Every parent dreams of the day when their baby will take her very first steps. The look of triumph and joy on her face as she toddles toward you is enough to make your heart melt.
However, reaching this stage is easier said than done, as there is a lot of time and preparation before you get there.
So, you may have questions. When will it will happen? How do I prepare for it? What can I do to help my baby reach this stage?
Thankfully, we are here to help by giving you a step-by-step guide to help your baby walk sooner. We will give you tips and tricks to set up and your baby up for success, so that you can encourage and support her along the way, as well as keep her safe through every stage.
Safety should always be first and foremost in your mind when it comes to your baby, especially when she is developing a new skill. She is still clumsy and building up her strength. Those little legs may not hold her up for long, and she may fall, causing serious injury if you are not prepared.
Never leave your baby alone. If she were to have a moment of bravery and try to stand or walk without you there to catch her, a fall could either injure her or scare her enough that she does not want to try again.
You should allow your baby to develop this skill at her own pace. Some babies are okay with being pushed into practicing, but some may be more resistant. My daughter was one of these children.
She absolutely hated to practice walking on demand (holding on to both of my hands) and she was more hesitant to try out her legs for a while.
Baby proofing your home should be done well before the first steps are taken. Fasten down furniture and large objects (like the TV) that can topple over. Put covers on all the electrical outlets, and cushion sharp edges and corners appropriately.
You should also remember to install baby gates at the top and bottom of any staircases to prevent falls and serious injury.
There will come a time that your baby is ready to walk, and she will be looking to you for help and encouragement.
Watch your baby’s cues, making sure you are not forcing her to do something she is not ready for, and support her in the stages leading to her first steps.
It is a common misconception that strong legs are the key to helping your baby walk sooner, but strong legs will not be any good if your baby cannot hold her torso and head up steadily. The focus should be on building neck and core muscles.
Giving your baby plenty of tummy time in the early months can set you up for success. This teaches your baby to hold her head up on her own, both strengthening her back and neck at the same time.
Once your baby gets to the bouncing stage (around 4 to 5 months), you can practice core strength by helping her stand upright with assistance. Helping her gain a strong neck and core will prepare her for the next developmental stage.
At some point, babies get tired of lying or sitting in the same place. They want to explore what is on the other side of the room or they simply just want to turn around and face what is sitting behind them.
Allow your baby plenty of sitting time to continue strengthening those core muscles, and keep on giving her tummy time, teaching her how to get up on her knees to prepare for crawling.
Practice sitting up with her, showing her how to get from a crawling to sitting position.
Once your baby is ready to be mobile, whether she is crawling on her hands and knees or pulling herself on her belly, be sure to give her loads of praise and encouragement. Give her a goal to reach, like a toy to crawl to or just you.
Once your baby has gotten the hang of crawling and sitting up on her own, she will probably want to start practicing her standing. She will do this by pulling up on low furniture, like the couch or coffee table.
You will want to make sure you are always closely supervising when she gets to this stage. She is still getting the hang of how her legs and knees work, and is prone to toppling over.
Teach her how to bend her knees to sit back down on the floor after standing.
After strengthening her legs and learning to bend her knees in the pull-up phase, she will likely be ready to start practicing some tiny shaky steps with your help.
Have her hold both of your hands and walk with her. This will teach her how to move her legs and bend her knees in order to propel herself forward.
It will give her a good feel of what it will be like to start cruising and eventually taking some solo steps.
There will come a time when your baby will get tired of the amount of time it takes to get from standing to crawling to pulling up again in order to get to another place. She will begin to realize it is much easier and quicker to stay on her feet to get from point A to point B.
This is the point when cruising starts, which is where your baby will hold on to furniture to help her “walk” around to something she wants. She is becoming steadier on her legs and more confident in her movements.
Nevertheless, you should still supervise at all times as she can get tired and accidents can still happen.
Here is where your baby will begin to put all of her hard work together: the strong muscles, confident leg movement, and ability to pull herself to standing.
She will have a moment of curiosity and bravery, and the hands will come off the furniture and she will be standing solo.
Encourage and praise her in this; if she feels she has done a good job, she will be more confident and likely to try again or move onto standing from sitting.
This requires an incredible amount of balance, and she will need to nearby to catch her if she falls. You can even practice with her be taking your hands away for a moment while you help her with some practice steps.
The time has finally come. Your baby has mastered all of the prerequisites, and is ready to take those first few shaky steps on her own. Some babies are ready to go on their own, like they simply cannot wait to get moving, and others may need a bit of coaxing.
You are likely your baby’s biggest motivation, so use that to your advantage when trying to get her to take her first steps. Help her get into a standing position and then back away, holding your arms out and encouraging her to walk to you.
She may only get a step or two in for a while, resorting to crawling since it is faster and easier. Do not be discouraged.
Most babies do not begin walking “full-time” immediately after their first steps are taken, and may in fact take a few weeks to a month to really start walking all the time.
In addition to helping your baby through the developmental phases leading to her first steps, you can also encourage her to move by playing some fun games with her.
Help your baby build her core muscles with this game. Sit her on an exercise ball, or any bouncy surface that does not allow her feet to touch the ground. Placing your hands on her hips only, bounce and roll the ball slightly in different directions so that she has to use her core muscles to keep herself upright.
Set up your furniture. Such as coffee table, couches, and chairs, in such a way that your baby can navigate from one side of the room to the other by cruising. She will love the fact that she is mobile and able to move further than usual.
Practice cruising and crawling with this game. Set up a basket or bucket near the “cruising station” and scatter balls or small balloons around the area nearby. Instruct your baby to collect the balls and return them to the basket.
Believe it or not, only about 50% of babies are walking by their first birthday. There is a wide age range for first steps, falling anywhere between 9 and 18 months. That being said, you cannot rely solely on age to determine when your baby will begin walking.
A lot depends on your baby’s personality. Some babies are eager and adventurous, seemingly ready to move from day one. Others are more content to wait, being more laid back, cuddly, and cautious.
Pay attention to your baby’s personality and cues; she will tell you when she is ready.
When your baby is ready to start pulling up or taking a few steps of her own, you should always make sure she has a good grip on the floor.
Most of the time this means keeping her barefoot, especially on hard floors. If you feel your baby does need socks, be sure they have a good rubber grip on the bottom.
There is rarely a cause for concern if there seems to be a delay in your baby’s desire to walk. However, if your baby seems unusually weak or has not taken her first steps by the age of 18 months, you should make an appointment with her pediatrician.
Your baby’s first steps are cause for celebration and joy, for both you and your baby. With the right encouragement and support, you can help your baby reach this crucial stage in her development quickly and safely.
What do you think? Do you have any questions or comments about baby’s first steps? Let us know.
And do not forget to share this article with other parents who are ready to help their babies learn to walk.