When Do Babies Start Walking? A Guide To Baby's First Steps
During the first year of your baby’s life, they’ll meet milestone after milestone. The first time they smile. The first time they laugh. The first time they roll over, eat solids, sleep through the night… the list goes on and on.
Perhaps there’s no milestone that’s as anticipated, though, as baby’s first steps, the time when your little one takes those first few hesitant steps and, before you know it, you have a full-fledged toddler on your hands.
But at what age do babies walk? Your baby won’t suddenly go from crawling to taking their first walk. There’s a progression of stages that all babies go through as they teach themselves to walk—sitting, crawling, cruising—and through each of these stages, your baby grows stronger and learns how to control their body so it does what they want it to do.
In this article, we’ll answer the question “When do babies start walking?”, help you understand how your baby’s physical development helps them transform into a toddler, and dig into all the exciting milestones they hit along the way.
What age should a baby be walking by?
When do babies walk? The short answer to that question: whenever they are ready. Every baby learns how to walk at their own pace, and while there is no “normal” age for them to meet the different milestones on the road to walking, there are typical age ranges when babies learn each skill:
- Sitting: The first step towards a baby learning to walk is sitting up and keeping their body upright. Most babies hit this milestone around the 6 month mark.
- Pulling Up: Once they’ve mastered the art of sitting, babies learn how to pull themselves up to a standing position while holding onto a piece of furniture, a milestone that’s generally typically reached by 10 months.
- Cruising: It doesn't usually take long for babies to understand that once they can stand, they can get around, and they’ll start cruising around the room holding onto whatever furniture is handy.
- Walking: Generally, somewhere between 9 and 15 months, babies realize that they can let go of the furniture and “toddle” along on their own.
As you see your baby progressing from one milestone to the next, offer lots of praise and don’t panic if they fall. There will be lots of trips and falls along the way, but just help your baby back up, give them a quick hug, and encourage them to try again. During this time, it is very important that your home is fully babyproofed—outlets covered and sharp corners protected!—to provide a safe environment for them as they move around and explore.
And remember that these ages are just guidelines and most babies progress at their own pace. If you’re concerned that your baby is struggling to meet milestones or not reaching them as quickly as other babies are, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Why Do Babies Walk at Different Times?
Again, there’s no right age for your baby to sit up, crawl, cruise, or start walking. Many factors go into when your baby will first walk, including:
- Personality: Just like adults, some babies are more adventurous and curious, and some are more cautious
- Size: Bigger babies need more strength and coordination to move their bodies, so it’s not uncommon for smaller babies to hit all these milestones earlier
- Health: Babies who are sick a lot—particularly with ear infections, which can affect balance—are often slower to walk
- Older siblings: Having older siblings around can be a big motivator as they try to keep up with their big brother or sister
4 Things You Can Do to Help Your Baby Learn to Walk
Learning to walk is a process that all babies tackle at their own pace, but there are things you can do to encourage your baby to take their first steps.
1. Give Them Some Freedom
Strollers, baby swings and playards are great for entertaining your baby and keeping them safe, but you should also make sure your baby has lots of time to explore on their own. This could be as simple as laying them down on a blanket in the middle of the room every day: Even if they don’t yet have the ability to move from the blanket, giving them this freedom can help encourage your baby to start scooting around the room.
2. Offer Motivation
If you’re trying to help your baby learn how to crawl, lay them down on a blanket and place brightly colored toys just outside their reach so they have to stretch to grab them. Gradually move the toys further and further away to encourage them to crawl.
Similarly, if you want to encourage cruising, place a trail of toys along the edge of the couch or another sturdy piece of furniture to motivate your baby to follow along. (And because we really can’t say it enough: if you haven’t babyproofed, now’s the time to do so! This guide provides a handy checklist of how to baby proof your home once your baby is on the move.)
3. Give Them a Hand
There are few things cuter than a baby walking for the first time, so get in on the action and give them a hand! You are one of your baby’s biggest motivators—and getting to you is the incentive a hesitant walker may need to take their first steps.
Try sitting a few steps away from your partner or another caregiver, with one of you holding the baby. While one of you supports the baby in a standing position, the other one should sit with their arms outstretched, reaching your baby’s hands and encouraging them to take steps towards you. Once your baby gets the hang of walking with support, you can increase the distance between you and your partner until eventually your baby walks independently
4. Let Them Go Barefoot
Itty bitty baby shoes may be adorable, but they’re not great for learning how to walk. It’s easier for your baby to learn how to walk if they’re barefoot and can use their toes to grip the ground and their heels for stability. There will, of course, be times when going barefoot isn’t possible and they need to wear shoes. When shopping for your baby’s first shoes, choose a pair that is lightweight and flexible, with an upper that’s made of a breathable material and a rubber sole for traction.
Away we go!
Everything changes once your baby starts walking. As you watch your baby go from sitting, to crawling, to cruising, to cheering on baby’s first steps, remember to let your baby take it at their own pace, keep the encouragement coming, and enjoy every little step!