A few moments in life can top the moment when your baby takes his or her first steps—but if you’re not there yet, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help your child achieve this small yet great feat?
In this article, I’ll give you a few suggestions.
A baby’s first small steps are a giant stride towards independence—a proud moment for any parent.
Physical development is the foundation on which all other building blocks rest, and walking is an excellent milestone by which you can measure overall physical development.
Most babies will probably start walking at around 9 to 16 months. It is important to note that the time it takes for a baby does not say anything about intellect or athletic ability later in life.
However, if your baby isn’t even trying to walk by 18 months, you should consult your physician.
The good news? There are many exercises you can (and should) do to promote walking.
Lay A Solid Foundation
A baby’s journey towards walking already starts in the uterus. Your child’s spinal cord has been forming since the first trimester (in the first 6 – 7 weeks).
Therefore, it’s crucial to take folic acid as soon as possible and continue throughout your pregnancy to prevent spina bifida.
Spina bifida is a congenital disability that develops when a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly. It might be treated through surgery, but it’s best avoided.
So, have those vitamins! A little goes a long way in this case.
Develop Your Baby’s Senses
A child’s senses form the building blocks for stable physical development. Our singular senses (touch, taste, and smell) are the first to develop.
So, one of the best ways to develop a baby’s senses to aid walking is through baby massage. Specifically, a foot massage.
During the first year, a foot massage can have numerous benefits, such as:
- Improving his or her locomotor system.
- Preparing the child for walking.
- Boosting blood circulation.
- Enhancing muscle tone.
- Preventing flat feet.
- Boosting the baby’s immune system.
Develop Your Baby’s Muscles
If the senses are the foundational bricks of physical development, the muscles are the cement.
Muscles must be developed in a specific order – neck strength, sitting, crawling, and walking. Though you can skip any one of these phases, it is not advisable.
This is because each set of muscles developed in each phase has a crucial function later in life. For instance – a child who never crawled might struggle with mathematics or develop hand problems such as an improper pencil grip.
Though it might feel unnecessary, a baby must have tummy time to develop a strong neck (and rolling skills). After rolling, a child will learn to sit up on their own (well-done core muscles), and then crawling should follow.
After crawling comes standing and then the literal first steps to independence!
Work on each of those phases diligently, and you’ll ensure their path to success!
Activate Cruise Control
Cruising is a vital stage before walking. It can continue until 12-14 months.
Experts agree that walking is the most variable physical milestone for toddlers and should not be used to gauge developmental success unless there are other indicators of giftedness or serious delay.
Some babies start walking at nine months, and others only at sixteen months. But, your baby will cruise while holding onto furniture.
Ensure that all pieces are sturdy because a baby will push all his or her weight onto it. Couches and coffee tables give ample room for a cruising baby to strut his or her stuff.
Keep Them Barefoot
Tiny shoes are adorable, but they are not the best tools when your little one is trying to take his or her first steps.
Pediatricians will generally recommend that you keep the baby barefoot as often as possible. This way, they can feel the ground and adjust their balance accordingly.
Different surfaces require the use of different joints, muscles, and postures. If a baby cannot feel the floor under his or her toes, it hinders the learning process.
Use Sturdy Shoes
Though barefoot is best, it is not always practical. When you are out and about, your child will need shoes.
But, your baby needs shoes with a supportive ankle and sole. It is important to understand that your baby has not yet used their ankle and lower leg muscles a lot and needs extra support to get those muscles working.
Sturdy shoes will keep ankles from rolling or wobbling. It will also help the baby feel sturdier.
Avoid Obstructive Clothes
Science shows that girls will usually start walking sooner than boys. Yet, that beautiful little dress might be cramping her style!
Ensure that your baby is dressed in clothes that allow him or her to move freely. Playsuits without fitted feet and short trousers with elastic waists are perfect.
Fitted feet will restrict a baby’s ability to move freely and naturally. Lightweight fabrics are also better than coarse fabrics like denim.
Watch your child’s movements in the clothes you have chosen. If he or she seems unhappy, consider that there may be something about the clothes restricting movement and causing frustration.
Remember that clothing suitable for a newborn baby will not be right for a child moving about the room. Their clothes should always facilitate the level of movement that they reached.
It can be terrifying to allow your wobbly, unbalanced infant to walk on hardwood floors or tile, but this is the best place for them to learn.
Once they are 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, use various textured surfaces (carpet, beds, sofas, and grass) to improve their balance. It is also a great sensory experience.
Note: Never let your little one walk on a bed or sofa without supervision.
Give Them A Reason
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to something on the other side. It had a purpose. Just like this cliché chicken, we all need a reason for our actions.
The same applies to a baby. If you place a favorite toy or snack just out of reach, it will encourage your child to move.
(A bonus is that your child also learns that it is worth putting in extra effort to obtain the things he or she really wants in life.)
Provide An Enticing Journey
The destination is important, but the journey is also part of the fun! Make walking fun with squeaky shoes or a bubble-wrapped walking surface.
The funny sounds might encourage them to keep moving on their feet for more squeaks. You might also consider adding bells to shoelaces or Velcro straps for a delightful jingle-jangle sound.
Do not expect your baby to run across the living room when they first start to walk. They will slowly begin to take one or two steps at a time.
While you are teaching them, remain close at hand. If they can only take two steps, do not sit on the other side of the room. You can always increase the distance as they gain confidence.
Reduce Their Fear
Keep objects and furniture close so they know that they always have something sturdy to hold onto.
Remain close and keep your arms open wide, ready to catch them if they fall. Once they realize that they will not 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, trunk, or on their hands. As they gain muscle strength, they will need less support.
Make sure you decrease the amount of support you give them gradually as they learn to walk. When a child learns to walk, it is best to have two adults instead of one.
This can provide the encouragement and motivation that your child needs to get started. One adult can encourage the child, while the other gives him support on the other end.
Place Them On Their Feet
After you have held your child, place him or her down in a standing position instead of sitting.
It might be easier for them to be placed in a seated position, but you want to take every opportunity to get them bearing weight on their feet.
Even when they plop down as soon as you place them down, you are still letting them know that your expectation is for them to stand up.
Just because you want your child to become a strong walker does not mean that you need to have a heart attack every step of the way.
The way to maintain sanity while your baby learns to walk is to babyproof your house.
Knowing that you live in a safe home will give you great peace of mind, and you will be able to focus on the important thing: Helping your child develop.
Music activities for infants engage the child’s aural and physical being. Age-old activities include tickling, wiggling, bouncing, and finger playing.
Music not only stimulates brain development, but it can help strengthen a baby’s muscles when bopping to a tune.
Studies have shown that music might help turn your baby into a walker sooner than you think!
Use Words Of Encouragement
Never underestimate the value of words of affirmation! We all love hearing words of encouragement from loved ones, and babies are no exception.
If your child knows that you believe he or she can accomplish the feat of walking, it will encourage him or her to try even harder. Not only that – it will also build your child’s self-esteem.
Remember: Just because your child does not have a broad vocabulary yet, does not mean that they do not understand what you are saying.
They can pick up on your tone of voice and body language. They will love the attention and the feeling of making their parent proud.
Give A Hand
Holding your child’s hand or hands while he or she is trying to walk might be a good idea.
Not only do they know that you are there for them, but they also get the feeling of what it’s like to stand upright. This might be the type of encouragement your little one needs to take his or her first independent steps.
Just keep in mind that your baby’s legs and feet will get tired quickly. Make sure to rest often.
Children are great copycats. Therefore, kids of your child’s age – or a little bit older – could be of great help through their example.
Having another baby walking around might be the motivation that they have been looking for.
This theory’s basis is that a baby will be encouraged to walk because they will need to walk to keep up with the competition!
Put Them Down
It is tempting to pick up and carry your baby everywhere, but the time has come to let your little one come to you. A baby that is carried everywhere has no need to walk. They know their mom will do it for them.
Even though you do love your child dearly, it is time for them to gain some independence by navigating the world independently.
The best way to do this is to let them stand on their own two feet.
For years you have been honing your house to be a cozy, welcoming nest for all that enters.
Unfortunately, all the creature comforts might make it an extremely uncomfortable obstacle course for a baby just learning to walk.
Take a step back and observe the room. Maybe there is too much furniture in the space or too many small objects in their way.
Toys That Assist Walking
Pull along toys will encourage your toddler to walk. In fact, they will feel very independent taking their favorite duck or doggy out for a spin.
A push trolley, pram, or toy lawnmower might also encourage a child to walk. But stay close. A toy with wheels could “run away” from your little one, leaving them plunging.
Do Not Push
It may be frustrating, but every parent needs to realize that every baby is their own person.
They are creating their own personality with their own personal interests. This might be the reason why they are not quite ready to walk just yet.
A child who walked late probably also sat late and crawled late. Walking probably will not be the first milestone that you are concerned about.
If you are concerned, consult your doctor. It is important that the child’s walking should be viewed in the context of other skills to try to figure out where he or she is on the motor development continuum.
Walking Rings Are Not Your Friend
A walking ring might keep your baby out of mischief for a while. They free up your hands while cooking supper or washing up. But they might not be the best idea due to two reasons:
- They contribute to falls.
In the USA, tipping over walking rings is one of the biggest causes of head injuries in babies in the first year of life.
- They hamper development.
Walking rings are usually used at a stage when your baby should be practicing the skill of crawling.
The ring not only hampers the development of crawling but also diminishes the motivation to crawl.
Why would you crawl (which is hard) if you can go anywhere in your walking ring (which is easy)?
The standing position also negatively affects the development of hips, legs, and feet as weight-bearing limbs for walking.