A pivotal milestone in your baby's growth and development
Watching your child take their first steps is a pivotal moment for any parent. It also marks a major developmental shift that has a huge ripple effect on your family life.
Once your former babe-in-arms decides to get up and moving, gone will be the days of sitting them down to play with a stack of toys while you start on dinner prep or fold that never-ending pile of laundry massing on the couch. The old adage about needing eyes in the back of your head will never feel more true.
Beyond the simple joy of watching this process, walking is also one of the first of many actions your child will take toward gaining independence. It opens up a whole host of new opportunities for them to explore their world. And, like any major milestone, it’s got its shares of ups and downs (literally).
Here are a few of our favorite First Walk stories from the LifeTales community.
"What surprised me about my child's first walk."
“I hadn’t spent a lot of time with small kids when I became a mother. I didn’t realize how fast they make the transition from crawling and cruising to walking. It felt like my kids cruised and stood with support for ages. Then, all of a sudden, they were ready.
"When my eldest son first walked, we were watching TV in our playroom. Jack was about a year old. My husband and I were sitting on opposite ends of the floor. Our son was cruising around the coffee table as usual. Then he turned, looked at his dad and let go of the table. Reaching out his hands, he took two very wobbly steps forward. My husband was thrilled and Jack was delighted with himself. If I hadn’t been looking at that exact moment, I would have missed it."
"How do babies learn how to walk? Can I help?"
Like many of life’s mysteries, walking is something your child will naturally explore on their own. All of their earlier developmental stages—lifting their heads, rolling, sitting up, crawling, standing, and cruising—build muscles, increase dexterity and provide opportunities to improve motor skills. Walking is the next stage in the journey from babyhood to life as a toddler.
The most important thing, as with most parenting challenges, is not to worry too much. You and your spouse know your child best. Seeing progress in how your child is moving their arms and legs in a coordinated way indicates that they’re working their way toward walking.
The form that movement can take varies from child to child, and can include:
- Crawling (even backwards crawling)
- Scooting across the floor on their backside
- Clambering up the stairs using hands and knees
- Using that coffee table or chair edge for stability as they cruise
Seeing any of those activities likely indicates that your baby’s first unsupported steps will follow in good time. For advice on specific recommendations or concerns, your best recourse is always to speak to your family doctor.
"When does the first walk usually happen?"
Like anything in life worth doing, learning to walk is not a fast process. It can, however, be a delightful one as you watch your child improve their balance and hone their motor skills.
Regarding timing, the safest answer about when to expect the first walk is that there’s a range. How it applies to your family depends your child’s individual growth and development.
The Bump says the first walk happens anywhere from nine to 18 months of age. Parenting.com agrees with that time window, noting, “It takes most babies about 1,000 hours of practice from the time they pull themselves upright to the time they can walk alone.”
Let’s do the math. If we assume your baby’s actively practicing their pre-walking skills for a very generous average of eight hours a day, you should expect learning to walk will take roughly 125 days (or just over four months). Not exactly overnight success!
Web MD is willing to be much more specific — their experts advise that you watch for this milestone to pop somewhere in Month 12, Week 4!
No matter when your baby walks, the important thing is to let them set the pace of their development and to enjoy supporting them through the experience.
"Does my child need to be walking to go to daycare or preschool?"
It depends on the daycare and their programs. Some programs cater to children who are only a few weeks old. Others are geared to children 12 months and older, or to school-age children.
If your child is joining a daycare before they’ve fully learned to walk, you can guarantee they’ll have a powerful incentive to learn!
Tips: Do Help Your Baby By...
- Baby proofing the house. You may have gotten away with it when your child was stationary, but once they’re standing and cruising, any loose cords or carpet, dangerous substances, unsecured furniture (like bookcases or dressers), or sharp edges have to go.
- Making sure the furniture in the rooms where they spends the most time is solid and secure. Desk chairs with a swivel function are not going to help.
- Holding their hands once they can stand. Start with both hands. Once they’re comfortable, try letting go of one hand to help improve their balance.
- Encouraging their efforts and adding incentives. Put toys or other objects just out of cruising reach and see if they’ll let go without bending to crawl.
- Giving your child a push toy when they’ve mastered cruising. It’ll provide more mobility as they develop balance and stability. (Pro tip: A mid-size empty box works just as well as a store-bought toy, and may even appeal more to your baby for reasons only babies understand.)
- Hold your baby’s hands above their head when they’re practicing walking. Try it yourself, and then imagine that you’re figuring out how your body works. Doesn’t it make staying balanced harder than it needs to be?
- Buy a baby walker. Most designs were discontinued in the ‘90s due to safety concerns. Even if you live in a space without stairs, a walker may impede your child’s balance or encourage bad posture.
- Buy bouncers or saucer toys. Some families swear by them, but they’re optional at best.
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