When Do Babies Start Walking?

If you’re wondering when babies start walking, taking their first steps involves the coordination of several factors. A baby’s developing muscles, sense of balance, and ability to develop skills used for sitting and standing all contribute to their reaching the walking milestone.1 Here, you’ll learn about when it might happen, signs that your child is about to walk, how you can support your baby’s first steps, and reasons for late walking in babies.

You may be wondering about the age when babies start taking their first steps. Babies start walking at different ages, so while 12 months is the average age, your baby may take their first steps months earlier or later. Most babies learn to walk anywhere from 9 to 17 months. Once they learn to walk, it may take some time for them to maintain their balance consistently.4

To learn how to walk, your baby will build on skills he’s already learned. This includes rolling, sitting, crawling, etc.2 Some babies prefer to spin or slide around instead of crawling.3 Once they learn how to pull themselves up, they may cling to furniture or your legs.8

After your baby learns this skill, they can begin to travel with the furniture. As their balance improves, they can practice standing without holding on to anything.5 Next, as your baby’s confidence increases, they may take their first wobbly steps. You may notice at first that their feet are apart.2 This stance is temporary as they work to improve their balance.4 Their initial attempt at walking probably won’t get them very far, but many toddlers progress from their first steps to actually walking within days.5

These milestones are signs that your baby will start walking independently soon:4,8

  • Your baby can pull themselves up to a full stand.
  • They were holding on to the furniture as they walked.
  • They can stand without holding on.

When your baby can stand independently, you can help them learn to take their first steps by holding their hands and walking with them.4 Being close to your child as they explore this new skill can help them feel safe as their confidence gradually increases. They can also practice independently by pushing an upside-down laundry basket or steady, supportive push toys around the house.4 To encourage your baby’s first steps, you can try standing a short distance away and encouraging them to move towards you by showing them a fun toy.5

Creating a safe environment for your baby as they learn to walk is key to preventing accidents. But unfortunately, the fall is inevitable.8 When your child falls, offer a quick, comforting hug and encourage them to try again. They will look at your reaction to their accident. If you remain calm, you can give your child strong reassurance.2

A child's first steps with the help of his father.  Both were barefoot on the hardwood floor.

As your baby learns how to walk indoors, shoes are not necessary. Bare feet or socks with grips can help with normal foot and toe growth. Once your baby starts walking outside, they should wear shoes to protect their feet.9

As your baby learns to walk, it can be tempting to compare him to others his age who are already walking. Remember, each child achieves developmental milestones in their own time. However, if you are concerned that your child may have a developmental delay, talk to their doctor. They may benefit from a developmental assessment, especially if they are 18 months old and are not walking independently, seem to have difficulty walking to one side consistently, or are having more difficulty with this milestone.5

Some reasons for late walking in babies include:2,7

  • Genetics: Some rare genetic syndromes can affect your baby’s ability to walk. Or, if you or their other parent are late walkers, it may be an inherited trait.
  • Cautious and content personality: Another reason why babies may be late to walk is that some children are not interested in taking the risk necessary for walking. They may simply prefer to take the time to learn this new skill.
  • Adjusted age: If your baby was born prematurely, your pediatrician will use their adjusted age to track their progress. This means using their due date, not their actual birthday, to track their progress. When comparing your baby to children of the same chronological age, they may seem to be behind. But remember, they are on a different timeline.
  • Hypotonia: Sometimes babies have low muscle tone, known as hypotonia. Because the large muscles of the legs are necessary for walking, these children need more time and support in learning to walk.

Once your baby is able to walk independently, they will learn to stop, change direction, squat, and stand.3 Running will follow, although this may not happen until 15 to 18 months for some children.4 Your baby will continue to build on their new skills and will soon be able to do things like get on and off a chair or sofa, kick a ball, and climb a few stairs without help.6

Your baby’s first steps take effort, and mastering this new skill takes time. It can be difficult to watch your baby struggle as they do this task. However, your comfort and encouragement will provide the support they need. When your baby is ready, they will build on the milestones they have already achieved and boldly start taking their first steps!

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