It’s exciting to watch your baby take their first steps, but how can you tell if they are close? Learn about the signs that indicate a baby is getting ready to walk.
Getting your baby to walk is an exciting endeavour, as you can see how your child tackles problem-solving. It is exciting but requires patience from you and the baby, transitioning from crawling to walking taking a few months.
Walking is a greatly anticipated infant achievement. It’s a sure sign that your little one is entering the toddler zone (and some severe baby proofing is in your near future). My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
But you might also be wondering if walking early or “late” is related to intelligence and even physical performance in the future.
At What Age Do Babies Start Walking?
When babies are born, their leg muscles are ill-equipped to carry the weight of their bodies. They need to develop these, which happens as they grow older. On average, a baby can take his first few steps within a year.
However, he will still be clumsy, and it can take a few more months before he can start walking without assistance.
While a 2015 cross-national study correlated learning to walk with advancing language abilities in infancy, rest assured: Research suggests that there’s no proven association between walking early and becoming the next Isaac Newton or Serena Williams.
In fact, according to this Swiss study in 2013, children who started walking early didn’t perform better on intelligence and motor skills tests between the ages of 7 and 18 compared to babies who did not walk early.
What this study did conclude, however, is this:
There’s a tremendous variance in when babies decide to start strutting — usually between 8 1/2 and 20 months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that these walking-related physical milestones are typically met by age 1:
- pulling up to stand
- walking while holding on to furniture
- maybe taking a few independent steps
- standing holding on and may stand alone
We know you want to capture those first steps in your heart (and on video) forever, so let’s take a more in-depth look at these and other signs that toddling is imminent.
Common Signs That Indicate Your Baby Will Walk Soon
Walking on two legs is difficult for babies as their muscles are ill-equipped for this.
However, if you notice your child frantically trying to overcome obstacles by going over them, he’s one step closer (no pun intended) to walk.
This is because he is making use of their leg muscles and strengthening them in the process.
A baby can’t start walking until he’s learned how to get himself upright.
Usually, babies are getting ready to walk when they start pulling up on their own. They want to stand. This starts to happen around eight months, and this could last for up to three months before you see any independent steps.
Babies will begin pulling up on furniture, so you’ll want to finish baby-proofing ASAP. Pulling up on furniture to stand is one of the first signs of walking readiness.
This boosts babies’ leg muscles and coordination—think of how many squats they’re doing! Over time, the mini-workouts condition your baby to stand independently and then move ahead with a few wobbly steps.
You can encourage this by modelling their movements while saying “up!” as they pull up and “down!” as they squat down again.
Climbing Stairs With Hands
Once a baby realises they’re mobile, nothing is off-limits. Your baby will be ready to explore an inch of your house.
When a baby starts making his way up a flight of stairs, you can almost bet that walking is next.
Whether they’re frustrated by all of the failed attempts or they’re tired from the lower body workout, learning to walk can leave some babies in a bad mood.
When your baby is fussier than usual, it’s a good indicator that something significant is about to happen.
Remember the dark days of teething? Anytime babies reach a new milestone, they get fussier. Fussiness tends to make an appearance at mealtime: If you suddenly have a pickier eater on your hands, it could signal you’ll soon have a walker too.
Taking a Stand
When you see your baby trying to lift himself off the ground, you know the day is near.
Babies will use their arms to hold on to raised platforms to pull themselves up or support their efforts.
The raised platforms could be anything, from furniture to even your leg. However, they would still be unable to stand independently.
Walking With Assistance
Offering safe, age-appropriate push-toys—not infant walkers—can inspire your child to walk while picking up some speed.
Infant play grocery carts or musical walking toys with wheels and handles can bring joy and assistance to beginning walkers.
You can also hold your baby’s hand or give them a blanket to have while you hold the other end and walk.
Once they’re confident that they can get up without support, they will attempt to walk immediately.
However, just like riding a bicycle, it can’t be done on the first go, and they are likely to fall. This is when you help them by assisting them while walking.
Going back to the bike example, they need your help like training wheels to balance themselves while walking.
Your soon-to-be walker might be sleeping a lot more than usual. Bumpies attest to this around 10 or 11 months, right as the baby is also going through a growth spurt.
Becoming a Daring Adventurer
If out of the corner of your eye, you catch your sweet Houdini suddenly standing on top of the couch and smiling while ready to nosedive, it might be a sign that their inner confidence is shining.
While this puts you on accident alert — and on catcher’s duty — it’s a tremendous developmental signal that your baby is confident about trying new things (however dangerous they may be).
To walk independently, babies must have self-efficacy in their ability to do it.
Once the baby has gotten the hang of pulling herself up, she’ll probably start testing the waters of balancing on her own.
Whether your baby is an early walker or a late walker might have nothing to do with her ability and more to do with her personality.
A super-brave kid might give it a go right away; while a more cautious one might want to be more confident, she won’t fall before letting go of the sofa.
So if you’re catching yourself helicopter-naming-it, try to find your zen and let your little explorer push their physical abilities — in a safe environment.
“Cruising” describes a baby walking while holding onto objects. They might use the coffee table to move around or lean from one thing to another to work the room.
This shows that your tiny sport is learning how to shift weight and balance while taking steps. It also prepares for the ability to propel forward, which is required for walking.
To promote cruising, create a path of safe objects for your baby to grab onto and move about.
But take caution with furniture, plants, and other items that aren’t safely secured to walls or the ground. They could topple over, leading to an accidental fall or injury.
Hand holding is OK, but your child is determined and isn’t wait for you to help him out. He’s going to find anything sturdy like walls or pieces of furniture to stay off the floor and balance himself.
Crying, Whining, and Changing Sleep Patterns
Who would have thought that the fussiness and an extra-long nap could be a tip-off that your baby will soon blaze by you on their tiptoes?
Well, walking is such a significant developmental milestone that other developmental leaps often accompany it. Your baby’s brain and body could be working double time, leaving a slightly less tolerant tot. We have the best range of baby nursery blankets to keep your baby just right day and night.
These moments of parenthood are challenging, so take a deep breath and find solace knowing that (usually) things return to normal after a developmental milestone is achieved.
Standing on Their Own
When they first stand alone, the look on a baby’s face is often one of accomplishment (and perhaps an ounce of fear, too).
At this moment, babies have the balance and stability to stand on their own. They often test the waters for a few seconds and then gradually stand for more extended periods, boosting confidence to take it a step further.
Rolling around is a sign of walking readiness because your baby is bored simply crawling around on all fours.
Bending Their Knees
When you begin to see your baby bending his knees and squatting down from standing, they are getting ready to take off.
Your baby may be frustrated with crawling and want to figure out a faster way to get around. Scooting across the floor on their butt is one of the ways they’re trying to tell you he’s looking for a new mode of transportation, as mentioned in Parenting.
Walking With a Push Toy
Once a baby has mastered walking mechanics, all there is little confidence to take things to the next step.
If your little one is walking successfully with a plush toy, it’s only a matter of time before they start walking independently.
Make it a fun learning activity by slowly counting for as long as your child stands.
Encouraging Your Baby to Walk
One of the first children walking signs is them making attempts to crawl. Give them more floor time so that they can start exercising their muscles.
Use motivators such as their favourite toy. Place them on one end of the room and the toy on the other end. When they crawl to one side, put the toy on the other end.
While it may sound frustrating for the child, remember they will be pretty thrilled knowing they can crawl and get the toy independently.
How to Help Your Baby Walk Independently
You can improve your baby’s balance by gradually improving the difficulty level as he gets better. First, hold him with both your hands while he walks.
Once he has a good grip, only use one hand. After that, let him grab on to your clothes as he walks and finally stands close by in case he falls. Keep in mind these tips to make your baby walk.
Too much clothing or even tight clothing can constrict the limbs, making it difficult for kids to regain balance. Let him wear comfortable clothing.
Initially, hold kids by the upper trunk and gradually move on to the hips. You can also have them by the fingers to give them proper direction.
To Promote Walking:
Watch for baby’s cues that they’re ready to advance — and praise every achievement. Help when needed, and sit back with a smile when you see that glimmer of self-determination in their eyes.
Comfort a Fall.
Falls are inevitable in the infancy of walking, so be there to help your little one up again and console a few tears. Baby Proofing is essential at this stage to create the safest environment possible for your baby to explore.
If your baby has mastered walking on flat surfaces, challenge them by walking up and down a ramp or on a safe, uneven surface. This helps build more balance, coordination, and muscle power.
Extend a Hand.
Encourage your baby to walk to you as you extend your hands toward them. You can also ask them to follow you as you walk into another room.
What Could Hinder the Process
You might want your baby to defy all statistics, but it’s vital to encourage walking in a positive, safe, and developmentally appropriate way. Here are some things to avoid.
Avoid the Following:
Don’t Use Infant Walkers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using infant walkers, citing that they’re a preventable and dangerous cause of infant injury in the United States.
These injuries usually occur to the head and neck after a fall downstairs. Stationary infant activity centres are safer bets.
Avoid Pushing Your Own Milestone Goals.
Be mindful of pushing children to achieve goals before they’re ready to do so on their own. This can result in negative experiences or injuries that could delay walking even further.
What If Your Baby Doesn’t Walk?
This is an abnormal situation, and most paediatricians suggest that most of the time. The problem is in the environment.
This could be because both parents are working and do not have time to encourage the baby to start walking. Then, there is the other extreme, where parents are overindulgent.
The baby is treated on par with royalty and carried everywhere, meaning minimal exertion.
Your role is critical in your baby’s development, and with the right approach, you can even shave off a few months from the learning process.
Make sure the child practices a little every day with support, and you will be rewarded with the sight of your little one discovering the joys of exploring the world independently.
When to Be Concerned About Your Baby’s Walking
If your baby isn’t meeting these physical milestones by their first birthday, should you be concerned? Not quite.
The CDC recommends talking to your child’s pediatrician if they’re not walking at all by 18 months and not walking steadily by age 2—so you have plenty of time even if your little one hasn’t started showing signs by age 1.
You may also worry that even a slight delay in walking could indicate additional developmental and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.
While the results of a small 2012 study concluded that early motor delays might be a risk factor for future communication delays in children at risk of autism, parents should not jump to this assumption for children with a low risk of autism.
There are many reasons for late walking in babies. Some are physical (and not common), such as:
- developmental hip dysplasia
- soft or weak bones (medically termed rickets)
- conditions that affect the muscle (for example, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy)
Other times, the delay could be mere personality.
While walking may seem like it’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, for a baby, it’s a monumental achievement that takes physical strength, confidence, and a safe place to practice.
And although your baby is smart enough to get to this milestone on their own, a supportive coach certainly doesn’t hurt, either (that’s you!).
Lastly, if you’re ever concerned about your child’s physical development, speak to their pediatrician for professional guidance and support.