Your child's first steps

Walk this way ... Babies often start walking on their tiptoes, but get into a more normal gait with practice.
Walk this way ... Babies often start walking on their tiptoes, but get into a more normal gait with practice. 

Learning to walk is a huge step (no pun intended!) in your baby’s development. From those first experiences of standing while holding onto something for balance, through to the initial hesitant, skaky steps, your child is making giant leaps towards life as an independent little person.

As with most stages of human development, there’s no rule about when your child might start walking, as it can vary wildly. But as a general guide, most babies take their first steps between the ages of nine and 12 months, improving so they’re able to walk pretty well on their own by 14 or 15 months. Of course, some start earlier, while other healthy, normal kids don’t begin for another few months.

Remember, however, that if you’re ever worried about any aspect of your child’s development, you should see your doctor, if only for your own peace of mind. 

Getting started
At around eight months, your child might be pulling himself up on pieces of furniture with his newly-discovered leg strength. He might not even be crawling yet, and walking may be a good few months away, but your baby is in the early stages of learning how to balance, and is discovering how his legs can hold him. He’ll soon start “cruising”– that is, holding onto furniture and other items while shuffling sideways to get around the room.

Once your baby gets the hang of standing up while holding onto something, he’ll try to stand independently. This can happen for just a few seconds at a time as he learns how to balance without falling. He’ll also figure out how to bend his knees while standing – a vital step in the learning-to-walk process – which will lead the way for squatting and moving into a sitting position from standing.

Of course, bumps, bruises and cuts may become common as your baby tries to walk. Try to give him a safe environment and monitor him as often as possible, but don’t discourage him from experimenting with his balance and coordination. There will inevitably be falls and accidents, but try not to make a big deal out of them – if your child associates standing or walking with pain or negativity, it can make it the process a lot longer and more difficult for everyone.

There will inevitably be falls and accidents, but try not to make a big deal out of them

How to help
To begin with, you can help your child gain confidence by standing or kneeling in front of her, holding both her hands in yours, and letting her come closer to you. Later, you can stop holding her hands, just holding yours out so she has something to reach for as she toddles towards you.

Some children like using walking toys, such as a musical activity walker, as they learn how to walk. If you choose to buy your child a walking toy, make sure it’s stable, with a wide base of support, and that it’s not easily tipped over.

Baby walkers, on the other hand, aren’t a good idea for children who are learning to walk. CHOICE, the people’s watch dog, warns agains them, saying that babywalkers allow babies to move about at an age when they aren't developmentally ready for it. Some research states that using a walker may delay a child’s first steps, while the use of a babywalker increases the chances of a wide range of injuries. You can read more on babywalker safety on the CHOICE website.

It’s also important to make sure your house is well and truly safe for your child once she's starting to get around on her own. Learn more in our article on childproofing your home.