A commonly asked question of pediatric physical therapists by parents is, “When will my child walk?”
Walking is a very visible sign for parents that a child is developing into their own little person and brings parents relief of not having to carry or wheel their child everywhere. As a parent of a late walker, it is sometimes difficult to hear all the advice received from family or friends, such as, “maybe if you get him a hard soled shoe” he will start walking.
Here are several fun facts for parents about walking:
- 90% of healthy, typically developing children will take their first steps sometime between 9 and 15 months of age.
As you see, for walking and for most developmental milestones with children, there is a range when this skill is accomplished by children. Often we will see children walk right before their first birthday, however, this can vary widely from child to child.
- Learning to walk involves multiple body systems.
For a child to be able to walk, he must have the strength in the muscles in his trunk and hips to be able to move his arms and legs in a walking pattern. The brain must be able to send signals to the body to activate the correct muscles in the correct order, the sensory systems must send information back to the brain about how the environment looks and feels, and the child must be motivated to walk. The most important thing to remember is that until all these systems are in place, a child will not walk. He will walk when he’s ready!
- TUMMY TIME! It’s the greatest way to get your child to walk!
When babies are born their bodies are sort of stuck in a flexed or fetal position having been in the womb that way for nine months. In the first few months, tummy time is critical to help babies stretch out the muscles on the front of their bodies and strengthen the neck and upper back. By the middle of the first year, babies begin to push up on their arms and come to hands and knees, strengthening their lower back, pelvis, hips and legs. All of these things are critical for learning to pull to stand, step, and walk.
- Barefoot and soft-soled shoes are best for new and emerging walkers.
This allows for your child to experience what it’s like to have their foot on the ground. The sensory input they get with bare feet is great for them as they learn how to adjust to life on two feet. Having them get comfortable with a variety of textures is helpful. Have them walk in the grass, on wood floors and on carpet.
Enjoy your child as he develops his skills for walking. They grow up fast! Take it from the mom of a 23 and 20 year old!
Written by Joan D. Elliott, MPT, DPT