What to Expect as Your Baby or Toddler Learns to Walk

Watching your baby grow from an infant to a toddler is every parent’s joy. For your child, such a  major transition naturally comes with her ability to take those all-important first steps. Walking is a major milestone in your baby’s development, and there are actually many ways that you can help your little one gain that independence.

The first thing to remember (based on my experience) is that there are actually a number of stages that lead up to your baby’s first steps. Knowing what the phases mean and how to help your baby through them is an adventure that you will both enjoy and treasure forever.

There are no hard and fast timelines for a baby’s first steps. On average, a child is either attempting to walk or is already walking between months 9 and 18. Some very active little ones may take their first steps as early as 7 months, while other infants have a more laid-back approach to walking and do not start until after their first birthday. The most important thing to remember is that each child has their own individual timelines and not to be to alarmed if they are not walking as quickly as expected.

The Steps That Your Little One Goes Through

  1. In the beginning, she will use both arms to pull her body forward, or to push backwards. Both motions are normal.
  2. Next she will crawl using both arms and legs.
  3. Then comes the pull up steps when your little one wants to be upright like all the big people around her. She will start to pull herself up using any handy object like furniture, a coffee table, table legs, or your legs. As this is a whole new world for her. She may not be able to figure out how to sit back down. You can help her by showing her how to bend her knees so that she will not get hurt when sitting back down.
  4. Then comes the cruising step. This is a baby language, term used to describe how your baby will maneuver around a room once she is comfortable standing upright. You can help your baby take some beginning steps while holding her hands. Your baby will also move around the room using all of the support objects she used during the pull up steps. You want to be sure that all of her support objects are well padded, sturdy, and have no sharp corners. You can help to childproof your home by removing reachable objects from low level surfaces that your baby can grab as she moves around the room.
  5. And now, your little one is ready for those first few independent steps without any support. As the cruising steps give your baby confidence in his / her abilities, she will attempt to let go of her support, but it is totally normal for her to re-grab it when =she feels unsteady without having some ready help.


Walking Steps

Yes, even though your little one is on the verge of independence, she still has a few more steps to conquer before going hands-free. In the beginning, your little one will only take a few steps before sitting back down. It is your encouragement, combined with her desire for achievement, which will be the motivator to keep trying until success is accomplished. 

A key step in walking is balance. Once your baby can stand and balance herself for several seconds, she will want to try taking a step or two without any help. You can help by giving her support to stand up in the middle of the room and seeing how long she stays upright before sitting back down. Always praise your baby after every try of standing without help. 

The first hands-free steps will be more like a combination of a crawl and a walk before they become proper steps. In the beginning, while your little one is learning how to move one foot forward while balancing on the other foot, he may look like a  really cute mini-Frankenstein, with her arms and legs outstretched. Another step that your baby will need to learn is how to stop. She has the forward momentum and may not be able to stop, so she will probably just sit down. The more she learns how to take steps with a comfortable degree of hip and knee flexibility, the more your baby will want to explore his / her surroundings. It is also typical for your little one to switch between walking and crawling. Little ones are very quick learners, but if she sees something on the other side of the room that she wants right away, she may decide that the easiest way is to crawl. 

While not an actual walking step, your baby will learn to walk with more comfort, confidence, and balance if she is barefooted, wearing non-slip socks or soft soled shoes. This allows her to make good contact with the floor, and will help to build muscle tone and arch development. When going outside of the home, lightweight and flexible soft soled shoes are the best style of footwear as they allow your child to move freely while protecting their precious little feet. Make sure that you also choose a natural breathable material like natural leather for the well being of their feet. 

Babies do not start to walk with a toe-heel stepping motion, which is a movement that naturally comes with walking experience. The position of your baby’s legs and feet when he first learns to walk may look like she is flat footed, pigeon-toed, or even bow-legged. These positions usually correct themselves within a few months. If you do not see any improvement, you could consider talking with your baby’s doctor about your concerns. 

Yes, there is one final step in the walking step progression, and that is to enjoy all the curiosity and accomplishments that your little one is going to be so proud of doing. Encourage and applaud every new adventure. Oh yes, with this experience you’ll soon discover that you may need to brush up on your chasing after and accident prevention skills. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures for future “walks” down memory lane.

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