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Baby's First Steps - Learning to Walk

Most babies take their first tentative steps around their first birthday, but the age range can vary dramatically from 9 to 18 months.

It's important not to worry if your baby isn't up and walking the minute he/she turns one.  It's also worth noting that babies will learn to walk in very different ways: some never crawl and go straight from standing to walking; others crawl backwards before mastering forwards, and some will be very content shuffling along on their bottom, all of which is perfectly normal.

What's important at this stage is that your child is using arms and legs together to move around the space they are in and become mobile.

If your child is doing/attempting any of the following, walking will be a step or two away:

  • Rolling around;
  • Crab walking;
  • Scooting (the bottom shuffle!);
  • Climbing stairs using hands

Keep track of your baby's progress.  Are they more active this month from the last?  Are they attempting to move over to objects or get off the floor?  If so, this is all a healthy sign.  If by 12 months, however, your baby has made no attempt to move off and shows no sign of progressing mobility, you should consult your GP.

 

How can you help with development?

From the Early Stages:

Babies progress in walking and general mobility depends on strong back muscles.  Development of these relies on baby lifting their head, which can be helped by allowing your baby to spend more time on their front and placing objects just out of their reach. 

Start with Sitting:

Once baby can sit upright, you can begin playing in a way that will increase muscle and develop balance.  Try rolling a ball back and forth or moving a toy left and right; this encourages your baby to lean from side to side as well as lunge forward which increases strength in their neck, back, legs and arms. 

After Mastering Standing:

Let baby walk in front of you whilst holding their hands.  Once they are comfortable try letting go of one hand and allow baby to start learning to balance.  If baby is confidently standing on their own, try standing a few steps away and encourage them to come to you. 

Cruising:

This is the term for baby moving along from one piece of furniture/wall/person's leg to another, using their hands to hold themselves up.  This is great to get them used to how their legs should work during walking.  Try placing things in a row so they can move across the room.  You'll also need to be on hand as baby might not be able to sit down from standing quite yet. 

TA DA! Walking:

After the above steps have been mastered, it really is only a matter of time before baby will be toddling all over the place (and then the real fun begins!). 

 

Safety:

  • Remove or keep baby away from low tables such as coffee tables to prevent injuries to their face and their exploring this new mode of travel;
  • Be cautious of furniture that is easily movable as it could topple on baby;
  • Tidy away electrical/other cords or rugs that are not fastened to the floor as these create dangerous trip hazards to tiny toes.;
  • Install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs;
  • Lock up or put away anything hazardous that baby may now have access to or be able to reach.

 

What shoes?

When baby is toddling around indoors it is generally best to let them walk around barefoot, as this will prevent slipping on tile or laminate floors, but make sure there is nothing that could hurt their feet lying around.  When shopping for baby's first shoes, make sure you don't go first thing in the morning, as feet will be slightly swollen at the end of the day and shoes can pinch.

Your child should be standing when you check for fit.  You should be able to press the full width of your thumb between the tip of the shoe and the end of their toe, and there should be just enough room at the heel to put your little finger in.  Let them walk around the shop and check how easily they are walking.  Make sure to check the fit of their shoes monthly.  If you are in any doubt, ask the sales assistant for advice. 

If you have any concerns about your baby's progress or development, talk to your GP or Health Visitor. 

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