A baby’s first steps can be bittersweet for some parents. It signifies the end of babyhood, when that little bundle grows from a baby into a toddler, and can cause stress to parents, as there is no area that is off limits anymore.
On the other hand, it is a joyous time, when the celebration of proper growth and independence commences. That smile of immense pride cannot help but to break across mom and dad’s faces as those chunky, clumsy legs make their way across the floor.
How do you know when your baby is ready to start walking?
Every child is different, in both personality and physical development; some take their first steps between 10 and 12 months, and others are content to wait until they are 15 to 18 months old.
Regardless of how old your child is when she begins walking, you can recognize the common signs to know when she is ready.
When your baby decides it is time to try out this whole walking thing, she may begin to exhibit certain signs. You may see all of them in your child, but do not be alarmed if you only see a few.
As mentioned before, every child is different, and your little one may skip some stages altogether.
There are, however, some signs that are important developmental milestones. These are typically seen in most children before their first steps are taken, and they should be encouraged by parents to ensure proper muscle development and control.
Usually between 7 and 8 months of age, babies are pros at rolling from front to back, and vice versa.
Your baby may tell you she is tired of sitting or lying still when she begins rolling on her own frequently. This is also a good sign that her muscles are developing properly, since rolling requires quite a bit of tummy work.
Strong muscles are essential for your baby to holding herself upright when walking.
Some babies skip the crawling stage altogether with no ill side effects.
However, crawling is an important milestone for your baby. In order for your baby to crawl, she needs to have a strong neck so that she can hold her head up and see where she is going, which is obviously also a necessity for walking.
Encourage your child to crawl by implementing daily tummy time and teaching her how to get up on her knees.
Babies who are ready to walk rarely sit still for very long.
They are eager to build and use their strong leg muscles in preparation for their first steps, and this is usually done through bouncing. Your baby will no longer be content to simply sit in your lap; instead, she will want to stand on your thighs and push herself up and down with her legs.
This stage is the best time to pull out that baby jumper at home, especially if you need to give your arms and legs a break.
Meeting new milestones can lead to frustration in your little one, and walking is no exception.
When your baby is eager to get moving, but she cannot quite figure out how to move her legs the right way or muster up the strength to hold herself up, she can get fussy.
Patience is key here; reassure her that she is doing a great job and try to help her if she will let you (she may get more frustrated with help since she wants to be able to do it on her own).
You may not realize it, but our baby’s ability to sit up on her own is a huge accomplishment.
It requires a tremendous amount of muscle strength and coordination; the neck, back, and tummy all need to be strong and stable in order for your baby to be able to hold herself up. Sitting up unaided means that she is one step closer to holding up the rest of her body so that she can walk.
Once your baby has mastered the coordination needed to crawl, she is bound to start making her way to the staircase.
This curiosity is enough to give any parent a heart attack, but you can encourage safe stair climbing without making the area completely off limits. Install baby gates to prevent your little one from venturing off on her own, and allow her to practice climbing when you are present.
This can be another way for her to develop the muscle strength necessary to take her first steps.
After strengthening her back, neck, and tummy, the final muscles your baby needs to work in preparation for her first steps are her legs.
An increasing curiosity and desire to walk will lead your child to pulling up on any furniture she can get her hands on. She will likely practice squatting as well while holding on to the couch or coffee table to build up the strength in her legs.
Eventually, pulling up will lead to cruising.
This helps your baby practice her foot coordination, moving one at a time as she shimmies her way around the coffee table. You can help your child navigate the room more easily by setting up your furniture in a path for her to cruise along.
She will likely feel a great sense of accomplishment when she sees she can make it from one side of the room to the other on her own.
Whether your child is more on the adventurous or cautious side, sooner or later she will realize that walking will never happen without a certain degree of bravery.
One day, after a bit of cruising along the furniture, she may take her hands off and try to balance on her own. She may even try to turn from one surface to another without using her hands to hold herself up.
The final “step” before the first step can be taken is for your baby to learn how to balance on one foot.
This requires quite a bit of leg strength and may take a while to master. Your child may seem to “walk” with her knees locked for a while, barely lifting her feet off the ground, but eventually you will see the knees bend as she begins to shift her full weight from one foot to the other.
All of this rolling, crawling, sitting, pulling up, and cruising can take quite a toll on a little body.
You may begin to notice that your baby is more tired than usual after a full day of exercising.
Be sure she sleeps when she needs to, even if it seems to be “too much;” she needs her rest to keep growing and developing.
Even if your baby has mastered all the basics of walking, she may still need a bit of assistance as she masters her balance.
Most babies will take their first steps, and few subsequent steps, but they may not begin walking “full-time” for another few weeks or months. The additional aid of a walking toy can help her practice walking for longer periods of time or distances.
As a final word of caution, you should avoid putting shoes on your baby as she is learning to walk inside the house.
She needs to feel the ground beneath her feet, to be able to grip the floor with her toes and gain her natural balance. If you want to practice walking outside, hold her hand and have her wear soft-soled shoes until she is more sure-footed.
It is important to know that early signs of a baby who is ready to walk. You cannot go by age alone, so recognizing the signs can help you to customize your encouragement and assistance with meeting your baby’s milestones.
Every child is unique, and the timing of when she will attempt her first steps will be heavily based on her personality: whether she is adventurous or cautious. There is rarely cause for concern if your child does not seem interested in walking, but if she has not or is unable to take a step on her own by the age of 18 months, you should consider talking to your pediatrician.
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