Children will learn to walk at their own pace, with some walking as early as nine months. If your child is not walking independently by 18 months, speak to your health visitor or GP.
Walking takes a lot of practice, so give your toddler plenty of encouragement and try not to push them too hard; learning a new skill takes time and can be frustrating.
Learning to stand
Plenty of time lying and playing on their tummy will help them to develop their neck muscles, which is important for walking as their head is very heavy. Practising sitting on the floor will also aid their balance. They might need support whilst sitting to start with too.
From around 4 to 6 months, your baby may be able to take some of their own weight when you support them to stand. Next, they might be able to stand with you holding just their hands.
Before any walking takes place, your baby will need to be able to balance themselves and stand up. They might try and do this by pulling themselves up against furniture, leaning on it whilst they take their first steps. Always supervise them carefully whilst they are moving, standing or climbing.
Important: The use of baby jumpers or baby walkers is NOT recommended. There are large numbers of accidents reported every year due to walkers and, even when under supervision, there is a high risk of accidents occurring such as trapped arms/legs and falling. They do not teach your baby to walk and may even delay the development of walking and standing skills.
Once your baby is moving on their own, make sure your home is safe. Ensuring that:
- Your child is not wearing socks on slippery floor surfaces, and their feet are flat on the floor whilst moving around
- Stairs are fitted with gates at the top and the bottom
- You supervise your child when they are moving around
- Furniture is kept away from windows, and windows are closed and locked so that your baby does not try to climb out
- There are no looped cords, such as blind cords, in your home
Helping your toddler to walk
Once your child has developed their balance and strength, you might be able to gently introduce these exercises to develop their walking ability:
Standing and cruising
If your child can stand up using furniture for balance, encourage them to walk sideways using their hands for support. Practice going both ways and offer plenty of encouragement.
With supervision, practice and support, your child may soon be able to cruise around the room, using different pieces of furniture to help them get around on their feet.
As you help your child to stand whilst holding their hands, try to take a few steps together. At first your child may only be able to take a couple of steps whilst their coordination, balance and strength develops.
When your baby is able to walk around for longer periods by holding your hands for support, try to walk around different rooms together. They will enjoy trying out different floor surfaces with your help.
Walking between people
If your child’s balance and confidence is growing, they might be able to take a couple of their first independent steps between two trusted adults, such as your partner or a grandparent. Smiling and chatting to them along the way will help to reassure them.
Health for Under 5’s – Learning to crawl
Parentclub – When will my baby start to walk?
Babycentre – Your child’s walking timeline