A baby’s first steps are always exciting, and it means your little one will be full-on walking in the near future. However, you might have a stubborn baby that would much rather be carried around than join the other walkers in their playgroup or at the park.
My oldest was 13 months old when I became pregnant with my second, and he wasn’t walking. So once the morning sickness kicked in, and I still needed to carry him everywhere, I was determined to get him to walk. So while all it takes is a matter of time before they are walking, there are some tips and techniques to encourage your little one.
My son was 15 months old before he started walking, and it was through encouragement and a lot of praise. I was, no pun intended, taking baby steps with him. So I would stand before him, encouraging him to walk to me and slowly move back, forcing him to walk more.
In addition, babies’ leg muscles must be strong enough to support their whole body. Walking is a significant milestone, and there is a transition period before they get the hang of it. You’ll notice your baby will try standing up without assistance before taking that initial step. When my middle one started walking, he always had one arm up in the year, I’m assuming for balance, but it was the cutest thing.
According to WebMD, babies will begin walking anywhere between 8 months and 18 months. So, while one of your children might be an infant walker, your next may take over a year before you see independent walking.
For babies to walk successfully, they must have a bit of coordination to move from their right foot to their left. Also, some babies have an innate desire to walk, but others enjoy being carried everywhere.
While it’s tempting to put a child in a walker to encourage walking, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not using them due to associated dangers, like falling down the stairs. Also, walkers don’t teach your child to walk, as they aren’t building muscle.
You should remember babies don’t develop significant milestones overnight, but you can encourage your child to walk. You’ll notice several physical milestones before walking develops, like standing while supported, standing without support, cruising, unsteady steps, and, finally, actual walking.
However, if you are eager to get your child walking and feel they are developmentally ready, you’ll appreciate this list of 20 clever ways to “trick” your baby into walking and taking those first steps.
0. First, have a safe place for babies, especially when they inevitably fall on their butt.
By safe-proofing your house, your child will be less likely to forgo walking if they hurt themselves while trying to walk. Also, don’t forget to secure furniture and televisions to prevent tip-over accidents.
1. Hold hands and walk together throughout the house.
You can also do this outside for a change of scenery, which may help distract your little one from knowing they are walking.
2. Put a plush toy out of reach to encourage them to walk toward it.
You can also put their favorite food just out of their reach to get them moving.
3. Have your baby use a push toy, shopping cart, or baby stroller to learn the motion of walking while offering support.
However, you’ll want to research to ensure it can fully support your child. For example, my favorite push toy for my children was the VTech Sit-To-Stand Learning Walker because of its stability and how it encouraged motor skills development, including their fine motor skills.
4. If you have an active pet, try to get your child to follow them around and make a game out of it.
You can also get your little one to help you feed the pet by carrying the food over to the dish.
5. If your baby is around peers who are walking, they are more likely to want to be like the “big kids.”
It’s also an excellent way for you to make friends with children the same age as yours.
6. Encourage cruising around the furniture and coffee table, so they become comfortable standing up and moving around.
7. Keep your baby in bare feet while learning to walk
It helps strengthen their awareness, balance, and posture. Your baby is also more prone to slip if wearing socks, especially on hardwood floors.
8. Encourage your child to squat to pick up toys, as this helps build necessary muscles in their thighs and hips.
You can do this in a safe space where they can’t hurt themselves, like by the couch or on the carpet.
9. Supporting your baby’s trunk while walking is an effective way to aid them in developing a natural gait by distributing their weight evenly through their feet.
10. While your baby is cruising along the couch, offer them a toy to hold, followed by another.
If your baby grips a toy in their hands, they are forced to remove support from the couch and work on balance and coordination.
11. Create an obstacle course to encourage them to move around while making it fun.
For example, you can get your child from cruising along the couch to maneuvering around the coffee table. Your baby can also practice going up the stairs, so long as you are there to ensure they don’t fall.
12. I said to keep them barefoot, which you should do, but you can pick up a pair of squeaky shoes and occasionally use them as a fun tool to encourage walking.
If your child knows their walking creates the squeaking sound, they’ll likely be more interested in walking.
13. Join a Mommy and Me class that helps encourage muscle strength and coordination.
It’s also a great time to spend some fun and quality time together. My oldest son started a children’s gym right before walking, and I feel like the weekly class helped him finally begin walking.
14. Take your baby into the pool and practice kicking, which will help develop essential muscles.
You can also take advantage of this trick and join a swimming class to help your child become comfortable in the pool.
15. Give your child some independence and make them come to you when it’s time to go.
While they might crawl over, they’ll eventually learn it’s quicker to walk. Also, if you have to be somewhere at a specific time, ensure you start this process at least 10 minutes ahead of time.
16. Have your baby grab the other end of a rope or pool noodle and play a modified version of tug-of-war.
You can either try this in one place or lead them throughout the house as they hold on. Even if you only get your baby standing, they still will work on developing essential muscle strength.
17. Don’t be afraid to bribe your child to walk.
While a one-year-old isn’t the easiest person to bribe, you still can offer a treat if they come over to you. Remember, a treat to a baby is likely a favorite toy or some snack puffs.
18. Put your baby down in a standing position, not sitting.
If you are holding your child, you might be inclined to place them down in a sitting position, but try the alternative to see their reaction. While they might plop down, they might surprise you and try to keep the standing position.
19. Make it a competition and have your baby go back and forth between you and your partner.
You can each call the child to see who they will go towards, hopefully leading to them walking over. This can turn competitive between you and your significant other, but a healthy dose of competition is always fun.
20. Don’t forget to cheer your baby on!
Remember, you are their idol, and the more praise you give them, the more confident they will become. So even if they only take one step, put on your best cheer face and show them how excited you are.
Kelly is a mom of three who finds joy in writing about her parenting experiences and filling in others about the must-have products and the ones you can leave on the store shelf. With a bit of humor, Kelly tries to laugh off the messy side of parenting and, instead, focus on the beautiful moments it brings. Originally from South Florida, she now calls Northern Virginia home and looks forward to connecting with readers through The Place for Parents.