The initial few years in the life of a baby are marked by many important “firsts” – the first smile, the first time he says “Mama” or “Dada,” the first time he sits up all by himself.
But no milestone compares to that magic moment that the baby takes his first steps.
This is something that parents will remember for the rest of their lives.
However, child-rearing experts caution that walking shouldn’t be rushed. All children do not develop at the same pace and in the same way and, while most take their first steps around the age of 1, there’s no set age at which a baby is “supposed” to begin toddling.
How do you know that walking isn’t far away?
Keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs. They include rolling around, “crab walking,” scooting along the floor and even climbing stairs with a sort of dog-paddling motion.
But let’s go back to birth…
You can help them to be ready to walk very early on:
- You need strong back muscles to walk. Babies develop those muscles naturally by raising their heads while lying on their stomachs. Make a special effort to have the baby on his stomach while he’s awake
- Balance and the coordination of movement are also important for walking. Once the baby can sit up, you should hold toys or favorite stuffed animals at certain positions at the right and left so that he learns to lean without falling frontward or backward. You can also roll a ball. This helps develop strength in the neck, legs, arms, and back, getting him ready to stand upright
- Now that he’s standing, “walk” him, moving him toward you while holding both of his hands. Let go of one and see if he can keep his balance. Don’t be impatient: he’ll fall plenty of times. But definitely cheer his efforts!
- Now the baby should be standing upright confidently and moving from place to place by using the walls and furniture for balance. You might consider strategically arranging furniture or other items around the room to accommodate him. Stay nearby. He might still be having trouble comfortably sitting down from his newfound standing position
Once the baby is walking unaided, the “fun” really begins. There are guaranteed to be thrills and chills and plenty of falls. You might even expect some minor bumps and bruises.
There’s no way to totally prevent new walkers from their share of tumbles, but you can do a few things to make the experience as safe as possible:
- Make sure that dangerous items – including things like tools – are absolutely out of your baby’s reach. The list obviously includes all household cleaning products
- If you have stairs, make sure to set up those plastic gates at both the top and bottom. Consider installing window guards over windows located above ground level. Make certain that items of furniture (especially bookcases) won’t tip over when grabbed. (This is excellent earthquake preparedness as well.)
- Anything with a sharp corner should be padded. Items that can’t be easily padded should be replaced and stored away until the child is older
- Close doors and drawers at all times. Those plastic doorknob covers offer excellent protection and are quite inexpensive
So there you have it.
Don’t obsess too much over how much the baby falls. He is feeling his way through something new and terribly exciting.
Minor “ouches” are nothing to worry about. Keep in mind, though, that if you suspect that he has more than just a slight bump on the head, you should call the doctor. Pediatricians normally want to check out head injuries.
And one more note of caution: Purchasing the baby a wheeled “walker” is tempting, but the best evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that the devices are not only dangerous but they can actually impede the baby’s progress in walking on his own.
Among other pitfalls, babies can roll down stairs, reach higher and get burned on the stove, or consume poison.
Worst-case scenarios include drowning in the pool or tub while unable to escape the walker seat.
Even if you had a walker as a baby, don’t tempt fate.