Learning to Walk: A Big Milestone
Babies accomplish many important milestones during the early months of life, but one of the most significant ones is learning to take their first steps. Not only is this an exciting learning process for the baby, it is also a joyful and fun time for parents and grandparents as well.
Babies develop at their own unique pace. The average age when a child begins to walk is between 9 and 18 months of age, with the average age being around the first birthday. However, the process of walking begins quite early.
Early Measures to Encourage Walking
A child's journey to walking actually starts in infancy. Developing strong back muscles is the first important step in preparing to walk. Parents can do several things to promote strong back muscles. Infants should be allowed regular tummy time. The lifting of the head when infants are placed on their stomach strengthens the back muscles and is one of the first steps to prepare them for walking, which won't come until months later.
Babies also love looking at bold colors. Bright objects can be placed just out of their reach while they are laying on their stomach to encourage them to raise the head up and look around.
When children are old enough to maintain a sitting position, parents can sit in front of them and roll a ball back and forth. The rocking motion as they reach for the ball will help build more strength in the back muscles. Leaning side-to-side and stretching to get the ball will also help teach them how to balance themselves, which is a vital skill needed when they begin to walk.
The First Steps
Once children can pull themselves to a standing position, parents can take their child's hands and allow them to walk at their own pace while holding them securely to protect them from falls. When a child becomes more stable on his or her feet, parents can let go of one hand. This gives the child more freedom to experiment with establishing proper balance while still allowing them to be securely led by the parent.
When a child is confident and strong enough to stand alone, the parents can then kneel or sit on the floor a few feet away and extend their arms out to encourage the child to walk toward them. Walking takes a lot of practice. Expect children to plop down on their bottoms numerous times as they learn the skill of walking. Parents should always applaud and celebrate their child's new accomplishment.
Important Safety Measures
Parents can do a lot to encourage children to take their first steps. However, the importance of providing a safe environment for the child cannot be overlooked. Carpeted floors are a good place to practice walking. Parents can't assume their babies won't fall. Falls will happen. It's just part of the learning process. A soft surface will help prevent injuries.
Coffee tables and accent tables with pointed edges should be removed or protected with padding. Loose rugs need to be placed out of the way. Creating a safe place where a child can practice his or her first steps safely is vital to a positive learning experience.