Is my baby ready to walk?
Baby’s first steps – it’s one of the most anticipated developmental milestones for mums and dads and you don’t want to miss it. So how can you tell if your bub is gearing up for a few unaided, wobbly steps? And should you worry if they’re not?
Many babies tend to follow a similar routine as they prepare to stand up on their two chubby legs, although the timing of this can vary greatly from bub-to-bub.
While the average age to start walking is between 12 and 13 months, there is a very broad range of 'normal'. Some babies are up and running at nine months old, while others are still contentedly moving around on all fours or cruising the furniture at 18 months.
What’s average, really?
There’s a vague estimate thrown around that about 50 percent of babies are walking unaided by a year old, but if that’s not what your baby’s doing, although it seems everybody else’s is, the expert advice is not to panic.
Baby development experts now tend to agree that, when it comes to when a tot takes his or her first steps, there are three factors:
- muscle strength
- temperament (or, as some call it, ambition)
Notice that age seems to have nothing to do with it? In an article published in 2003 in Child Development called "What Changes in Infant Walking and Why", researchers reasoned that physical and brain development were not the main factors that influenced the timing of when baby started to walk. Desire, motivation and the baby’s temperament seemed to have bigger impacts.
The researchers went on to say that once babies become interested in moving around, they take about the same amount of time to move through the learning process.
It’s also suggested that babies with easier temperaments are in less of a rush to move around, and are very happy just to sit and watch the world. And there’s yet another theory that as crawling is a speedier and less scary way to travel, some bubs become so proficient that they’re less keen to start the wobbly walk.
But what the experts do seem fairly united on is this: the age your baby starts to walk, if it’s in the broad band of “normal”, has nothing to do with their intelligence.
And here’s another myth to ignore: that babies should crawl before they walk. Some babies will just get up and walk, and pretty well skip the crawling phase – and that’s okay.
4 signs bub’s ready to walk
- Your bub can pull himself up to a standing position using a stationary object.
- Once standing up, can transfer his weight from one leg to the other.
- He can climb stairs using his hands.
- He might let go of any support when he’s standing and just hover.
But keep this in mind: it’s estimated that it takes babies about 1000 hours of practice to go from pulling themselves up to walking more than a few steps alone.
While learning to walk is a natural process and happens organically, there are some ways parents can aid their bub’s practice sessions. For example:
- Make sure there are some sturdy and stationary objects around he can use to pull himself up on.
- If you have wooden or slippery floors, don’t put him in socks because they don’t have much grip.
- If he gets stuck standing up – and many babies will before they learn how to sit down – help him work out that he needs to bend his knees to get back on to the ground.
- Kneel down on the floor a few baby steps away from him and call him to come to you – he may surprise himself and take a few steps, without even realising, in his eagerness for a cuddle with Mum.
When to seek advice
Experts suggest that being late with one milestone isn’t necessarily a concern – it’s when they might be lagging with a couple or more that you may want to chat to your GP.
Babies born prematurely or who are heavier can also take longer to walk. And, as mentioned before, some babies just aren’t interested in getting moving as soon as others.
Most babies are usually showing some interest in walking by about 16 months. If your littlie isn’t or you have any concerns, see your GP or childhood health nurse.
More toddler firsts:
- Recipes for toddlers
- Toddler nutrition
- Moving to a big bed for the first time
- Solving tantrums
- Toilet training tips and tricks
- Resolving problems
- Activities for toddlers
- Toddler grooming tips
- Toddler development
- Toddler first steps
- Toddler teeth and dental care
More childhood firsts:
Last revised: Wednesday, 18 April 2012
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.