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At what age do babies walk?
Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months and are walking well by the time they're 14 or 15 months old. Don't worry if your child takes a little longer, though. Some perfectly normal children don't walk until they're 16 or 17 months old. During her first year, your baby is busy developing coordination and muscle strength in every part of her body. She'll learn to sit, roll over, and crawl before moving on to pulling up and standing at about 9 months.
From then on, it's a matter of gaining confidence and balance. One day your child's standing against the couch – maybe sliding along it – and the next she's tottering hesitantly into your waiting arms. Then she's off and running, leaving babyhood behind. Your child's first steps are her first major move toward independence.
How babies learn to walk
Your newborn's legs aren't nearly strong enough to support him yet, but if you hold him upright under his arms, he'll dangle his legs down and push against a hard surface with his feet, almost as if he's walking. This is a reflexive action, and he'll only do it for a couple of months.
By the time your baby's about 6 months old, he'll bounce up and down if you let him balance his feet on your thighs. Bouncing will be a favorite activity over the next couple of months, as your baby's leg muscles continue to develop while he masters rolling over, sitting, and crawling.
At about 9 months, your baby will probably start trying to pull himself up to a stand while holding onto furniture (so make sure everything in his path is sturdy enough to support him). If you help him along by propping him up next to the sofa, he'll hang on tight.
At 9 or 10 months, your baby will begin to figure out how to bend his knees and how to sit after standing – which is harder than you might think!
After mastering the standing position, at about 12 months, he'll start to cruise, moving from one piece of furniture to the next for support. He may even be able to let go and stand without support.
About this time, your baby will also probably be stooping and squatting. Once he can do that, he may be able to scoop up a toy from a standing position or take steps when held in a walking position. He may even walk while gripping your hand, though he probably won't take his first steps alone for at least a few more weeks. Most children make those early strides on tiptoe with their feet turned outward.
At 12 months, many toddlers are walking on their own – albeit unsteadily. If yours still hasn't stopped cruising, it just means walking on his own is going to take a little longer.
How to help your baby walk
As your baby learns to pull himself up to a standing position, he may need some help figuring out how to get back down again. If he gets stuck and cries for you, don't just pick him up and plop him down. Show him how to bend his knees so he can sit down without toppling over, and let him give it a try himself.
You can encourage your baby to walk by standing or kneeling in front of him and holding out your hands. Or you might hold both his hands and let him walk toward you. He'll probably also enjoy a toddle truck or push toy that he can hold on to as he walks. (Look for toddle toys that are stable and have a wide base of support.)
Always make sure your baby has a soft, safe environment in which to hone his new skills. Follow standard childproofing guidelines, and never leave your baby unattended.
Should I get a baby walker?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly discourages the use of baby walkers. Because they make it so easy for your child to get around, walkers can prevent a baby's upper leg muscles from developing correctly. And because they make it possible for a baby to reach hot items or poisons that a child wouldn't normally be able to get to, they're less safe.
When should my baby wear shoes?
Hold off on introducing baby shoes until your baby is walking around outside or on rough or cold surfaces regularly. Going barefoot helps improve balance and coordination.
What to do if your baby doesn’t walk
Don't fret if your child is simply taking her time. But if your child doesn't stand with support at 12 months, can't walk at 18 months, or isn't able to walk steadily at the age of 2 years, bring it up with her doctor.
Keep in mind that babies have different timetables, and premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than their peers. If your baby was premature, you should date her milestones from your due date, which pediatricians refer to as your baby's adjusted age.
After your baby walks – what’s next?
After those first magical steps toward independence, your child will begin to master the finer points of mobility:
- Standing: At 14 months, your toddler should be able to stand alone. She can probably squat down and then stand back up again, and she might even work on walking backward.
- Steadier walking: By 15 months, your child may be pretty good at walking. She may enjoy push-and-pull toys while she toddles. At this age she will walk with her legs fairly far apart and her feet pointed outward. This is normal and helps her maintain stability.
- Stairs: At about 16 months, your child will begin to take an interest in going up and down stairs – though she probably won't navigate them with your help until her next birthday.
- Climbing and kicking: It's likely your child will be a proficient walker by 18 months. She might like to climb all over the furniture, and she can probably motor up stairs – though she'll still need help getting back down for a few more months. She may try to kick a ball, though she won't always be successful, and she probably likes to dance to music.
- Jumping: At 25 or 26 months, your child's steps will be more even, and she'll have the hang of the smooth heel-to-toe motion adults use. She's also getting better at jumping.
- On the go: By the time your child's third birthday rolls around, many of her basic movements will have become second nature. She'll be able to walk up and down stairs with one foot on each stair. She'll no longer need to focus energy on walking, standing, running, or jumping, though some actions, such as standing on tiptoes or on one foot, might still require concentration and effort.
Where to go next
- Find out how a baby’s size affects development
- Stay a step ahead with our childproofing checklist for toddlers
- Take a poll: When did your baby reach each milestone?