Over the past few months, I have been exploring developmental achievements of babies in the first 12-18 months in the areas of gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and language. Today, I’ll discuss walking, which is one of the major achievements in your baby’s life.

The age at which babies walk varies considerably between children. The range is 8-17 months, with the average about 13 months.

Development needed to walk independently:

  • Sensory system – balance/vision/proprioception
  • Motor skills and planning
  • Muscle strength
  • Balance reactions:
    • Righting – ability to bring head and trunk back to midline
    • Protective reaction – hands and feet to save if falls
    • Equilibrium reaction – allows babies to balance when their centre of gravity is challenged.

These were explained in detail in our July 6 blog.

Why walking is important:

The skills needed to walk have been built on the previous movement skills your baby has learnt.

Walking is complicated but once walking babies learn:

  • Resilience
    • They fall over, get back up, and do it again.
    • Babies fall 17 times an hour while learning to walk.
    • They learn how to recover when they fall.
  • To make adjustments as necessary.
  • How to test their own limits.
  • Persistence.
  • To develop internal motivation to succeed.
  • To progress to further learning (e.g. social interactions in upright position and language development).

Ways to help your baby walk:

  • Put them on their feet from birth.
  • Play games where you tip them from side to side and forwards and back so they experience weight shift.
  • Put your baby against a surface to play and move the toys to the side from 6-8 months.
  • Give your baby a trolley to push.
  • Walk your baby with 2 hands, then 1 hand.
  • Push furniture apart so they can cross a distance.
  • Encourage them to walk between parents/carers.
  • Place them facing out from the couch, etc. and encourage stepping away.
  • Practice safe falling and reassure - help them to get up and practice again.
  • Practice walking with your baby in short bursts throughout the day
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.How to keep your baby safe when first walking:

  • Childproof your house – put gates at the top of stairs.
  • Keep the floor space clear.
  • Be close – particularly when they are first up and walking.
  • Make sure harmful things are up high/locked away.
  • Put corner protectors on sharp objects.

Things that may delay development of walking:

All babies walk at their own pace but sometimes there may be factors delaying their walking.

These include:

  • If their feet roll in and they are unstable.
  • If they can’t balance in standing and stop safely.
  • If they haven’t learnt how to fall and recover.
  • If they walk on their toes.
  • If they are weak or have trouble with balance.
  • If they have difficulties with vision, hearing, or learning.
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When to ask for help:

  • If your baby is not pulling to stand and cruising around furniture by 12-15 months.
  • If not walking alone by 18 months.
  • Shows anxiety when encouraged to walk.
  • Still scoots on their bottom at 15-18 months.

Walking is a complicated skill resulting from months of practice, strengthening, risk taking, and play. If your baby is not showing any interest in walking by 15-18 months then speak to your community nurse, GP, paediatrician, or a paediatric physiotherapist.

Stay safe, happy, and well,

Deb

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