Baby milestones: walking

When does walking happen?

It varies from baby to baby. Most will probably walk at between 12 and 15 months. But some may walk as early as 9 months, while late starters might not get on their feet unaided until they’re 17 or 18 months old. Your baby will do it at his own pace.


How does baby learn to do it?

It might look as if learning to walk happens quite suddenly, but it’s actually a process that starts very early on.


When your baby is born, he has a step reflex – he’ll lift his feet one after another if you hold him upright with his feet on a flat surface. This disappears when he’s about 2 months old.


Later, when he’s 3 months old or so, he’ll start to push himself up while lying on his tummy. This helps develop the strong back muscles he needs to start walking.


At about 5 months, he’ll like ‘feeling his feet’ and bouncing when you hold him on your lap in a standing position.


The next key phase of learning to walk is being able to sit up without support. This will happen when he’s around 6-9 months old.


The more obvious signs of learning to walk will follow shortly afterwards. Many babies – but not all – will crawl on all fours before they walk. Others have different ways of propelling themselves around. Some will shuffle on their bottoms and some will roll over and over until they get to where they want to be.


The journey to walking starts in earnest when your baby pulls himself up to standing while holding on to you or a piece of furniture. He’ll then start ‘cruising’ – making his way around the room by holding onto objects. He’ll gradually start to stand on his own, if only for a few seconds, and will learn to get from standing to sitting.


After that, it will only be a short time before he takes his first wobbly steps alone.


What can you do to help?


· In order to walk, babies need strong back muscles. You can encourage these to develop by giving your baby time on his tummy when he’s awake and encouraging him to lift his head and chest by holding a toy just above him.


· When he starts crawling or otherwise getting about, give him lots of praise. Encourage him to move by putting toys out of his reach so he can crawl to get them.


· Once he can stand upright, you can hold onto his hands and help him walk towards you. And you can help him learn to sit down from a standing position by showing how it’s done.


What's next?

Your baby’s first steps will be unsteady, but he’ll quickly learn to walk more confidently and will gradually be able to get around independently. He’ll start trying to go up and downstairs at about 16 months and will probably be able to kick a ball at about 18 months. Running comes at some point between 18 and 24 months.


See more development milestones in the first year


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