Baby milestones tend to occur at very predictable ages but the major milestone of walking often seems highly variable among children. Once your baby takes its first tentative steps unfettered by support something seems to click in the child's mild and the baby officially morphs into toddler-hood. Those first steps occur quickly and before the parent realizes it the baby can successfully walk. The entire act seems to happen overnight. Perhaps no milestone holds more emotional significance to a parent.
Walking generally begins between 9 to 12 months old but some babies may delay their first steps until they reach 16 or 17 months. A child builds up its balance and coordination first by mastering rolling, sitting, crawling and simple standing. Once the child's confidence has grown by leaps and bounds he will be better able to let go of your hands or the couch to embark on his first tentative, unaided steps. Once the child discovers that he can walk there is no stopping him and true walking begins.
Once your child begins to pull himself to a standing position provide lots of positive reinforcement. Cheer him on. Be loud and animated. Make walking fun and exciting. The baby will enjoy the cheer-leading and it will boost his confidence. Positive reinforcement through actions and verbally can greatly aid your child in mastering walking early.
Help your child develop leg muscle strength by lifting him to a standing position. Hold his little hands to offer his wobbly legs stability. The child will often exhibit trembling knees because his muscles are unprepared for the new position and the very act of walking. Working out the child's leg muscles will help him prepare for walking unaided. Many parents will hold their child's hands while they walk along to offer support.
Your baby may grab your hands and instead of walking he will gleefully begin to bounce up and down. Encourage the behavior because its the perfect work out for his muscles to prepare him for walking. Bouncing is fun for the baby, fun for the parent and serves a valuable purpose. Put some music on and make it a little dance between the two of you. Single, laugh and cheer as your baby bobs up and down while holding onto your hands. Its a time to rejoice and your baby will have a blast.
Once your baby finally begins to walk there will be no stopping him. He will walk for the simple joy of it. He will also learn that he can successfully transport blankets, clothes or toys from location to location. Watch your baby closely as he explores what he can and cannot carry. Most babies will start out with light loads to transport but as their confidence and muscles build they will increase their weight-load. Don't' be surprised if your child begins to fill his arms to overflowing and literally trips along with his armload. He will often move things from one end of the room to the other and back again for the sheer joy of knowing he can do it successfully. Make it a game between the two of you. Hand your child something and tell him where you want him to transport it. Give him encouragement and point out the desired drop off location. Your child will quickly become your little helper and relish in moving things around for you.
Babies walk best when barefoot. Their toes aid in their overall balance. Shoes can make it difficult for a child to successfully and quickly master walking. Also avoid placing socks on your child's feet because they can make a slippery surface and your child may fall. A bad fall can delay a child's walking ability until his confidence is again rebuilt.
After your child masters walking let him walk on different surfaces to encourage his confidence. Let him feel the grass between his toes. If you live near the beach take him for an afternoon outing in the sand. Most children relish the feel of sand on their tiny feet.
Walking is a fun and exciting time for both parents and the child. Capture the memories through photos or on a video machine to enjoy years later.