How to Get Your Baby and Toddler to Walk
Updated August 2017
I have decided to “Step” in and give some tips on how to get your baby and toddler to walk.
Children learn to walk between 9 and 18 months of age. It is best if they crawl for 3 months first- before walking- to build their core strength, and gain visual perceptual skills that will last a life time. They will never go back to crawling once they learn to walk, so don’t short change their crawling time because of your desire to see them walking. But if you have a 12 month or older child who is not starting to stay on his/her feet to play most of the time, or cruising along furniture, then there are things you can do to help them get started. By the age of 12 months- research supports standing to play for cognitive development. Before the age of 12 months-in otherwise typically developing children-research has not supported the need to stand.
Fun Fact: It has been said that children need to take 3,000 steps or cover 24 foot ball fields before they can learn to walk by themselves. Lets just say they need to do 100’s of steps/day -best if it is in a condensed period of time- to learn to walk.
Count their steps– Generally toddlers take anywhere from 10-30 steps at once, then stop, sit, squat, play, then do more steps. The key is that they are on their feet for most if not all their play time- at this stage. Once they are doing 400+ steps a day, they will soon master walking. These steps may be with a push toy, holding your hands, cruising along the couch, or doing those first steps- on their own. Counting steps will help you know if you need to just encourage more walking each day.
Cruising: This is when your toddler stands at the couch, or coffee table and takes steps sideways. This is a good strengthening activity. Just keep moving their favorite toy away and have them take side steps to get it.
Teach turning steps: Have them stand to play at the couch, place the toy on the coffee table or a kitchen chair that is beside them, they will need to take steps to turn slightly to get it. To up the ante move the toy to a surface- coffee table, chair, ottoman- that is directly behind them, so that they have to do a full turn. I like to create a space by having four surfaces around them, and they need to go in a circle to get all the toys, or one toy – that keeps moving.
Build confidence in standing: Let them stand while you read them a book, or hold a toy for them to play with. Simple toys are best, pianos, books, simple busy boxes.
Get some help with a push toy: the best push toy for the reluctant child is the kitchen chair. Place a simple toy such as a piano on the chair, help them pull to stand at it, and let them play for a couple of minutes, then slowly move the chair, and they will take some steps to stay with the toy. They most likely will lean on the chair for support. That is fine. If they like it- keep going- moving the chair across the room. If they don’t enjoy it, stop and let them play some more, and move it every once in a while, until they are more confident.
Try a Hula Hoop: Children enjoy this and it can be another way to save your back.
Build leg strength: squats- lots of them- 30-50 a day. For this activity you will need to be irritating. You can do this activity by playing at the couch with your toddler, they have toys on the coffee table or couch- any toy that has pieces- blocks, a plastic set of animals, toy food- that OOOPS you keep dropping by mistake… You ask for their help to pick it up. They can hold onto the couch with one hand if needed.
If you are inclined to be nicer than I am- you can use a ball toy like this one placed on a stool so your toddler has to stand:
The ball pops out and drops to the floor – or into a bucket- and they have to bend at the knees to get it. Goal: 10 squats a play period, maybe 2-3x a day.
Can’t get them to squat,- Have them sit on your knee or a stool, then come to stand to put the ball in the slider, the ball drops down, they sit back down to reach it. This may be needed in the early stages of building the needed strength to hold a squat position.
Sing the wheels on the bus verse that says; “Liam (your child’s name) on the bus goes up and down” and help them sit on stool then stand -then sit-… and keep singing this – they love it.
Get Supportive Shoes: More often than not 14-16 month olds who aren’t walking need sturdy high top shoes.
If you are having difficulty getting your toddler to follow along with these ideas, and you don’t feel that they are making progress. Call Early Intervention they will come out and do an evaluation on your child- for free, and you do not need a physicians order for this.
If your child does not qualify for these services, consider going to a pediatric outpatient physical therapist. You will need a physicians order for this. A pediatric physical therapist has many techniques to help your child master walking.