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Helping your baby learn to walk takes time, as there are steps that have to happen first. But, in the end, the steps and practice that it takes to get there is all worth it!
I remember when my daughter took her first steps, and it is something that will stick with me for a long time. My husband and I were sitting on the floor facing each other, and she’d walk a few steps between us. It was an amazing moment! I think most parents find this to be such a memorable and vivid moment in the lives of their little ones!
So, how do we actually get a baby to the point of walking by themselves? It starts from the beginning. There are lots of muscles that have to develop first in order to support a baby’s first steps. As such, motor development occurs in a sequence: Babies roll over first, sit up, crawl, stand, and finally walk. We can help support this process by engaging babies in activities that will develop the required muscles.
Here’s a free printable that summarizes all the motor milestones for learning to walk:
1.As I discuss in another post, tummy time is super important. This post offers tips on how to engage in this and what to use, but tummy time helps develop the neck, back, and arm muscles that are needed in order for a baby to pull themselves up to a standing position. So initially, tummy time can be used to help a baby learn to roll over (which happens at around 2-3 months of age) and eventually push themselves up with their arms. For example, I’d actually physically help my baby roll over many, many times. Eventually, those muscles would develop, and she pushed herself over one day to her own surprise!!
2. Babies will eventually be able to sit up with some support at around 4-5 months. During this time, I’d sit behind my baby and help support her. I’d actually sit her in front of an activity cube, and we’d play with that together. Here’s an example of what I used:
In doing this, my daughter would further develop her back and ab muscles, which will help her sit up on her own. Although this can vary, my daughter sat up without assistance at about 7-8 months of age. It would also help her develop her arm muscles as she’d learn to reach out and grasp/push objects.
3.Crawling is the next skill that will develop. My daughter, honestly, never spent a lot of time in this stage. Most babies will crawl between the ages of 6-10 months. For tips on how to encourage crawling, check out this article- Steps Toward Crawling
Once your baby is on the move, it’s definitely time to baby proof!! For tips on baby proofing your home, visit my other blog post here.
4. Standing is the next skill to develop. In order to practice, I’d start by getting my daughter close to her toy chest (she was tall enough to be able to balance herself on it if she stood up) and then place some interesting toys such as blocks on the top of the toy chest. Initially, I’d help her time and time again to get her to a standing position. We practice this a lot! We’d also have times where I would build her a little tower of blocks, so when she’d get to a standing position, she could knock it down. This would make it extra interesting and fun for her!
In terms of when she actually stood on her own while holding onto to something, it came about during a very random time. My husband and I were eating pizza with the pizza box open on the coffee table. My daughter comes over and just pulls herself right up to a standing position! Interestingly, from then on, she has always loved pizza! I guess interesting objects do help encourage certain motor skills.
Now that your child can stand, it’s time to help guide them by having them “walk” by holding onto furniture or even your hands. For example, I’d have my daughter stand up and hang on to the couch. I would place an interesting toy out of reach to the left or right side of her. In doing this, she’d have to take a couple of steps to get the object. In addition to doing this, I would help my daughter walk by holding her hands and helping her take steps. After lots of practice, this helped build up her leg muscles for actual walking without any assistance.
Another helpful tip is to allow your baby to push objects that are low and stable. This could be pushing a sturdy box or basket along a wooden floor. Or in my case, see the video of my daughter below:
When helping your baby learn to walk, it is advisable not to use walkers and jumpers. According to one article, walkers and jumpers actually result in babies learning to walk a month later than those who do not use them. This article also suggests that walkers allow babies to move around before they are physically ready. In addition, walkers can be dangerous and result in injuries such as falling down stairs.
Eventually, my daughter was physically ready to walk on her own. She’d occasionally stand up, let go of whatever she was holding onto, and take a few steps. Once we saw this occurring, this is when my husband and I would start having her practice by taking steps between each of us. Here’s my daughter when she had just learned to walk:
You will notice in this video that she’s walking a little bow legged. This is normal and happens because of the baby’s proportions. She’s still “top heavy,” so essentially, she has a lot of weight that comes from her head compared to the rest of her. As her proportions changed, she started to walk differently or “normally.”
Most babies will start taking steps between 9-12 months of age. Some are well on their way with walking by the time they are 14-15 months (this is when my baby started walking). However, according to one article, it’s still normal if they don’t walk until 16-17 months. If you do have concerns, I would suggest talking with your child’s health provider.
First of all, know that it’s ok if your baby does not learn every motor skill early or even on time. Some babies do not do these things until a little later. As mentioned above though, if you do have concerns, seek advice from your child’s health provider.
My biggest suggestion in helping your baby learn to walk is practice and lots of it! And make it fun and exciting for them! This will help encourage those behaviors and skills.
This is such an exciting time for you and your child! I know you will celebrate big when your baby takes his or her first steps! As I did 🙂
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