Babies And Walking: Everything You Need To Know

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You’ve spent months focusing on how your baby’s been growing. You’ve been waiting for their arrival and the moment you can hold them in your arms. Now that they’re here, you’ll start thinking about all the new things to come. Before long, you may find yourself wondering when do babies start walking?

In this article, we’ll take a good look at when you can expect your little one to take those first steps. We’ll also talk about some milestones they might reach first, and what you can do to best prepare.

What Is Normal?

Before we get started, it’s important to know that there is no hard and fast rule about when your child should do anything. Yes, there are normal ranges where you can expect your child to achieve certain things. Keep in mind that your child is an individual and variations are totally acceptable—and entirely normal.

What Are The Expected Milestones?

The usual trajectory for a child gaining true mobility will look something like the following:

  • 6 months: Your baby is able to roll front to back and back to front.
  • 6–8 months: Your baby can sit unassisted.
  • 7–9 months: Your child will begin to rock back and forth in an all-fours position.
  • 8–13 months: Your child begins to crawl.
  • 9–10 months: Your baby begins to pull themselves up on furniture into a standing position.
  • 9–13 months: Your little one starts cruising along furniture.
  • 10–13 months: Your baby can stand independently.
  • 12–14 months: Your child can walk without assistance. 

Most children will achieve these milestones around these ages and in this order. It’s always possible that your child might make a little detour and work out of order as well.

How Do Babies Learn How To Walk?

Learning to walk is a real endeavor. The good news is, your baby is designed to walk. Even as a newborn, your child has a reflex that encourages them to push their feet into the ground. By the time your child begins to walk, this reflex has long since disappeared. The urge to walk, however, doesn’t.

baby walking with mom and dad

Learning to walk is a long process. It begins with core development while your baby is still doing tummy time. Each milestone your child meets is a reflection of a new skill and stronger muscles. These become the foundational building blocks for your baby’s first steps.

Your baby will begin to work on large group muscle coordination while crawling. Don’t be alarmed if your child skips the crawling step—they’ll get back to it when it suits them. Even if they don’t crawl, you’ll likely see them employ some intentional movement that allows them to migrate. They may roll or use an Army crawl to get from place to place.

Once your child has mastered this coordination, they’ll likely start experimenting on two feet. They may start simply by squatting low to the ground. When they’re ready, they’ll start to try and stand.

Most babies don’t start by standing unassisted. Instead, they’ll use an item of furniture for support. Some babies like using push walkers to begin moving around. It’s very important at this stage that your child’s play space is properly childproofed. Remove any furniture that may be a tipping hazard.

When your child is more confident they may test the walking waters. They’ll start by letting go of the furniture and standing still, trying to maintain their balance. They may also stand on their own and then sit back down to crawl to their desired location. During this period of time, your little one will likely begin to cruise.

Cruising is the first step to independent walking. Like training wheels, your child will practice the walking motion, but with the support of nearby items. Furniture, walls, and toys can all make great cruising support.

Helping Your Baby Learn To Walk

Looking to help your child achieve their walking milestone? First, you should know you won’t be able to make your child walk. Some children may be anxious or cautious and choose not to walk even when they have the capability to do so.

You know those times where you’ve seen a child take a step, but then realize they’re doing it and stop? This is a child who’s not emotionally or mentally ready to walk, even if they’re physically capable.

There are some things you can do to help your child build muscle and develop coordination, though. You can also help them gain confidence. Here are some things you may want to try to help your little one get walking:

  • Let your baby do it: It’s so easy to get into a routine that involves lifting and carrying your child. Try to carve out a little time to let them try and do it themselves. This will give them the opportunity to try and learn skills for themselves.
  • Praise the good: You’ve heard the expression “one step forward, two steps back.” Progress may be slow. Don’t wait for them to walk before you acknowledge the good. You want them to recreate that movement and take it further—encourage each little bit they do to get there.
  • Provide growth opportunities: Does your child have a favorite toy you can push past them or entice them with? Go ahead and use it just out of their reach and see if you can get them to move toward you.
  • Support when needed: Offer a hand so your little one can toddle along beside you. Squat in front of them and offer an outstretched hand. This can help your baby gain confidence and take chances they may otherwise feel unprepared for. 

When To Seek Professional Help

Most babies will learn to walk—eventually. This will happen whether you go the extra mile or sit back and let them figure it out on their own. There are a few things to keep an eye out for. If you see the following, you may want to talk to your doctor:

baby trying to stand up
  • Your child is missing many gross motor milestones: Babies frequently master things out of order. They may be focusing on verbal and cognitive development instead. If your baby is missing many markers, though, it may be time to consider seeking professional assistance.
  • Your child displays unusual behaviors: Does your child only cruise or stand on their tip-toes? Does your child regularly favor a certain leg or direction? Bring your concerns to your pediatrician for a full evaluation.
  • Your child is still not walking by 18 months: If your child is still not walking by the time they’re 18 months old, you should have them evaluated by your pediatrician. After an evaluation, your doctor can help you come up with an appropriate plan of action. 

When looking at your child’s walking skills and how far they’ve come, don’t forget to factor in their actual progress. If your child was a later sitter, they’ll likely be a later walker. As long as their milestones are being reached in a progressive manner, they’re likely on the right track.

Do remember to account for your child’s adjusted age if they were premature or had a difficult start. Try not to focus on when things should be happening (or are happening) and instead look at the overall picture of growth and progress.

When Do Babies Start Walking?

The long and short of it is that babies start walking when they’re ready. You can help your baby learn to walk by giving them the opportunity to explore. Set a good example and spend plenty of time on your own two feet. After all, your little one wants to be just like you—including using their own two feet to get from place to place.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.