Something important happens in babies' development from the age of one year: they start to take their first steps. This is one of the most exciting developments for parents and also offers children an important sense of security and a new perspective on everything around them.
Although we now know that all babies are different and follow their own rhythms, they usually start to walk sometime between 12 and 14 months. Some will start a little earlier, some later, but either way you should not worry or try to make a child walk if he is not ready. Only if the child is still not able to stand after 18 months should you think about seeing a specialist to rule out any developmental problems.
Children are ready to walk when they can stand unassisted. Their first steps are somewhat awkward because they do not know how to control their posture. They move with their legs wide open and their feet splayed outwards and fall over if the floor is at all uneven. As the months pass they become more stable and balanced, until they master the technique at around two years of age.
Evolution of the first steps
- Between seven and nine months, babies start to crawl, a stage that leads up to their first steps. It is true, however, that some children start walking without passing through the crawling stage.
- At 10 months their legs are stronger, and if you hold them up by the arms they can lift a leg off the ground and hop a little.
- By 11 months babies are usually able to walk if you hold their hand or if they are holding on to a stable surface.
- From the age of one they start to walk unaided by themselves, although they will still trip over anything in their way.
- By 18 months they will have their movements practically under control. They know how to change direction and walk in various directions, turn, walk backwards, etc.
- At 24 months they can walk perfectly and start the next stage: running.
Stimulating babies' walking
Although we cannot force children to walk, we can help them once they are trying to take their first steps.
- Leave them on the floor as much as possible, so they will be encouraged to try and stand up and take their first steps by themselves.
- Create a favourable space for them to start walking in, with boxes or tables (no dangerous corners) that they can hold on to. Put things that they like on these surfaces, so they try to get up to reach them.
- Once your child knows how to stand, sit near him and stretch out your arms to encourage him to come to you.
- Reward or congratulate each small progression so your child gains in confidence and wants to keep trying.
- When your child knows how to walk supported, hold his arms and pull them forwards to encourage him to keep going. Little by little you can remove your assistance.
- It is good to put things on the floor, like pillows or foam puzzles, to generate new stimuli.
- Walkers are also useful for supporting the baby while he moves around the house. Little by little your child will gain confidence until he can walk by himself. The walker should be strong and not tip over easily. Naturally, you need to watch your baby the entire time.