It’s a treat to finally see your baby take those tiny steps after successfully meeting all the motor milestones, finally set to explore the vast world around him. As parents, the onus is on you to prepare your baby to walk on his own by taking the proper initiative right from birth.
When do babies start walking?
The average age when children begin to walk is between the ninth and twelfth month. By the time they are fifteen months old, their walking gets better. However, some may walk as late as the seventeenth month.
How to teach your baby to walk?
It is essential for him to complete all his other motor milestones, like tummy time, rolling over in all directions, crawling, and sitting unsupported with ease, so his back, shoulder, and leg muscles are strong enough to help him be on his feet and move around.
Help your baby walk early
You may contribute to making your baby an early walker by going the extra mile and helping him complete each of his gross motor skills conveniently.
1. Lying on the tummy
Practice tummy time with your baby once he is a few weeks old. In the beginning, it may be for a short span that should gradually increase to at least thirty minutes a day. This exercise would help his neck, back, and shoulder muscles strengthen, preparing him for the other gross motor milestones. Avoid scheduling tummy time after a feed, as your baby may throw up. After he is about three months old, massage his legs gently when he is lying on his stomach to make them strong
After he is about three months old, massage his legs gently when he is lying on his stomach to make them strong.
2. While rolling over
As he successfully rolls over in a front-to-back and back-to-front motion by the fifth or sixth month, continue strengthening his legs by introducing exercises like pushing his limbs back and forth in a cyclic motion.
3. When he is sitting
After he learns to sit unsupported by the eighth month, implement techniques to make him more mobile. For instance, by keeping his toys at a little distance, you would be teaching your baby to balance using his arms as he attempts to get them, which would, in turn, prepare him for his next milestone, crawling.
4. As he begins crawling
Once he has good control over his arm, leg, and back, he would descend from his sitting posture, going on all fours by the ninth or tenth month. To make him more confident and agile in his movements, scatter his playthings all over the room, as the desire to acquire them would get him to proceed at an increased speed.
When he is almost a pro at it, make him crawl up and down the stairs for better balance, though ensure that you supervise his movements. Do not panic if he skips crawling, directly moving on to standing and walking, as this is completely normal.
5. Learning to stand
Once your baby can stand without support, his body and feet have acquired the balance essential for walking. Bouncing up and down would strengthen his hip and leg muscles, giving him an improved body balance, which is essential to walk with ease. Therefore, make your baby stand on the bed or your lap, hold his hands, and he will instantly begin to go up and down.
6. From standing to sitting
After he can stand, which mostly happens by the eleventh month, he may need help to sit back. Do not assist him but bend your knees to show how he can come to a sitting posture without falling or tumbling. Place a carpet or rug on the floor to prevent your baby from hurting himself even if he falls.
When your little one shows the ability to get up on his own and stand unaided for long durations, it is a positive sign indicating that he will walk soon.
7. While cruising around
Standing on his feet gives him the liberty of cruising around the room by taking support from furniture or anything within his reach, perhaps the last milestone to achieve before walking. Keep his toys on the bed or sofa, and the pursuit of getting it would instill the urge to proceed further.
8. Walking with support
After he acquires body balance and manages to pull himself up, hold his hand and help him take baby steps. When your child is beginning to get more stable in his movements, let go of your support. As you sit on the ground, summon him towards you and cheer for every step he takes unaided.
How to encourage your baby to walk
1. Give him attractive walking toys
Get your child interesting playthings when learning to walk, so he may not find it tedious or monotonous exercise.
Walk behind toys like a toddler truck or a push walker would be a good choice while teaching him to walk. He would hold on to these toys while standing or moving about, thus improving his motor skills.
2. Make him practice
As soon as he has taken those first magical steps, allow him to walk as much as possible on flat surfaces. While setting your baby down, put him in a walking posture rather than sitting, and your tiny tot would try approaching forward with those small steps. Take all the safety measures possible but do not panic if he falls or trips, as your scary reaction may dampen his spirit.
3. Minimize lap time
After he is up on his feet, ensure you do not carry him too much as he would lose interest in his newly developed skill.
4. Bring a peer
If there is a child of a similar age in your family or neighborhood, consider arranging for a play date where each would try to show their newfound skill to the other.
Recommended shoes to help your baby walk
Even though comfortable shoes are important at this stage, allow him to move around barefoot as much as possible when indoors for balanced and coordinated movements.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends leather or mesh footwear that is lightweight and flexible with rubber soles to give the baby’s feet sufficient breathing space as well as to avoid slipping and sliding. Though hard bottom shoes might bring some discomfort to your child, they would be beneficial in the long run, giving his feet a proper shape.
Some parents even prefer cruiser shoes for the initial months of walking, though it may not be necessary. If you are scared of the sharp edges of furniture hurting his feet, opt for nonslip socks or booties.
Safety tips for when your baby is learning to walk
- Baby-proof your house well by putting gates at the entry and exit of staircases and keeping objects like knives, scissors, shampoo, hair dryers, and kitchen appliances out of his reach.
- Refrain from using baby walkers since it is not considered safe by the American Academy of Pediatrics due to the chance of triggering accidents by giving infants access to sharp and harmful objects. They also lose out on flexibility by becoming over-dependent.
Flat feet and toe walking are common in kids that usually get resolved by the time they are three years of age. Consult a doctor if it lasts longer as physical therapy and exercises might be required to overcome them in some cases.
Dr. Mashiach has completed his MD at the Sackler School of Medicine, TAU; specialization in gynecology at the Lis Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; fellowship in Endoscopy at the Polyclinique de I’Hotel-Dieu, Universite d’Auvergne, Clermont, France.
He is a Senior Physician, Director of the Department of Gynecology, which provides routine and preventative care services to its patients and a full range of gynecological surgical procedures for adequately managing its patients with benign gynecologic disorders.
He offers advanced care in all gynecological subspecialties such as Urogynecology, Colposcopy, Fetal Loss Clinic, and Post Menopausal Clinic.