Next to saying “mama” or “dada” for the first time, walking is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, celebrated milestones in your little one’s life. Here are a few interesting facts you might not know about walking, as well as what to expect as your child starts to navigate the world.
Walking can be influenced by…
Your child’s temperament and personality, as well as older siblings and/or peers. If your little one is confident, bold and likes to take risks, she might try to walk sooner than a child who is a little more reserved and cautious. Also, children with older siblings are more likely to copy what big brother or sister are doing and will more than likely try to walk sooner. The same might apply if your little one attends daycare from an early age and sees what her peers are doing.
Walking varies from child to child
This means you shouldn’t compare your child to her little friend at playgroup. “Some babies start walking at nine months and others only at 16 months,” says occupational therapist, parenting expert and co-author of Baby Sense, Meg Faure. However, most kids move towards walking in a similar sequence. “As your baby gets closer to a year, sitting becomes too static and your little one will only use it as a transitory position before moving off into crawling again or pulling herself up to stand,” says Meg. If your little one isn’t standing or showing signs of wanting to walk by 16 or 17 months, consider chatting to your doctor.
Your child will rock on her feet first
Before she walks, your little one will start to pull herself up on things, lean onto just about anything, and stand in one place. Once your child is confident enough to stand for longer periods, she’ll more than likely start to rock on her legs while holding onto something, explains Meg. Then one day, a “rock” will become a step and soon thereafter she’ll be cruising along at a steady pace.
Cruising is a vital stage in the walking process
Did you know that shuffling along while holding onto furniture, also known as cruising, is a vital stage in the process of learning to walk? Meg explains cruising can continue until after a year of age, and it’s one of the most important steps for your child – as she’ll gain confidence through cruising and will soon start to walk independently.
TOP TIP: “To protect your cruising baby, make sure every corner of every room (except those behind closed and latched doors) are thoroughly babyproofed,” suggests author of What to Expect in the First Year, Heidi Murkoff. “To prevent slips and trips, be sure electrical cords are out of the way, that papers aren’t left lying on the floor, and that spills on smooth-surfaced floors are wiped up quickly,” she adds.
Learning to walk is a hard process
Walking requires immense strength and balance, which is why health problems like ear infections, which affect a child’s balance and coordination, can influence how well she walks at first. Learning to pick one foot up off the ground, while balancing on the other takes time and confidence. Your little one might start off waddling or taking a wider stance, with arms stretched out wide to help maintain balance and control. There’s no doubt you can spot a new little walker immediately!
The good news is, once your child takes her first steps, the process gets easier and easier. According to a study published in Psychological Science, with each day of walking, little ones take more steps, travel farther distances, and fall less; and they may be motivated to walk in the first place because it takes them farther faster than crawling without increased risk of falling.
Walking rings hamper development
Walking rings are most often used at a stage when your baby should be practising the skills needed for crawling, says Meg. She says, “Walking rings not only hamper the development of crawling on a motor level, but also diminish the motivation to crawl or learn to walk, as your little one can get to where she wants to be using the ring”. Also, the supported standing position has a negative effect on the development of the hips, legs and feet as weight-bearing limbs for walking.
Barefoot is best!
When your baby first starts to walk, barefoot is best. Experts agree that the feet, like hands, develop the best when they are bare, not covered and confined. “Walking barefoot helps build arches and strengthen ankles,” says Heidi. “And just as your baby’s hands don’t need gloves in warm weather, her feet don’t need shoes indoors and on safe surfaces outdoors – except when it’s cold,” she adds.