Help your little one start walking by first strengthening vital muscles through earlier milestones.
Most babies start walking when they’re about 12 months old. Before that, they will have to learn several skills first, including rolling on their backs from their stomachs, crawling, squatting and standing. Support their developments with learning aids, cushioned mats to protect their knees and appropriate toys.
Early Development to Aid Walking
Start your baby on tummy time, from a few minutes at a time several times a day, gradually increasing this up to an hour a day by three months. This helps them develop and strengthen their head and neck muscles.
Other ways to do tummy time include placing your baby on your chest or tummy while you’re on the floor or a bed, so you’re face to face with your baby. Alternatively, carry your baby in a football hold, placing your baby face down across your lap or on his/her tummy for a minute or two after every diaper change. Around six months, he/she should be able to turn in a circle on his/her tummy, roll from back to tummy and vice versa.
After mastering rolling over and sitting up without any help, the next milestone may be to start crawling. A sign that he/she is ready is if he/she gets on all fours and starts rocking back and forth in place, usually when he/she is six to 10 months old. He/she may move an arm and opposite leg in tandem, teaching him/her balance, doing the bear, belly, rolling or crab crawls, or the bottom scoot. To encourage your baby to crawl, put your hands under the arms so he/she distributes the weight on the legs and thighs. Also, helping your little one sit upright strengthens his/her pelvic and back muscles.
Motivate your little one by playing games while sitting, a play tunnel, or a toy just out of reach for crawling – you’ll also want to babyproof your house. Call your paediatrician if your seven month old feels loose in your arms and doesn’t want to bear any weight in his/her legs.
Squatting to Stand
From about nine to 12 months, he/she may pull him/herself up to a standing position, or on furniture to stand in a squat-like position. Encourage them to squat by saying “up” and “down” as they execute the movement or place toys on the ground or sofa so they’ll have to squat down or stand to reach these items. After your child has strengthened his/her hip and thigh muscles by doing these squats, he/she will be able to stand without assistance, from just a few seconds to a longer period of time.
Between seven to 13 months, your child may also hold onto objects and furniture and walk around. During these movements, your child is learning how to shift his/her weight and balance and how to propel him/herself forward. Ensure your furniture is secured to the walls or the ground to prevent injuries in the home.
You can also use safe, age-appropriate push toys, such as grocery carts or musical walking toys with wheels and handles, or even boxes or lighter furniture. Additionally, place toys in a line just out of his/her reach so he/she has to move towards them.
Walking Toy: Skip Hop Zoo Ride-On Toy ($143.10)
Infant Walkers and Alternatives
However, do not use infant walkers as they may cause head or neck injuries, by falling down the stairs. Even in a single-storey apartment, children can catch their fingers, pull things down on themselves or grab dangerous, sharp or hot things, fall out of walkers or drown if near a pool. Even worse, babies in walkers don’t learn how to pull themselves to a standing position or take steps without support.
Better alternatives include the Exersaucer Jump & Learn Jam Session and Jungle Quest Stationary Jumper ($239 to $259), where your child can spin and jump, building core strength and coordination. Otherwise, put your child on a safe floor away from hazardous furniture and clutter so he/she can crawl, stretch, roll over or stand up.
Encouraging Your Child to Walk
Aid your child in his/her walking milestones by observing his/her cues and praising every achievement, as well as comforting your little one when he/she falls. Support him/her by the trunk, and later the hips. Encourage your baby to walk or follow you, walk on uneven surfaces or ramps so he/she can develop balance, coordination and muscle power.
Let your little one explore and develop his/her skills independently, and roam around barefoot as much as possible, so he/she can use his/her toes for balance. When outdoors, choose flexible, light-soled shoes like these from Tip Toey Joey, which allow his/her muscles and bones to develop properly.
Delayed Walking and When to Consult Your Paediatrician
Let your child achieve his/her goals at his/her own pace, as stressing them to walk can result in a negative experience or an injury. For your premature child, take into account that he/she may be hitting his/her corrected age milestones rather than by chronological age.
Consider his/her abilities, such as speech, social interaction and fine motor skills, if he/she can use both sides of the body equally and get in and out of a sitting position independently. When the torso is supported, observe if he/she bears weight on both legs and feet. If he/she can crawl or move around on his/her own, it’s just a matter of time before he/she starts walking. Some concerning signs are poor head control at six months, being unable to sit independently at nine months, or not bearing weight through the legs at 12 months. Others include not walking at all at 18 months, unsteadily by two years, persisting in toe walking or not climbing stairs at three years old. In such instances, talk to your child’s paediatrician.