One of the most memorable milestones in a baby’s development is when he first learns to walk. This stage is a significant achievement for your baby and a remarkably satisfying experience for you as a parent.
Babies typically start walking between the ages of nine and fourteen months. Although your child will eventually figure out how to walk by himself, you can help speed this process along. Here are some tips to encourage your child to gain confidence and take those precious first steps as early as possible.
Promote strength-building exercises
Your child will be ready to walk once he has enough muscle strength in his legs and hips. Simple exercises will improve core strength and get him prepared for the task. So, provide opportunities to stretch, bend and strengthen his leg muscles.
Here are some suitable exercises:
• Allow him to bounce up and down in your lap and learn how to bend his knees.
• Lay him on his back and slowly move his legs in a cycling motion to strengthen his leg muscles
• Have him sit on a stool or chair with his legs touching the ground. Place toys on the floor and get him to bend down and pick them up.
• Teach him to kick a ball by placing it near his foot. He may accidentally kick it the first few times but will attempt it on his own once he understands the idea.
Encourage your child to pull himself up
Your child should be able to pull himself up into a standing position before he tries to walk. Encourage him to stand by arranging safe and stable surfaces that he can reach and use for support. Sturdy, non-movable furniture like tables and shelves will give him a steady grip and enable him to pull himself up. You can also get him an activity center that requires him to stand up and play. Remove lightweight furniture that will topple over, as it can frighten him and affect his confidence.
Let your baby stay barefoot
Babies find it easier to walk when they are barefoot. They have a better grip over floor surfaces when their feet are unrestrained. They can feel the ground better and use this sensory information to adjust their posture and balance. Once your child learns to walk confidently, he will not have trouble walking in socks or shoes.
For information on how to get the best shoes for babies learning to walk, look at this post on Children's feet and shoes on the Better Health channel.
Once your baby learns to pull himself up, the next step is cruising. Make it convenient for your baby to cruise by placing furniture in a line, so he can support himself and move short distances at a stretch. Entice him to try cruising by placing his toys on the surface, just beyond his reach. As he learns to move, he will gain balance and learn to shift weight from one leg to another.
Try assisted walking
Encourage your baby to walk by supporting him when there are no surfaces to hold. Take care to balance his trunk and not hold him by the hands, as this will help him keep his feet on the ground. You can also have him walk in front of you with his arms just high enough to keep his feet on the ground. Occasionally let go of one of his hands, so he slowly learns to balance on his own.
Give him a push toy
Choose a sturdy push toy with a sturdy handle that your child can grip tightly. It should support your child’s weight and move forward easily when he pushes on it. Your baby will be excited to play with it, even while it simultaneously helps him to cruise. Once your child gets the knack of using it, his confidence will grow, and he will gain the courage to walk on his own.
To get more information on which push toy to purchase, visit this video on "What Every Parent Needs to Hear About Baby Push Walkers" by a Pediatric occupational therapist and mum, Emma Hubbard.
Check out these push toys: