When should a baby start walking?
A baby’s first stumbling steps are an eagerly anticipated milestone in their early years that will have you beaming with pride. This proud moment marks the beginning of the transition from baby to toddler and is one of the first signs of their independence as they learn to move around all by themselves.
Walking is one of the major development goals, so many parents can’t help but worry about when their baby will start. But it’s important to remember that every child is different and will learn at their own pace. Some may be scuttling off on their own after just six months, while others will be over a year old before they decide to start walking.
Learning to walk is a steady, slow process for babies that begins during their first few weeks and months. We’ll talk you through some of the early signs that your baby will walk soon, including scooting, pulling up and crawling. We’ll also give you some top tips on how to baby-proof your home once your little one starts exploring more.
On this page:
- What age does a baby walk?
- The stages of development: Signs your baby will walk soon
- How to encourage your baby to walk
- What if my baby isn’t progressing with walking?
- How to babyproof the house for when baby starts walking
- Taking care of your baby’s skin as they learn to walk
What age does a baby walk?
The average age a baby starts walking on their own is around 14 months, but those first steps can come anywhere between 10 and 18 months. And while it may seem that their first step comes out of the blue, that magical moment is, in fact, the culmination of a long development process that begins in the first few months of a baby’s life.
From a very early age, your little one will start trying to build their skills in several areas, including coordination, and balance. Each new skill they develop will build on the previous skills, until they’re ready to start walking. They also need to build up their muscles in preparation for walking.
All babies develop at their own pace, but milestones will include:
- 3 – 4 months: Your baby will be getting stronger by the day and starting to explore their own strength. Pushing up from a prone position is the first sign of them being able to support their own bodyweight, as their neck, back and core strengthens.
- 3 – 6 months: Babies begin to roll at this age, as they learn more about coordination and start to want to explore the environment around them.
- 4 – 9 months: After rolling, your little one might be able to sit up on their own as their core and back are now strong enough to support their weight.
- 6 - 13 months: At this age, your baby might be off around the house, scooting and crawling through their environment. Try helping your baby along with walking, holding their hands and supporting them as they learn to stand.
- 8 – 18 months: A baby will make those first tentative, independent steps any time before their second birthday, as they now possess the muscle strength, balance and coordination to totter about alone.
The stages of development: Signs your baby will walk soon
As with most major milestones, babies will start to walk at their own pace and every baby will be different – but a good marker is any time between six and 18 months.
Learning to walk is a slow process. It requires your baby to have strong enough muscles, good balance and coordination, and the confidence to move around on two feet. Once they’ve mastered the art of crawling, steady walking development can include a number of stages, such as:
Tummy time is exactly what it sounds like. It’s where you give your little one time on their front to help strengthen their muscles and see the world at a new angle. Having this time helps your baby develop their motor skills, strengthen the muscles in their back, neck, and shoulders, and encourages them to start trying to roll over. But you shouldn’t rush tummy time.
Start with just short stretches of two or three minutes on their tummy two or three times a week. As their confidence develops and they start to show they’re enjoying tummy time, you can gradually increase the length of these sessions.
As babies grow, their muscles become stronger and more able to support their own weight. In these first few months, their legs and back are often too underdeveloped to support them standing upright. But as they start to learn to roll over, your baby will begin to build strength in their neck, back and arm muscles – all of which are important in helping them walk. Rolling also improves the coordination necessary to control their limbs for the first time.
Some babies start rolling from as young as three to four months, with most starting to do so by the age of seven months. Giving your baby plenty of tummy time will help them roll from their front to their back, which is what most babies learn before being able roll onto their front. Try placing toys around them so they’re encouraged to reach for what they want to play with.
Most babies begin by crawling, although some skip this stage altogether and jump right into standing up and eventually walking.
Babies will usually start crawling around the six-month mark, though each child is unique and will develop at their own rate. They may also develop their own style, as not all babies crawl in the same way. Some shuffle on their bottoms, some wiggle on their tummies, and some may even move backwards. How they do it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re on hand to support them so that they’re safe as they start to explore.
If your baby is an experienced crawler, they may be trying to attempt more challenging manoeuvres such as crawling up stairs. While stair-climbing may help them learn how to judge height and depth and develop their sense of balance, for safety reasons, it’s important to install stair gates so they can't attempt climbing them without you on hand to help.
As adults, sitting up is something we do without thinking. But, for a baby, it’s not as simple as it looks. They’ll need to develop strong muscles and be able to control their movements before they can sit up by themselves. Everything should be in place for your little one to start showing signs of sitting by themselves by around eight months old.
As your baby builds their core and leg muscles, they’ll be able to tentatively start standing on their own. They may lack the balance and won’t be able to hold themselves up for long, but these brief attempts at balancing are the start of walking upright.
At this stage, your baby is quite confident using anything at hand to pull themselves around the room – table legs, sofa edges – if they can use it for balance, they will.
Keeping your baby upright and holding their hands as they walk can be a great way to improve coordination and balance at this stage – usually around the six-month to a year point.
Very mobile babies will attempt to stand up and take a few steps while holding onto a piece of furniture – a technique known as "cruising”. If your baby is becoming confident, they'll soon discover how to move across a room using pieces of furniture as balancing aids.
Learning how to cruise like this is the last physical skill your baby needs to master before they begin walking without assistance. Encourage them to cruise and eventually walk by holding out your hands. Show them how to bend at the knees to sit down. If they reach a favourite toy by maneuvering themselves across the room, remember to give them plenty of praise.
Sometime between six-months old and a year-and-a-half, your child will be confident enough to potter about on their own. Be sure to not miss this magical first step moment.
How to encourage your baby to walk
Generally speaking, babies will learn to walk when they’re ready, but there are still some steps parents can take to help them along the way. Using toys and games as motivation can help them engage in moving. Remember though, each child will take things at their own pace. Some may even skip some stages and power straight through. So, don’t be disappointed if your baby doesn’t take to a certain stage as quickly as you expected.
Not only will these methods aid in their development on the way to independent strolling, but they’ll also help strengthen the bond between you and your child. Some useful tips and tricks to consider include:
Practice getting upright on furniture
Learning to stand up is a major milestone on the road towards walking independently, and most little ones start out by pulling themselves up on a piece of furniture. You can help them with this by encouraging them to use furniture that’s secure, solid and low enough. You could also try putting some of their favourite toys on top of the furniture as motivation, so your baby has to pull themselves up to reach them.
If you notice your baby hasn’t tried pulling themselves up yet, you could encourage them by kneeling in front of the furniture with them on your knee. You can then help them to stand. At first your baby might pull up using their arms but as they get stronger, you’ll notice them pushing with their legs more. You might need to help in the beginning by placing a hand under their bottom to get them fully into a standing position.
Holding your baby upright, or holding their hand to support them as they totter around can be a great way to get them to feel comfortable with standing upright without the fear of falling over.
Stand further back
If you’re trying to encourage your baby to walk towards you, or between two of you, extend the distance between you both to try and encourage your little one to walk the distance.
Standing them back up
Should your little one fall over, helping them stand back up can encourage them to become more comfortable standing upright and trying again, rather than resorting to crawling.
Play balance games
To be able to walk, babies need to know how to balance. You can help them practice their balance by encouraging them to kick a ball while standing on one leg or playing games like stepping stones.
Avoid prolonged use of baby carriers and seats
Sitting in reclining carriers or seats, or seats that prop them up in a sitting position for long periods of time, can delay your baby's ability to sit up on their own. Try to keep the use of bouncers, seats and walkers to no more than 20 minutes at a time to ensure they don’t hamper your baby’s development.
Skip the shoes to begin with
Shoes are all well and good, but, if it’s safe to do so, it’s better to have your child learn to walk with bare feet. This will help them build balance and keep a natural stride.
Don’t rely on walkers or strollers
Though walkers and strollers can encourage your baby to stand up and assist with their balance, you don’t want them to become overly reliant on them. Encouraging your baby to stand unassisted is a good way to get them comfortable with moving independently.
Motivation is vital
Using toys, treats, fun and games can all help encourage your baby to do the activity you want.
What if my baby isn’t progressing with walking?
Every parent wants to be sure their little one is developing as they should, so it’s normal to feel concerned or nervous if you’re not sure they’re hitting their milestones. If you’re not seeing signs that your baby will walk soon, try not to panic. Remember, all babies progress at their own rate and some will take longer to become mobile than others. You can encourage them using the techniques mentioned above and support them in whatever stage of development they’re at.
If your baby still isn’t walking by the time they’re 18 months old, speak to your health visitor, GP or family nurse for help and advice.
How to babyproof the house for when baby starts walking
Once your baby is up and about, there are more safety precautions you’ll need to take so they can explore safely. The key thing is to prepare in advance. While it may seem a bit over the top to start baby proofing your home before your little one can even roll over, you’ll be surprised at how quickly they suddenly start moving. Plus, baby proofing in advance means you can get it done before baby arrives and you’re not too busy or tired from all those night feeds.
Here are some of our top tips for preparing your home for when your baby starts walking:
- Put locks on doors and cabinets to help keep your baby away from unsafe items, such as cleaning chemicals.
- Pad sharp corners of furniture to avoid any nasty bumps or injuries.
- Install a child-proof gate to prevent your baby from using the stairs or getting into any rooms they shouldn’t.
- When cooking or preparing food, keep items like pots and pans on the back of your hob and turn the handles towards the back of the counter so small hands can’t reach out and grab them.
- Secure your TVs and furniture just in case. Use furniture straps to hold down TVs, bookshelves, dressers, and other heavy furniture your child could use to pull themselves up on.
- Always keep toilet lids down and secured with a lid lock to prevent any trapped fingers or accidents with the water.
- Use cord holders to keep dangling cords fastened against walls, including cords from blinds.
- Store all medicines in a high, locked cabinet so they’re completely out of reach for your little ones.
- Cover electrical outlet sockets with baby-proof covers to prevent any electric shocks.
Taking care of your baby’s skin as they learn to walk
As your baby uses their hands, legs, and feet to move around, they’re much more likely to get dirty and their skin may get dry from the extra friction that can occur with walking. To help look after their skin, use a gentle, moisturising baby cleanser when bathing your baby, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby Bath. To keep your baby's skin moisturised after the bath, try a gentle moisturiser like JOHNSON’S® Baby Lotion.
For a quick and easy way to keep your baby clean in between bath times, try JOHNSON’S® Top-to-Toe® Baby Washcloths
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