Some of the most exciting moments as a parent are watching your little one learn and grow. Whether that means cracking their first smile, saying a new word, or discovering how to work a new gadget, your baby is learning so much every day.
The baby and toddler years are filled with new discoveries that will allow your child to grow into a smart and curious child. Watching as they hit each milestone or discover new ways that their body works are amazing experiences.
At this point, you’ve already seen them go from starting to babble and just sitting up on their own to crawling all over the house and getting into anything and everything. If your baby is getting close to 1, you’re probably waiting for them to start walking by now and ready for all the new and exciting memories it will bring.
The good news is that these physical milestones generally progress naturally with little help from you. However, if you want to get your baby started early or worried about your child not reaching this milestone already, there are a variety of tips and activities I will share about how to teach your baby to walk soon.
Progression of Gross Motor Skills
A gross motor skill is an action that requires the use of larger muscle groups in your body, such as muscles of the arm, legs, and trunk. This differs from fine motor skills which use tiny muscles, like the ones in your hands or fingers.
Gross motor skills in babies and toddlers include rolling, sitting up, crawling, standing, walking, running, throwing, jumping, and more, all because they use the muscles in their abdominals, thighs, and shoulders to produce these movements.
You’ll see your child go through each developmental stage as those muscles get bigger and stronger. Baby’s muscles develop and strengthen through each movement and activity in order to prepare them for the next one.
Therefore, the trunk and neck muscles that are strengthened through rolling and tummy time help your baby begin to sit up. The abdominal and hip muscles that strengthen from sitting, get your baby crawling. The leg muscles that your baby uses to stand upright, prepare them for walking.
So before you worry about teaching your child to walk, make sure that they have already started crawling and standing first. Read here about why crawling is SO important for a baby.
When do babies start walking
The typical age for a child to start walking is from 10-15 months. It’s such a wide range because all children develop at their own pace. However, it’s still not abnormal if your child starts walking on the end stages or outside of this range.
Some children will take off running before you’ve even had a chance to accept that they’re almost a toddler. Those are typically the fearless and outgoing children.
Others may hold back on walking because they’re a little more cautious or shy. You’ll notice that a lot of emerging skills can be personality-based, rather than physical or cognitively-based.
This means that, if your child reaches a milestone later than expected, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem with their body or brain. They just may be the kind of kid who likes to take their time (which you may be grateful for in the long run) or can’t wait to get there fast.
Try not to worry about comparing your baby to others and just focus on the capabilities of your child. It should not matter that your niece started walking at 10 months and your baby is 13 months and still not standing independently.
My firstborn starting cruising (walking along furniture) around 9 months and took her first independent steps right before her first birthday. My son is now 13 months old and is barely taking a couple steps.
However, I’m not worried because he is right where he should be developmentally. He’s hit each milestone in the right progression and is on the right foot to walking any day now.
A young child will get there when they’re ready. It’s not always a sign of something wrong if they reach a milestone late. However, be sure to consult your pediatrician if they are not walking and they are older than 15 months.
Tips on How to Teach Baby to Walk
For most children, walking will come naturally as they learn the strengths and limitations of their bodies. They’ll use trial and error to figure out what they can and can’t do.
However, some may need a little bit more coaching and coaxing to get it done. Whether it be fear, confidence, or lack of practice, you can help your child get there sooner with these tips below.
Be sure they have met all previous milestones
Make sure that your child is at a developmentally appropriate age and level for them to walk. Don’t push them to do it too early or before they’re ready.
Your child should already be able to crawl, stand while holding on, stand independently, and cruise (walk while holding on) before you expect them to walk independently. Of course, crawling doesn’t have that much to do with walking, as some children do walk instead of crawling. However, crawling is a very important milestone that I recommend every child do before walking.
If they have hit all of those stages, then you can start teaching your baby to walk. If not, start working on standing and cruising before taking independent steps.
No socks. No shoes. Just bare feet. There are tiny muscles in the feet that need to start developing and strengthening and the only way to do this is by bearing weight on them.
As bipeds (animals that walk on two feet), we have so many little muscles that help us to balance and give traction as we stand. When you stand barefoot, the muscles in your feet have an easier time ‘grasping’ the ground.
This will help those little muscles work harder to find the perfect way to mold to the ground in order to help your baby walk.
Not only does going barefoot help with walking, but it’s a great sensory experience for your child, too. All the nerve endings in the bottom of their feet will get to feel different surfaces and textures.
These sensory signals get sent up to the brain and provide more awareness to the feet. This can even help with walking, as well.
Barefoot means no socks, as well. Socks will just cause them to slip and don’t provide enough traction for new walkers.
Get rid of those baby crib shoes with soft soles. Those aren’t going to work anymore.
Your baby needs a shoe with good support at the ankle and the sole. Remember, your baby has not yet used the muscles of their ankle and lower legs too much yet so you may need to provide external support to get those muscles working.
Although barefoot is the best, when you’re out and about, your child will need shoes. Also, since every child is different, your baby may not do well with barefeet and may stand better with sturdy shoes.
They can keep their ankles from rolling or wobbling or just to make them feel sturdier.
Stride Rite is one of the best shoe brands for your little ones that provide great support for an early walker, both on the sole and ankle. *You can get them at a discounted price on Amazon.*
Start small and don’t expect that your child will jet across the living room when they first learn to walk. They will slowly begin to take 1 or 2 steps at a time. Be sure to celebrate every little attempt and that will encourage your child to do more.
While you are teaching them, remain very close. If they can only take 2 steps right now, don’t sit 3 feet away from them. Gradually increase the distance as they get more confident.
Encouragement and motivation
We all need a little motivation in order to do things. Celebrate every little victory, whether it is two steps or even just an attempt to take a step.
The biggest motivation for a child is a parent’s smiling face. Make sure you’re actively engaging with your child and should start to see their abilities strengthen.
Reducing their fear
Keep objects and furniture close so they know that they always have something sturdy to hold on to. Again, make sure you’re always standing close enough to them with your arms open wide ready to catch them if they fall.
Once they realize that they won’t get hurt if they fall, their fear should be reduced and they may be more confident to take a few more steps.
Gradually reduce support
You can hold your baby under their arms, on their trunk, or on their hands. As they learn and gain muscle strength, they will need less and less support. Make sure you are decreasing the amount of support and assistance that you give them as they learn to walk.
Be around peers
What’s more encouraging to a child than seeing their peer do it? Sure, you might think that they see their parents walking all the time so they should want to walk too, but that’s not always the case.
Watching another child their age try out walking will often give your baby the push they need to get started. They may like to see them fall and get up again or see that the other child got a lot of praise for walking.
This is where a daycare or childcare facility is helpful, however if you have other siblings, cousins, or friends, make sure to have plenty of playdates for them to engage with others.
Strengthen their muscles
As I mentioned before, your child needs to develop and strengthen their leg and trunk muscles in order to start walking. Make sure that you’re giving them exposure to do so.
The best way for your baby to develop the muscles of their legs is by standing. If your child can’t hold themselves up yet, you can support them under their arms. As long as they are bearing weight into their feet with their legs straight, they are working out those muscles.
Practice and Consistency
This is always my biggest tip for learning any new skill. Practice makes perfect!!
Don’t think that by attempting to walk with your child once a day, they will begin walking on their own. Set aside several periods of time throughout the day to practice with them.
Whether it be in the morning when they first wake up, after lunch, or right before bath time, aim to work on your goal several times.
Be consistent with these tips and activities. The more your child gets familiar with your expectations of them and what activity is coming up, the more confident and excited they will feel.
Related Post: Best Developmental Toys for 1 Year Olds
Always place them down on their feet
After holding your child, place them down in a standing position instead of sitting. You may be used to putting them down in sitting and that may be easiest for them, but you want to take every opportunity to get them bearing weight into their feet.
Even if they plop down as soon as you place them down, you’re still letting them know that your expectation is for them to stand up.
Allow them to cruise on furniture
Your baby will first learn to walk while holding onto furniture. Make sure all the pieces are sturdy as they will be pushing most of their weight onto it. Give them access to long lines of furniture (couches and coffee tables) to provide them with opportunities to cruise along it.
Start with a firm surface
Although it can be scary to allow your wobbly, unbalanced infant to walk on hardwood floors or tile, this is the best place for them to learn.
Once they’re a little steadier on their feet, use those soft or uneven surfaces to challenge their balance a bit more. Once they get the hang of standing and walking a bit, using a variety of textured grounds like carpet, beds and couches (while supervised), and grass are great for the sensory experience, as well as improving their balance.
Two adults are better than one
When having a child learn to take a few steps, it’s best to have two adults instead of just one. This merely provides the encouragement and motivation that your child may need to get started.
This way one adult can encourage the child, as the other one gives him support at the other end.
Activities to Teach Baby to Walk
Making learning fun is the biggest way to motivate a child. Here are some fun activities to use that should get your baby walking in no time.
Tape toys and objects to a wall with painters tape. Place them close to eye level so your child has to reach for them in standing. Place the tape loosely on the wall so that they are able to remove it.
Once they grab the object, they will want to explore it! This will encourage them to use 2 hands and “tricking” them into letting go. It really works!
This push walker is a great sturdy toy that provides your baby with enough support to push while walking. Although these are giving them support, they still allow your child to practice the skill of walking independently.
When they first start using it, they will be pushing most of their weight into it and leaning forward. As they strengthen their trunk and leg muscles, they will learn to stand more upright and only use it as a guide, instead of full support.
This push walker has a wide, heavy base that provides enough support for your baby to prevent them from toppling over as they push. It also plays fun music and has a lot of activity buttons on the front.
My son loves pushing the kitchen chairs all around the room. Toddlers will get a kick out of being able to move furniture through the house and you’ll be surprised how strong they are!
Make sure the furniture is bottom-heavy so it can not topple on them or cause them to fall. Always supervise your child when moving furniture.
Place toys and objects at eye level
If you’re using a motivator, such as their favorite toy or object, DON’T put it on the ground. Having to look down for an item will just make your child want to squat down and crawl or reach to get it.
Instead, make sure the item is at their eye level. For example, placing it on a couch, coffee table, or chair is a great spot. Have them walk toward the object, whether they are holding on or not.
Give them two objects at a time
This activity is more to get them standing independently. However, standing on their own will build the confidence and strength that they need for walking.
While they’re playing at a tabletop, couch, or somewhere that their toys are eye level, make sure they have two items that they will be excited about. If your child gets as excited to ‘put in’ as mine does, he won’t think twice about grabbing both items at the same time.
As they decide to explore both objects, this will help them to let go of the surface that’s holding them up. It will make them realize that they can, indeed, stand on their own, working on their balance and strength at the same time.
Use a blanket or scarf for support
Roll up a blanket or scarf and place it across your child’s chest and under their arms. Hold the ends of the blanket behind them.
This activity still provides them with support, but allows them to walk without holding on.
Feet on Feet
Stand your child on your own feet, facing you, and walk backward. This will allow your child to move their feet reciprocally to practice walking.
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Remember that with walking comes a lot more chaos. Your child will be able to reach things that you didn’t have to worry about before and get into things that you didn’t think of. Therefore, make sure your home is babyproofed to the best of your abilities to avoid any harmful experiences.
I hope you now understand how to teach your baby to walk. As always, little ones all develop at their own pace. Use these activities to have fun and encourage your child, but allow them the freedom to naturally learn on their own.