Watching your child develop from a baby into a toddler is an amazing experience, but you may be wondering:
When do babies start walking?
The short answer is: When they’re ready! Unfortunately for moms and dads seeking the perfect answer, this will often be what you hear because all babies are different and pick up new skills at different times.
As some consolation, there’s still a general range of when you’ll hear that pitter patter of little feet, so we’ll give you a rough estimate of when to look out for tell-tale signs of the various stages of walking.
Understand that even walking at the latter end of the spectrum is perfectly OK. (We’ll also let you know when you might want to consult a professional.)
When Do Babies Walk?
Babies begin walking anytime between 8 and 16 months. Some babies begin walking even later than that.
Of course, it also depends on how you define “walking.” Some parents will boast that their baby began walking at 9 months, but they’re usually talking about the kind of walking a baby does while holding onto something, known as cruising.
For the purposes of this post, we define walking as when baby takes a few steps without holding onto anything for stability.
Signs of Walking by Months
Your baby will start exhibiting signs they are ready to walk as early as six months of age. Will your baby be on the move soon? Here’s what to look out for:
6-9 months: Your baby will learn to sit up unassisted, then will begin experimenting with crawling. Some babies skip crawling and go straight to walking, but they usually go back and crawl at some point, too. This is the infant milestone just before walking, so it’s important to note. If your child is on the earlier side with sitting up and crawling, she may be on the earlier side with other milestones such as walking.
The same goes for babies on the later end of the spectrum, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and the uniqueness of each child can be totally unpredictable! But if your child can’t sit up unassisted by 9 months, it’s time to check in with your pediatrician.
9-12 months: Your baby will begin to pull himself up to a standing position while holding onto furniture. He will be able to stand unassisted for a few seconds at a time and will begin to figure out how to sit back down from standing. He’ll also begin cruising (walking while holding something for stability). This is when the question, “When do babies start walking?” gets confusing because this is kind of walking.
12-18 months: Your baby — now a toddler, so-called because she is toddling around — can walk, though she is probably very wobbly and unsteady on her feet. If your child isn’t walking by 15 months, talk with your pediatrician. This is still within the normal range, but 15 months is a good time to check in so you can address any problems early, just in case there is an issue.
Keep in mind that some kids are naturally more cautious than others and may wait to walk until they are really ready. You may not even know you have a cautious child. For example, a cautious child may take a few steps here and there but won’t try for longer distances because she feels unsturdy, while another child will just walk and doesn’t mind if she falls.
When Do Preemies Start Walking?
Preemies will usually reach developmental milestones at the same time or a little bit later than full-term babies if you use their corrected age. So if your 12-month-old child was born 2 months early, her corrected age is 10 months (how old she would be if she were born near her due date).
Micro-preemies or preemies who have health issues may not fall on the same developmental timeline, so you should talk with your pediatrician about when your child should reach developmental milestones.
How to Help Your Baby Start Walking
If you ask your friends “How can I help my baby to walk?” you’ll likely get a million different answers. Some parents choose to help by holding baby’s hand while she walks. Others may buy jumpers and walkers to encourage walking skills. But the truth is, you don’t need much of anything but patience and restraint from intervening — which can be incredibly difficult! Here are some tips for encouraging natural walking development:
- Trust your child. The best way to help your child to walk is to let her do it at her own pace. Pushing her into something she’s not ready for isn’t going to help and may have negative effects, such as giving your child the impression that where she is at right now isn’t enough. Children of all ages can pick up on such subtleties.
- Don’t use baby walkers. The America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages their use based on the safety risks and lack of benefits. In fact, baby walkers may even slow your child’s walking skills, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.
- Allow your baby to develop naturally. Each physical milestone is built upon the previous one. A baby can’t learn to walk if he hasn’t learned to sit, and he can’t learn to sit if he hasn’t learned to roll over. Each time he learns something new, he builds muscle strength and stability. Research performed by Dr. Emmi Pikler has shown that children allowed to develop naturally (meaning no propping them up, “walking” them, etc.) are able to spend more time in transitional postures where they learn how to move from one development to the other. These transitional postures are sometimes very strange and funny positions! But by pushing baby into the next development (like by “walking”), your child may lose out on a lot of those transitional postures. Does that mean that you’ve ruined your baby by holding his hands while he walks? Of course not! It’s just something to keep in mind to allow the most natural development for your baby.
How about you?
When did your little ones first walk? How was that different from other babies around you?