When do babies typically start walking? How to help them get there.

When do babies typically start walking? How to help them get there.

Daryl Austin

Parents are keen to witness everything their baby does. Whether letting out that first laugh, showing off that toothless smile or crawling around on the floor, camcorders and phone cameras are usually close at hand with parents ready to capture every moment. But few milestones are more anticipated or more memorable than witnessing baby's first steps.

As exciting as it can be for a parent, it's an adventurous new development for baby as well since it gives them a different perspective on their surroundings and many new opportunities to explore and play. 

When do babies start walking?

Babies usually begin walking around 12 months, explains Dr. Alison Mitzner, a board-certified pediatrician and author of "Calm and Confident Parenting." But she adds that "this timing can vary, and some babies may start earlier or later." Indeed, some babies start walking as early as 8 months, others around 16 or 17 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking to your pediatrician if your child isn’t walking by 18 months.

Various factors can affect when a baby starts walking including motor skills development, coordination, balance, confidence level and even genetics. Environment and personality also commonly impacts this timeframe. "Babies may walk earlier because of differences in temperament," says Dr. Michael Yogman, a pediatrician and primary care physician at Cambridge Pediatrics and an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "Occasionally, younger siblings walk early to keep up with older siblings," he adds.  

How to encourage my baby to walk? 

Another factor is whether parents have spent time helping their baby learn to support their weight and control their upper body. Though Mitzner says "parents should not push their child to walk before they are ready," they can "encourage their baby to walk by creating a safe and supportive environment while helping them practice."

Yogman says this includes activities like assisting with the motion of pulling to stand by placing favorite toys on a couch or chair so baby learns to pull themselves up while you support them. Plus, helping them move along furniture or their crib, "and eventually walking while holding onto your hand." 

Mitzner similarly advises practicing alongside your baby while also celebrating each new development as they move from rolling over to crawling to walking with support to taking those first steps all on their own. "Smile, cheer and acknowledge their progress as they go and you'll really boost their confidence," she says.

And before all this:When do babies start crawling? There's no hard and fast rule but here's when to be worried.

How to prepare for my walking baby?

"Once babies are walking, childproofing becomes essential," says Yogman. 

This means making sure all safety hazards are seen to and taken care of. This includes blocking off stairs, securing furniture to walls, adding child locks on drawers, placing doorknob covers on rooms you want to keep inaccessible, being mindful of elevated surfaces baby could fall from and carefully checking all floored surfaces for choking hazards

"Be mindful of furniture with sharp edges, ensure that electrical outlets have covers and keep baby away from pools and standing water," suggests Mitzner. "And check for cords and strings from blinds that baby could wrap around their neck, ensure your windows are closed and keep medicines and other hazards out of reach or locked away."

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