Seeing your baby take their first tentative steps is one of the most exciting moments of being a parent.
It’s a big step towards independence (literally) and you’ll want to be prepared! So, let’s run through when and how most babies learn to walk, how you can encourage your little one’s first steps, and how to keep them safe once they’re able to toddle from A to B on their own.
How do babies learn to walk?
Learning to walk is a key gross motor milestone on a baby’s developmental timeline alongside other big movements like sitting, jumping and climbing, and little ones start to prepare for walking as early as three months of age.
- At three months, their neck, back and core are getting stronger by the day, and they start to be able to support their own body weight. They’ll then start to prepare to roll over and show more interest in the environment around them.
- From four months, they’ll master the skill of sitting up on their own.
- From six months, they’ll start to show signs of scooting, shuffling, and crawling. Once they’ve managed to master the skill of crawling, they’ll then start to pull themselves up and stand on their own two feet. At this stage, you can start holding their hands and helping them take some steps with your support.
When do babies walk?
Anywhere between nine months and 15 months, most babies will have the muscle strength, balance, and coordination to make their first independent steps.
It’s important to remember that all babies are unique and develop at their own pace. Learning to walk takes time, but if your baby isn’t walking by 18 months, don’t hesitate to reach out to your family doctor or health visitor for support.
Signs your baby might be about to start walking
You’ll know that your mini-me is close to being able to walk solo if they…
- can cruise around the room on two feet while holding onto objects
- are able to balance while holding onto something with one hand
- can stand on their own
- seem to be growing in confidence.
How to encourage your baby to walk
Although you can’t speed up your baby’s development, you can use the following tips to support your little one on their journey towards solo walking.
Hold their hands
Holding your little one’s hands as they get used to putting one foot in front of the other helps support them. It can also be a lovely way to bond.
If your little one can stand up but seems hesitant to step, sit or stand a few steps away from them and try to coax them to walk towards you. You can try holding one of their favourite toys and remember to give them a big smile! Learning to walk should be lots of fun.
Help them stand back up
If they do fall, you can boost your baby’s confidence and motivate them to try again by picking them up, cuddling them, and helping them stand and go again.
Give them something to push
Special baby trollies or carts are designed for your little one to push along as they walk forward and can help build their confidence. Just make sure that they’re always supervised when using a push-along toy.
Go barefoot indoors
Your baby will be able to balance on safe indoor surfaces just fine without a pair of shoes. They can wear non-slip cotton socks but going barefoot as much as possible is a good way to help their arches develop and build muscle tone.
Wear lightweight shoes outdoors
Low-top soft shoes are best for babies who are new to walking. Too much ankle support can limit their movement when they’re just getting started. Remember to check their tiny toes have enough room to move.
It’s normal for babies to experience a few stops and starts during their development. They may seem to have aced walking, then regress slightly as they start to learn another new skill like eating finger foods. This is totally normal, so don’t stress and enjoy the ride!
How can I create a safe space for my baby to learn to walk?
While learning to walk is an exciting time for you and your baby, accidents can happen. These tips can help you to baby-proof your home when your baby starts to become more mobile.
- Put stairgates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Always supervise your baby when they go up and down the stairs.
- Keep low furniture away from windows and make sure that all windows have locks or safety catches.
- Keep any dangerous objects out of your baby’s reach and add child-proof locks to any cupboards or drawers.
- Secure any free-standing furniture to the wall so that it can’t topple over.
When will my baby need shoes?
To make sure that their feet develop healthily, experts advise that parents don’t buy their baby’s first pair of shoes until they’re walking confidently. Once they can walk solo, a toddler only really needs to wear their shoes when walking outside.
Make sure their feet are measured by a professional and you should check the fit of their shoes regularly.