When do babies start walking

When do Babies Start Walking?

Some babies are able to walk alone from around 10 months and others don’t start walking until they are around 15-16 months. If your baby starts walking within this age range then that is perfectly normal; the average age babies start walking is just over 12 months. The developmental progress your baby has to make to reach this great achievement of walking is absolutely fascinating and it begins in the womb.

The starting point

Whilst your baby is in the womb, she will – believe it or not, start to mimic the motion of walking. When real time ultra-sound imaging was introduced in the 1980’s, medical professionals noticed that at around 7-8 weeks post conception, human fetuses started moving their legs spontaneously in what looked like the motion and movement our legs make when walking. Very soon after your baby is born and long before she is able to walk, you will notice that she moves her legs in this very same alternating pattern that mimics the motion of walking – it is known as ‘cyclic alternating leg movements’. Your new born may do this when you hold her upright on the floor, on a table top or even in the air – this is what some call the ‘starting point’ of walking.

Your newborn baby loses the ability to do this at approximately 8 weeks of age but will continue to move her feet in this ‘cyclic alternating’ pattern whilst lying on the floor until she is about 12 months of age, the same

joint angles and muscle groups are used whether your newborn is moving her legs whilst being held upright or your older baby is moving her legs in this same way whilst lying down. The reason a new born baby can do this whilst in an upright position but not after around 8 weeks of age is due to your baby’s growth – she simply doesn’t have the strength to lift her much heavier legs anymore. Real walking involves flexibility and diversity, postural control, muscle strength and not to be forgotten – the motivation to want to go somewhere!

Your baby’s route to walking

Before your baby starts walking, she will most likely have rolled over, be able to sit up without support, will have started crawling, be able to pull herself up to a standing position, spent some time cruising along furniture and be able to stand alone. It is possible for you little one to skip certain aspects of development but still achieve the next one on time, or early. For example, she may not be able or want to crawl but decides she wants to walk instead.

When do babies start walking - baby standing poised to walk

Do all babies want to walk?

Walking is special and it is no co-incidence that walking is and always will be the ultimate end point in terms of a baby’s physical development. We have already noted that motivation is key to your baby wanting to be mobile. However, being mobile and walking are not exclusive to each other. Once your baby has the motivation to want to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there. This may involve stretching, rolling, pulling, hoisting, propelling, bum shuffling, crawling, cruising or all of the above. If your baby wants to get somewhere, she will find a way, and walking may not be at the forefront of her mind, no matter how much you try to encouragement this.

Confident walker searching a toy box

How can I encourage my baby to walk?

If you are trying to encourage a child with a disability to walk, we strongly recommend that you follow the guidelines and advice given by the specialist. If however you are interested in encouraging your child to walk and you have no reason to believe that he will have difficulties in doing so, the fact of the matter is, he will walk when he is good and ready. Obviously your baby’s surroundings and environment have an impact on when your baby will start walking and by allowing your baby to cruise you can encourage his interest in wanting to walk – once he is ready.

How will I know when my baby is ready to start walking?

Postural development is a bit of a roller coaster, your baby will quickly learn new things, forget other things and revert back to doing things she was doing 3 weeks ago and thus appear to have forgotten her new found skill. It is not easy to know why babies start walking at the age they do; it is a combination of changes in their brains and bodies and the many external factors they are influenced by. Without getting too bogged down by the technological and theoretical issues that determine when babies start walking, we can look at the visual clues to your baby’s development that will help you to determine when your baby is ready to start walking.

Standing with support in soft play environmentThe 5 steps to walking

There are many milestones your baby will reach before he starts walking. As discussed earlier, it is not essential to have reached these goals in order for your baby to achieve his ultimate aim – walking. We are therefore only looking at the steps (pun intended) usually needed to reach this most important milestone – walking.

  • Step 1 – Standing with support. (Average age 7 months) – Usually between 5-8 months. You will feel the strength in your baby’s legs whilst you hold her hands or hold her under her arms and help her to keep her balance. It isn’t unusual for a baby to want to hold both of your hands above her head, using you for support whilst she ‘walks’ around.
  • Step 2 – Pulling up to stand from a seated position. (Average age 8.5 months) – Usually at around 7-11 months. Your baby has just become a little more independent, he can see new things, reach new things and has a whole new perspective on his surroundings. When your baby firsts start doing this, you may want to be close by and try to minimise the risk of any slips and falls by baby proofing your house, particularly any glass furniture and exposed corners.
  • Step 3 – Cruising along furniture. (Average age 9.5 months) – Anytime between around 8-12 months. For some this will come soon after learning how to pull to standing position, for others it may take a little longer. It is a natural progression and not something you can rush. You can however encourage cruising by allowing your baby the freedom to explore areas in your house that are the perfect height (such as your sofa). You may find that your baby crawls towards such furniture in order to pull himself up and will eventually be attempting to pull himself up on anything and everything (tv cabinets, dining chairs, stair gates, toy boxes to name just a few). As your baby progresses further, you will notice that he is able to navigate gaps in furniture, can reach out for other objects without losing balance, is able to easily change direction and will eventually hold on to the furniture with one hand and turn around to face outwards – perhaps to give you a wave or to grab something else that he is interested in. Many parents think that by placing their babies in baby walkers, they are helping their baby’s muscles develop, this is not the case, a safe place to cruise is all your baby needs.
  • Step 4 – Standing alone (Average age 11.5 months) – Usually between 9 to 15 months. At first it will only be for a couple of seconds, it may be that you place him down on his two feet and he takes a small tumble onto his bottom after 2-3 seconds, or that he decides to let go of the furniture whilst cruising. Once your baby is able to stand alone, it really won’t be long until he is ready to start walking…
  • Step 5 – Walking alone (Average age 12 months) – Your baby will become a toddler (able to walk) between the age of 9 to 16 months. If you haven’t already, you must childproof your home. Your baby will have slips, trips and a quite a few falls. Whilst your toddler is still learning to walk, ensure he does so in a safe place where a fall won’t result in a serious injury. Once your baby takes his first steps, he is officially a toddler (although he will of course always be your baby!) and toddling is exactly what he will be doing; legs wide apart, steps hesitant and slightly clumsy and arms out to help him keep balance.

When does a ‘toddler’ turn into a walker? And what next?

Development continues with time, as does confidence. After 2-3 months of starting to walk your child may want to take on new and exciting challenges. Rather than just walking form A to B, she will learn to pick things up from a standing position, carry things around, pull a ‘pull-a-long’ toy and walk up stairs. After approximately a year to 18 months after taking her first few steps, your child will develop further and will be able to run and also jump from a standing position. This is an exciting time for your baby and even walking to the shops can be an amazing adventure. Allow your child the time to explore her environment and encourage her curiosity. Many parents choose to use baby reins to ensure their child doesn’t run off into the road, you know your child better than anyone so don’t let anyone elses opinion sway what you think is right for your child.

What if my child hasn’t started walking yet?

If your child is 15-16 months old and isn’t walking or is approaching this age and isn’t showing any signs of walking then we recommend you contact your GP or health visitor. When you talk to your GP, express your concerns, if you feel that they have not been answered or you are not comfortable with what you have heard, try to clarify this with your GP. If you still don’t feel satisfied with the answer you always have the option of a second opinion. Remember that a referral is not a diagnosis and the sooner a problem is diagnosed the easier it will be for you all.
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