develop their sense of balance. 

While tiptoeing may indicate too-tight muscles in the heels or feet in rare cases, it’s almost always a quirk that goes away on its own. 

To reassure yourself, check to see that your child can physically flatten her foot. If she can’t, or if she’s still walking on her tiptoes past the age of 2, bring it to the pediatrician’s attention as it sometimes can be a sign of a developmental disorder.

Do talk to your pediatrician promptly if you notice your child repeatedly favouring (or stumbling to) one side, falling excessively, or if her legs seem unduly stiff, as these may point to nerve, joint or spinal problems. 

Otherwise, enjoy her jaunty gait (that phone video will come in handy now) and applaud her new adventures.

The Takeaway

Ready or not, your baby will be walking before you know it. 

You can do many things to gently encourage your child’s movement and build the muscles needed to support their body with this new way of getting around.

If you have concerns about your baby’s progress toward this milestone, contact your pediatrician or consider scheduling an evaluation with early intervention. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.

But remember that some babies start walking early, others start later, and your child will get there with time and practice.

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