How to teach a baby to walk
Meta: Watching your baby take their first steps is an important milestone for you both. While it is hard to believe your little one could be walking soon, it will be here before you know it. Learn how to teach a baby to walk with these fun games, exercises, and tips.
Get your baby cruising with these helpful tips
Watching your baby take their first steps is an important milestone for you both. While it is hard to believe your little one could be walking soon, it will be here before you know it.
As your baby starts to show interest in crawling and standing up you can have some fun helping them along as they start to learn how to walk. Make walking practice fun and a way for you and your baby to be active and play together.
This guide has some games, exercises, and tips to help encourage your baby to start walking.
Walking timeline: What age do most babies start walking?
While all babies develop differently, there are some general timelines around key physical milestones such as sitting up, crawling, and walking, according to the CDC. Before your baby starts walking, they will likely have mastered rolling over both ways, scooting, sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and then standing unassisted.
- Rolling over: 2-6 months
- Scooting: 4-8 months
- Sitting up: 6-10 months
- Crawling: 6-10 months
- Pulling up: 8-12 months
- Standing alone: 8-12 months
- Walking a couple of steps: 9-12 months
- Exclusively walking: 10-15 months
If you’re concerned about your baby’s development, talk to your pediatrician. Keep in mind that all babies develop at their own pace. Try not to compare your child to others. Maybe their baby crawls sooner but your child may stand up faster. As adults, no one will be concerned over who’s baby walked sooner or sat up later.
Games to play to help your baby walk
If you want to have some fun with your baby and helping them learn to walk, there are a few games you can play to build up their strength.
1. Put an object far away
If your baby can stand up and cruise the furniture, show them that you’re putting their favorite toy just a few steps away from them. Your baby will be excited to cruise toward the toy and grab it. When your baby reaches the toy, make sure to give them praise and show your excitement. You can move the toy further each time to encourage them to walk further.
Peel-a-boo is a classic game to play with your baby. Not only will it usually get them to giggle but it will also have them trying to pull the cover off of your face to see you.
You can show them you’re hiding behind a pillow, for example, and when they get close to you, you can pull the pillow off and yell peek-a-boo. You’ll both be laughing at this game.
3. Sit and reach
If your baby can sit assisted or unassisted, you can place some toys near them but just out of reach. Encourage your baby to reach for the toy. They will have to use their core strength to stay sitting but will also get to practice reaching. If your baby has to reach, they also have to use their core. Building up their core strength is one of the ways their body will build the strength they need for walking.
4. Simon says
You and your baby will have a lot of fun playing a game of mommy or daddy says. This is a great way to sneak in some walking practice too. You can say phrases like mommy or daddy says, walk toward your toy. If your child is cruising you can tell them to grab your hand and this will force them to let go of the couch, for example, and grab your hands. Move farther away and keep telling them to grab you or a toy.
Exercises to encourage walking
In addition to games, there are also some exercises that can really help your baby learn to walk. These exercises focus on strength building and using core muscles.
1. Tummy time
From the time your baby was a newborn, your pediatrician was probably encouraging you to put your baby on the floor for tummy time. Tummy time is an amazing exercise that is designed to help your baby learn to push their face up off the ground.
Tummy time is the foundation for everything from rolling over to walking. Anything you do in life physically revolves around using your core muscle strength. This is no different than with a walking baby.
2. Push toys
Push toys are a great form of exercise for soon-to-be walkers. Your baby will get to hold on to something while they practice cruising around the room.
There are great products out there designed to make your baby want to push them around. A baby doll stroller or a toy shopping cart will also do the trick.
3. Grab their hands
When your baby is just starting to build up their leg strength, you can help them get some exercise by grabbing their hands and helping to pull them up. Your baby will love pulling up to a standing position to get closer to you.
When you’re walking around, you can also grab their hands and have them walk with you. Holding hands is something you’ll both enjoy even as they grow.
To take standing a step further, you can help your baby squat down while you are holding their hands. Your baby will push up and down on their legs, building their muscles and strengthening their core. These are all crucial exercises for budding walkers.
5. Help them cruise
To encourage your baby to cruise the furniture, create a space where they can do so safely. You can move some couches and chairs to provide a long line of furniture for them to grab onto and pull up.
Clearing some space will also allow them to fall down without knocking their head on a sharp corner, for example. For an extra challenge, move furniture farther apart so they have to take a couple of steps without holding on.
6. Dance party
Let loose with your baby and have a little dance party. You can throw on a fun playlist of music and watch your baby’s face light up. Your baby will be so excited to hear the songs and watch you dance to the beat, they will want to jump in with you.
As your baby gets more confident dancing, they may let go of your hand or the furniture to get their groove on. Create a nice open space with some things for your baby to hold on to if needed.
Baby walking don’ts
When your baby starts to show interest in walking, there are a few things to avoid that can actually hinder your child’s ability to walk. One baby item to avoid is a walker. These have been banned in several countries because of the danger they pose to little walkers. If you have one, be sure to dispose of it. Little ones can tip over in them and become stuck underneath them or bang their heads on the ground.
Some older generations believed that shoes can actually help a baby learn to walk. It’s now recommended to let your baby crawl, cruise, and roam the floor in bare feet. Babies use their feet to grip and feel. If your baby is wearing clunky shoes, they may slip or not be able to grasp the floor properly.
Once your baby is walking more comfortably and being exposed to the outdoors, shoes are completely developmentally appropriate. While they are at home and still learning, let them walk in bare feet.
If you never let your child fall down, they may start to develop a fear of falling. A little tumble or fall on their bottom is completely safe and normal. Kids need to be able to explore their surroundings and know that if they fall, they can pick themselves back up again.
As your baby starts to walk and eventually run around your house, it becomes increasingly important to baby proof your house. Your baby now has a full range of motion and is ready to explore.
If you don’t want them to climb the stairs, open doors to dangerous places, or get into anything hazardous, baby gates will become your new best friends. Safety latches and locks are also helpful to keep your baby safe.
When it comes to stairs, although you may want to shield them from ever falling, some supervised stair time going both up and down will really help them gain more confidence. The more they conquer the stairs the less likely they will be to fall down them. Practice showing your child how to hold on to the railing, the wall, or use their hands to crawl up the stairs. Going down the stairs on their bottoms is also a safe way to handle going down.
While it can be bittersweet to see your children’s newfound independence, enjoy this big milestone and the many steps to come in the future.
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