Step by Step: When Do Kids Start Walking?
When my first was born, I eagerly waited to see when the next milestone would hit. From holding her own head to sitting up, crawling and then finally walking. As a new mom, I was excited for the opportunity to be present for all of those first-time moments. I scoured the internet on when do kids walk, checked all the apps, and finally, it happened.
Just a few weeks ago, your little one was crawling all over the place, exploring this new type of movement and the world at that level. Once baby got the hang of crawling, it was time to try to stand and then move on two legs. The sense of accomplishment, a new experience, and a big milestone is something to celebrate. But when do kids walk? Before buying your little one new kicks, keep reading. It might not be as sudden as you think.
The average age kids start walking independently in the United States is around 12 months, with research in other countries like Argentina, India, and Norway reporting the same number.
While 12 months is the average, some babies walk before 9 months and others wait until after 18 months before taking that big step. It’s all dependent on their own timeline. After all, walking takes a lot of courage!
In order to stand, muscles have to contract and hips and knees need to relax a bit. The challenge is figuring out how to balance all of that and then figuring out how to stop once they get going!
A good key to remember is that each baby step has more force than an adult. This is because new walkers don’t bend their knees or use that natural heel-toe motion to absorb the impact. Not to worry, kids figure this out much more quickly than we give them credit for.
While timing is a factor, it also gives us a little nugget of information inside the personality of your little one. Is your baby a wait-and-see type or more of a risk-taker? Since walking takes courage as falling will definitely be in the cards, some kids are ready to accept the challenge as soon as the option is available. Others will be more cautious and wait until they feel secure enough in their own body to take that first (literal) step.
The timing for when babies decide to take that step to walk is dependent on several factors, including personality. However, there are signs that you can look for that’ll help put the puzzle pieces together.
Pulling up to Standing
Babies will start gripping chairs, tables, and other people to help get up on two feet. They will be wobbly and will most likely just stand for a few seconds before sitting back down. Not to worry, it’s just your baby’s way of testing the waters to see what this new movement is like. As he/she practices more and more and gets stronger, they will be able to stand for long periods of time confidently.
Walking with Support
Whether it’s holding on to furniture or walking with someone holding them, these are all signs your baby wants to start walking. At this stage, babies have the strength to shift their weight from one leg to the other. When grabbing on to furniture, it’s called “cruising” as they are moving sideways.
Standing alone is also a great sign that babies are getting geared up to walk and usually happens around 2-3 months of learning to stand. Because it comes with a fair amount of risk (falling), it’s one that varies greatly due to personality and development.
Many parents start to worry if their little one isn’t walking by the 12-18 month mark, cue the Google “when do kids walk” query. For first-time moms, worrying about your baby is basically a given, especially in the first year.
Some babies are just late walkers- this has no effect on intelligence according to research. My daughter took her time and started walking when she was good and ready, and it’s shown in her cautious personality as she’s gotten older. My son was walking earlier, partly because he saw his sister move faster and also because he’s more of a risk-taker in general. The key is that walking happens on their timetable and nobody else’s.
While milestones are not absolute, it’s important to listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, contact your baby’s doctor to discuss it. Mother’s intuition is a real thing.
How to Help
You might be wondering if you can do anything to help your baby walk. Encouragement, space, and patience are a good place to start. After all, your baby is going to test this new thing and falls are very likely to happen while practicing.
Placing a favorite toy just out of reach might be enough to motivate her to walk a few steps. Push toys are also fun, especially those that make noise, light up, or flap wings or ears when in motion. Once your child makes the connection that the push toy activates only while in motion, it encourages movement.
One important thing to note is to avoid walkers. They are discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics as studies have shown them to slow motor development and cause back problems. There is plenty of fun, encouraging toys out now that do a better job in a safe way to encourage walking.
Barefoot is best so little ones can feel the heel and toe movement without the restriction of shoes at the beginning. When a baby is walking more comfortably, pick shoes that are flexible with a wide toe block so toes can wiggle freely.
The most important thing to remember when thinking about when kids start walking is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a milestone that takes months of gradually testing the waters and practicing before it comes into full swing. It begins with tummy time, then rolling over, sitting up, crawling, cruising, and then walking.
But make no mistake, life for you and your baby changes drastically when that milestone is reached. Once he/she gains the confidence to walk on two legs confidently, there will be no stopping them. Just make sure your running shoes are in good shape because they will want to explore this new world as fast as possible!