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When Will My Toddler Start Walking?

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Question: When Will My Toddler Start Walking?
A reader asks:

"My child just turned a year old but isn't showing any interest in walking at all. Is something wrong with her? When will she start walking?"

Answer: You'll be happy to know that your child's development is right on track. In fact, most babies don't start toddling until around 13 months. Some may not even walk until 15-16 months of age and that's still just fine. Remember that every child is different and has her own developmental timetable.

Babies Who Crawl Sometimes Aren't Interested in Walking

Now, even though your child is operating at her own pace, know that you can always give a little encouragement. Maybe your child is an expert crawler, for example, who finds little interest in walking. She's completely mobile and crawling serves her well. If you start to move the action off the floor, however, she might be suddenly interested in giving it a go.

If your child is like this or spends a lot of time playing on the floor, start putting toys on the edge of the couch or up on a coffee table. Then, when that has her interest piqued and she is regularly pulling up and cruising the furniture, move the coffee table a little further from the couch so she has to take an unassisted step to get from one place to another. If you're sitting on the floor, let your child pull up using a sturdy chair, then sit a couple of feet away with a favorite toy and see if she tries to take that single step to get to you or the toy.

Also, make sure that you're not always providing a little circle of toys right around your child on the floor. Spread them out so she has some motivation to get moving. Not so much that it's frustrating, but just enough out of reach that she is willing to work for it a bit.

Babies Who Love Their Entertainment Devices May Need More Free Time on the Floor

Other children may not be interested in walking because they don't get a lot of opportunity to practice. Some children are perfectly content to hang out playing in an exersaucer, high chair, playpen, crib or even your arms. And that's fine, but if this is your child, make sure you also give her plenty of time to roam freely on the floor so she can put those emerging large motor skills to use. You might think that an exersaucer, jumper or sit-in walker is teaching her to stand or assisting with walking, but actually just the opposite has been found. Babies use different muscle groups with these devices than they would learning to walk and they rely on the device to catch them instead of learning to balance themselves.

Luckily, a child who loves the exersaucer is also likely to love toys that have a wide, supportive base and wheels with a slow, restricted roll. These toys (like the Step 2 Walker Wagon with Blocks -- my favorite -- and others on this list of toddler walkers entertain, assist children with walking and balance skills and offer increased mobility. Bonus: They take up a lot less floor space than an exersaucer, too.

While Not Normally the Case, Parents Might Be Causing a Delay

Again, most kids walk between the time they turn a year old and around 16 months no matter what mom or dad do or don't do. But there are some exceptions. One mom I know was very concerned about her child hurting himself as he was learning to pull up. He hurt his lip on the coffee table and she promptly had it removed to storage. While this is one solution for preventing injury, it was also one less place he had to practice cruising and pulling up. After that injury, this mom became consumed with preventing minor injuries such as this and it was rare to see her son out of her arms or the playpen. He did not walk until he was 22 months old and I imagine this all had something to do with it.

The bottom line when you're worried about your child getting hurt (and who doesn't worry about this?) is to remember this: It's going to happen. Your child will lose her balance, bump her head, bust her lip and fall down. Many times. This is part of the learning process and there's little you can do to prevent it unless you want to resign yourself to long months of hauling a toddler around or relying on constraining devices to keep her safe. And that's just no way to live.

Instead, focus on what you can do. Don't remove the coffee table. Use a bumper around the edges or on sharp corners. I even know of one company (Little Tumblers) that will make a custom table cover that is machine washable and looks great. If your entire house is covered with hard, slippery tile, purchase socks with grippy soles and invest in some area rugs for those areas where your child plays most often. And always be ready with a kiss and bag of frozen veggies (they make a great ice pack) or a popsicle to soothe those bumps, bruises and busted lips.

A similar issue I've encountered involves kids not having free reign of the floor because their parents have delayed child proofing and don't feel like it's safe. While I understand the concern and would never advise setting your child loose in an unsafe environment, please invest in some safety gates. That way you can focus on one small area of your home at a time and not feel overwhelmed by child proofing the whole house at once.

Related Video
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