How you can really help (or hinder) your baby’s journey to taking their first steps.
Most parents eagerly await the day their baby walks for the first time. It’s not surprising: walking is clearly a major milestone, moving the baby from the infant stage to the toddler stage. That baby who was crawling yesterday seems so much more grown-up once he’s moving around on his own two feet.
On average, babies start to walk between 10 and 15 months old. Some will walk as early as 8 months, others as late as 18 months (and a few are even later than that). But there are some myths about learning to walk that parents should know about:
1. Babies who walk earlier are smarter, fitter or somehow better than those who walk later.
Nope, not true. There’s no long-term difference between the child who walked at eight months and the child who walked at 18 months.
In fact, one of the major determinants of the age of walking seems to be the size and, in particular, head size. Babies have big heads in proportion to their body, and needs to develop the strength to support that head upright while walking. Smaller, more petite children are likely to walk earlier, on average.
2. Spending time in a baby walker will help the baby walk faster.
Not true—in fact, research shows exactly the opposite. The more time a baby spends in a walker, the later he learns to walk. The researchers think this could be because the walker encourages the baby to move around by pushing with his feet while his weight is supported by the seat —a very different motion than walking.
So walkers are harmful to development and potentially dangerous. Avoid them!
3. Babies need hard-soled shoes with ankle support to help them walk.
No, not so. Again, research has shown just the opposite. The newly-walking baby has rather uncertain balance and needs to be able to flex his feet to keep from falling. Hard-soled shoes make that more difficult and can be slippery on wood or laminate floors. And babies don’t benefit from ankle support.
Let your baby go barefoot or in soft, flexible shoes as he masters walking.
4. You can’t do anything to help your baby learn to walk—it will happen when it happens.
To some extent that is true; babies naturally develop at different rates. But to a certain extent, walking depends on the baby developing the strength and desire to walk, and you can help with those. Here’s how:
- Give your baby plenty of “tummy time” or playtime with you, so he can practice kicking his legs, pushing up with his arms and legs, and otherwise moving around.
- Provide toys for your baby to push around, such as toy shopping carts or large sturdy trucks.
- Walk holding your baby’s hands if he seems interested.
- If he’s standing and holding onto the couch, sit just a step away, hold out your hands and encourage him to walk toward you. It will just be a step, but that’s a start!
If you think he’s really read to walk but he hasn’t yet made the move, you can try the old “something in your hands” trick. Mom helps the baby stand and gives him a toy to hold in each hand.
Dad sits a couple of steps away and holds out his hands to the baby. The baby may realize he can’t crawl without dropping the toys and be willing to take those few steps to Daddy.
Most of all, be patient. They will walk when ready—and it may be when you least expect it, so keep that camera handy!
Carly Link, a 33-year old mother of two toddlers. She is a parent and goes through a lot of the usual parenting difficulties herself. Carly shares all her experiences and knowledge about the best baby products through this blog.