Baby’s first steps: The early walker vs the late walker
You’ve been waiting for your baby’s first steps. You’ve coaxed and encouraged and cheered him on from the sidelines. But at ten months, his preferred travel option is still the belly scoot. He’s a great little scooter, but you’d really love some footage of him learning to walk. After all, your best friend’s baby was walking at nine months, and you were reminded endlessly of it. Her baby is developmentally advanced. Her baby is super smart.
But what about your baby’s progress? Is he behind or less intelligent because he chooses to scoot instead of walk?
When do babies usually start walking?
Here’s the scoop on what may be the most valued milestone in early childhood: Research doesn’t show early walkers to be more advanced or intelligent than late walkers. In fact, researchers found that by the time young children start school, those who started walking later become children who are just as well-coordinated and intelligent as those who pushed off early.
The bottom line is that the average baby starts walking at around 12 months. But, infants can walk anywhere from 9 months to 20 months. That’s quite a range! Your little guy is still scooting at 10 months? Awesome! That just means you have a little time to get some video footage of the crawling, cute scoot, the proud moment he reaches a standing position, the cruise around the furniture, and when your baby takes those first steps on his own feet! If your baby is still grounded after 20 months, you might consider a further medical investigation, but overall, this is the time for relaxed enjoyment of your baby’s wondrous pre-walking adventures.
How to create an encouraging walking environment for your baby
Keep the following tips in mind as your baby learns to walk and takes their first steps:
Create a safe, exciting space for your baby to explore
Whether he prefers to scoot, crawl, or crab walk around the room, all babies need a safe, fun place to discover and experience the world around them. An engaging and attractive environment provides new possibilities for pulling up and standing to get a unique view of the world. This will create the motivation your little adventurer needs to use the muscles required for balance and coordination to stay upright on his own two feet.
Build your baby’s confidence
When your baby begins the pulling-up stage, parents should be on hand to prevent a crash landing when he decides to sit back down. Knowing he can pull up on furniture and painlessly get back down will help your baby feel confident when the time comes to let go, stand and take off on his own.
Consider your baby’s temperament
Just like you may prefer diving into good books over hiking forest trails, babies have temperaments that influence their physical activity. Babies with impulsive temperaments may race through physical milestones and be a little more accident prone) While mellow fellows may take their time fine-tuning their motor skills.
Skip the wheels!
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the use of walkers as babies start walking. Besides the many injuries caused by baby walkers, research suggests that they deter the desire to walk for many babies and delay the muscle control needed for healthy toddling. In fact, babies who use walkers tend to take their first few steps later than babies who don’t.
As excited as you are to see your baby walk, don’t let yourself be caught up in comparisons that will take the joy out of your day. Your 10-month-old scooter is as brilliant as your friend’s 9-month-old walker. So, relax, keep your camera ready, and prepare for take-off.
Cheryl Flanders, M.Ed.
Cheryl is a seasoned educator and writer, having worked in the field of education for over 25 years. She has taught high school and college courses and has also served as an elementary school principal. Most recently, Cheryl retired from her full-time position as Manager of Teacher Preparation for the corporate offices of KinderCare Education in Portland, Oregon. There she developed training for over 25,000 early childhood teachers that KinderCare employs nationwide.
Cheryl and her husband now reside in Boise, Idaho, where she is a mom; a grandma; and an active author, speaker, and early childhood consultant. Having suffered the loss of a child three years ago, Cheryl’s passion is to use both her personal and professional experiences to provide hope and inspiration to families and teachers working with young children. She believes that the best vehicle for helping children… is to look through their eyes.