When Will My Baby Start Walking?

Mother helping baby boy walk

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Healthy babies develop at different rates—and learning to walk is no different. Many parents needlessly worry if their child has not hit this key developmental milestone by 12 months old. Not to worry, while there are plenty of babies who take their first steps by 12 months or before, it's perfectly normal for a child to not be walking at their first birthday and for several months thereafter.

In fact, many babies don't start toddling at all until around 13 months. Some may not even walk until 15 to 16 months of age—and that's still in the typical range. Remember that every child is different and has their own developmental timetable. Plus, studies show that early walking isn't correlated with better coordination or cognition later in life—so it's just fine for your baby to take their time before taking those much-anticipated first steps.

Ways to Encourage Walking

Now, even though your child is operating at their own pace, know that you can always give a little encouragement. Maybe your child is an expert crawler, for example, who finds little interest in walking. If they're completely mobile and crawling serves them well, they may be less motivated to experiment with walking.

If you start to move the action off the floor, however, they might be suddenly interested in giving walking a go.

If your child is an adept crawler or simply spends a lot of time playing on the floor, start putting toys on the edge of the couch or up on a coffee table. Then, when that has their interest piqued and they are regularly pulling up and cruising the furniture, move the coffee table a little further from the couch so they have to take an unassisted step to get from one place to another. (Be sure to baby-proof any hard edges or corners of your furniture.)

If you're sitting on the floor, let your child pull up using a sturdy chair, then sit a couple of feet away with a favorite toy and see if they try to take that single step to get to you or the toy. Also, make sure that you're not always providing a little circle of toys right around your child on the floor, as proximity to easy entertainment can discourage exploration outside of their comfort zone.

Try spreading toys out around your child, so they have some motivation to get moving. Not so much that it's frustrating, but just enough out of reach that they are willing to work for it a bit.

Free Time on the Floor

Other children may not be interested in walking because they don't get a lot of opportunities to practice. Some children are perfectly content to hang out playing in an exersaucer, high chair, playpen, crib, or even in your arms. That's perfectly fine, but make sure you also give them plenty of time to roam freely on the floor (supervised, of course) so they can put those emerging large motor skills to use.

You might think that an exersaucer, jumper, or stationary sit-in walker (note that mobile baby walkers are not safe, as they can cause injury) is helping them learn to stand and walk, but actually, research has found just the opposite. Babies use different muscle groups with these devices than they would use when learning to walk, and they rely on the device to catch them instead of learning to balance themselves.

In fact, despite the names of these products, research shows that these baby "walking" aides not only don't help babies to walk sooner, they can actually hinder their progress toward first steps and even disrupt a child's natural gait.

Luckily, a child who loves the exersaucer is also likely to love toys that have a wide, supportive base and wheels with a slow, restricted roll. These safe toddler walker toys provide something safe to hold onto as children learn to walk and balance. As an added bonus, these products take up a lot less floor space than an exersaucer.

Give Your Child Space

If you're worried about your child getting hurt, remember this: It's going to happen—often when you're right by their side or just out of reach. Your child will lose their balance, fall down, bump their head, and/or bust their lip. Many times.

It's natural to want to keep them safe from any harm, but it's important to let your toddler take the necessary tumbles along the way to learning to walk—that's why they're called toddlers, after all. A few bumps and bruises are part of the learning process, and there's little you can do to prevent it (aside from baby-proofing, as noted above).

Focus on what you can do. Don't remove the coffee table. Use a bumper around edges or on sharp corners. If your entire house is covered with hard, slippery tile, purchase toddler socks with grippy soles and invest in some area rugs for those spots where your child plays most often. And when they do fall? Just be ready with a bandage, a hug, an encouraging "good job," and a kiss for their boo-boo.

When to Call the Doctor

Again, most kids will begin to walk sometime between their first birthday and around 16 months, no matter what their parents do or don't do. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have if your child still hasn't shown any interest in walking by 15 to 16 months, particularly if they are late on other milestones.

Sometimes, a delay in walking can be a sign of a developmental delay that requires treatment, and/or another medical issue could be at play. Usually, though, everything is fine and your toddler may start toddling any day—even after showing no signs of trying just a week or so before.

A Word From Verywell

Most parents anxiously await their child's first steps—and it is super exciting to watch your baby learn to walk. But try to be patient and not to worry too much about when it happens. Just savor the big moment when it comes—and always be ready with a kiss and a bag of frozen veggies or a popsicle to soothe those bumps and bruises that invariably come hand-in-hand with those first steps.

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Article Sources
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by eighteen months. Updated February 8, 2019.

  3. Schecter R, Das P, Milanaik R. Are baby walker warnings coming too late? Recommendations and rationale for anticipatory guidance at earlier well-child visitsGlob Pediatr Health. 2019;6:2333794X19876849. doi:10.1177/2333794X19876849

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