It might seem as though Baby is having a pretty relaxing time right now. They have free room and board, all the food their heart desires, no chores, no taxes, and at least 99.9% of your attention. Could life get any easier for them? Actually, the ability to walk on their own might help out a little.
Keep in mind that every child is different, and each develops at a rate that is uniquely right for them. Baby will start walking when they are ready – not necessarily when you, your friend’s child, or the neighbor’s child did!
This being said, it’s helpful to know the general timeline of what you can expect as Baby grows and starts to learn to walk.
Between birth and 6 months old
For the first 3 months of life, Baby will probably be limited to contained movements. These include raising their head while lying on their stomach, following things with their eyes, and walking in the air (a reflex!) when they are held upright with their feet dangling.
By 6 months, most babies become significantly more involved with their environments and start trying to grab at and touch things. They will also be doing a lot of kicking, rolling around, and bouncing up and down.
How can you encourage their at this stage? Embrace the bounce! Baby isn’t just doing this for fun – they are strengthening their lower body in preparation for a their first steps.
Between 6 and 12 months
Around this time, Baby will most likely start making some serious attempts to stand. By the time a year rolls around, Baby could have started crawling or even standing upright – although they probably won’t know how to lower down to the ground, so thank goodness for those soft, cushiony diapers.
How can you encourage Baby at this stage? Give them a safe, open room to explore larger spaces, and keep an eye on them to see if they would like assistance standing up or even taking a few shaky steps. Many children will also do some cruising between crawling and walking – pulling themselves into a standing position, and then walking along by holding onto furniture. For this reason, it’s important that any furniture that’s at Baby‘s grabbing-height is relatively stable and steady. Push-walking toys can also be fun transitional objects to help Baby along on their way.
Keep in mind that walking is one of Baby’s many concerns – they are also learning verbal intonation, recognizing objects, grasping objects in a new way, and learning how to answer your questions!
Between 12 and 18 months
By this time, Baby may start taking individual steps – incorrectly at first – and then walking. They will probably still use crawling as a preferred means of transportation. They could be crawling up and down stairs, hopping up and down, and even dancing! (Maybe not a salsa or anything, but hey, hip-shaking to music is progress.)
How can you encourage Baby at this stage? Make sure there are no sharp edges or objects in the areas they explore, and encourage – but don’t force! – Baby to try walking more by asking them to bring you things that are slightly far away.
Between 18 and 24 months
On average, children at this age can walk, bend to pick objects up, and climb stairs on their own two feet. Exciting – now Baby can start learning the invaluable skill of cleaning up their own toys! By this time Baby can probably run, too, so get ready for some spontaneous workouts.
How can you encourage Baby at this stage? If they are walking, take them on new walks that have things to see, smell, hear, and touch. Play ‘exercise’ with them, stretching and going through simple obstacle courses, to challenge Baby and make movement more fun.
Don’t forget that Baby will do things according to their internal timeline, and not necessarily the one we’ve provided. Growing up takes a lot of work! Try to enjoy these months when Baby has no choice but to stay with you at all times – in what will seem like no time, they will be able to run away to their room whenever they want!