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What’s the earliest a baby can walk?

When do babies typically start walking?

Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 15 months. On average, babies begin walking independently around 12 months of age. However, there is a wide range of normal when it comes to reaching this important developmental milestone. Some babies start walking as early as 8 or 9 months, while others don’t walk until 17 or 18 months.

Factors that influence when a baby will walk

There are a few key factors that play a role in determining when a baby will start walking:

  • Genetics – Babies with older siblings or parents who walked early tend to walk earlier.
  • Motor skills development – Babies who are efficient crawlers and can easily get up into a sitting position tend to walk earlier.
  • Muscle tone – Babies with good muscle strength and tone in their legs, feet, and back tend to walk earlier.
  • Personality – Outgoing, daring babies may be more likely to try walking earlier.
  • Encouragement – Babies who are encouraged to stand and take steps, without pressure, may walk a bit earlier.
  • Physical size – Smaller babies sometimes walk a bit earlier than larger babies.

So while the average age is around 12 months, babies who are advanced in their motor skills development and muscle strength may start walking as early as 8 or 9 months. Babies who need a little more time to build up their leg muscles and coordination may not walk until 15 months or later.

Is there such a thing as “too early” for walking?

Many parents wonder if there is an “too early” age for babies to start walking. While some babies do walk very early, around 8 or 9 months, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. However, there are a few cases when very early walking should be discussed with a pediatrician:

  • If a baby is walking well before they can sit up or crawl (before 6 months). This may be a sign of a muscular or neurological condition.
  • If a baby seems to be “tiptoeing” or walking mainly on their toes. This can be a sign of tight leg muscles or Achilles tendons.
  • If walking causes the baby to lose their balance and fall frequently. Frequent falling may indicate low muscle tone or strength.
  • If the baby seems to be in pain or discomfort when walking. This may indicate a problem like hip dysplasia.
  • If walking at a very early age seems to disrupt the baby’s other development, like speech delays.

So while very early walking is not necessarily alarming, it’s a good idea to mention it to the pediatrician, especially if accompanied by other signs like tiptoeing or falling. They can examine the baby’s muscle tone, hips, legs and look for any underlying issues.

Is there such a thing as “too late” for walking?

While some babies start walking as early as 8 months, others may not walk until 17 or 18 months. In most cases, there is no need to be concerned if a healthy, active baby is cruising furniture and taking steps by 18 months. However, it can be appropriate to check with the doctor if:

  • The baby is not yet able to stand up while holding onto furniture by 15 months.
  • The baby shows no interest in standing or cruising between 15-18 months.
  • At 18 months, the baby cannot stand unassisted or refuses to put weight on their legs.
  • The baby has good muscle tone but still will not stand or walk by 18 months.
  • The baby has additional signs of motor delays, like not sitting until after 9 months.

While every baby develops on their own schedule, significant delays in walking or other motor skills should be evaluated to look for any possible medical reasons like cerebral palsy, muscular disorders, or hip dysplasia. Early intervention can make a big difference in helping babies with delayed walking.

Signs your baby may walk soon

Here are some signs that your baby is getting ready to start walking:

  • Stands while holding on to furniture (cruising): Babies like to use furniture like tables, chairs and couches to pull themselves up to a standing position and “cruise” while holding on.
  • Stands unassisted: Before walking, babies will gain balance and strength in their legs by standing without holding on to anything.
  • Takes steps while holding your hands: Babies feel more secure taking initial steps when you hold their hands for support and balance.
  • Sits down safely: Babies learn to squat and sit back down in a controlled manner, which prevents falling while walking.
  • Enjoys standing: Babies who like standing upright and bearing weight on their legs are showing readiness.
  • Good muscle tone: Babies need enough strength in their back, legs, feet and core to walk erect without falling.

When you notice several of these signs, you can tell your baby is developing the necessary skills and strength for walking. Many babies will take their first independent steps within a few weeks or months of learning to stand and cruise.

Tips for encouraging your baby to start walking

While each child will start walking on their own schedule, there are some things parents can do to encourage the process:

  • Provide cruiser toys: Push lightweight toys like plastic activity walkers or shopping carts for cruising practice.
  • Use graspable furniture: Allow crusing along surfaces like couches and coffee tables versus walls.
  • Strengthen legs: Engage in floor play that gets them pulling up to stand. Gently exercise their legs.
  • Go barefoot: Let them practice standing and cruising in bare feet indoors to improve balance.
  • Hold their hands: Help them take steps and prevent falls by holding their hands for support.
  • Use praise not pressure: Offer encouragement and avoid frustration or force.
  • Limit baby devices: Don’t keep them confined in devices like walkers, bouncers or swings.

The most important things are to let the child set the pace, provide safe opportunities for practice, and praise their progress. Consult the doctor if you have any concerns about their development.

Baby walking developmental stages

Learning to walk follows a typical progression of developmental stages:

Age Stage
6-9 months Learns to sit up, roll over and bear weight on legs
9 months Pulls up to stand while holding on to furniture (cruising)
10-11 months Takes steps while holding parent’s hands
11-13 months Stands independently without support
12-15 months Takes first independent steps
13-16 months Gains balance and confidence in walking
16-18 months Begins walking steadily and easily
18-24 months Walks and runs with coordination

Of course, each baby goes through these stages at their own pace. But this gives a general idea of the normal developmental sequence of learning to walk independently.

Should you help a baby walk or let them figure it out?

As a parent, it’s natural to want to encourage your baby’s development. But when it comes to walking, is it better to actively help them walk, or let them figure it out on their own?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Babies need to develop muscle strength and coordination before being able to walk. Forcing walking too soon can be frustrating.
  • Let your baby determine their own pace for standing and cruising holding on. Don’t rush independent steps.
  • You can facilitate practice by providing cruiser toys, furniture for holding, and keeping their path clear.
  • Hold your baby’s hands and let them lean on you for support as they gain confidence taking steps.
  • Resist the urge to make your baby walk. Pressuring or forcing can make them resistant and afraid to try.
  • Praise your baby’s efforts and celebrate each new milestone. This encourages further progress.

While hands-on assistance and encouragement is fine, the key is letting your baby develop at their own pace without pressure. Pay attention to signals that they need a break or are frustrated. With your support, they’ll start walking when they’re developmentally ready.

Safety proofing your home for a walking baby

Once your baby begins walking, they will become a lot more curious and mobile around your home. Here are some tips to “baby proof” your house and prevent injuries:

  • Cover sharp corners and edges on furniture with corner guards.
  • Secure TVs, bookshelves, and other heavy furniture to the wall so they don’t tip over.
  • Install safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs.
  • Use door knob covers and door latches to keep little hands from opening doors.
  • Keep appliances, electronics, and cords out of reach.
  • Install cabinet and drawer latches to keep off limits areas securely closed.
  • Keep small objects, coins, and choking hazards picked up and out of reach.
  • Lock away all medications, cleaners, chemicals in baby proof containers.
  • Cover all unused electrical outlets with child-proof outlet covers.
  • Check windows for potential falls and install child safety window guards.

Supervise your baby closely, get down on their level, and review problem areas to make the whole house safe for your new walker!

Benefits of baby wearing when your baby starts walking

Many parents find baby carriers and wraps continue to be useful even after their baby is walking. Some benefits include:

  • Keeps your baby close while allowing your hands to be free
  • Provides physical closeness and emotional connection
  • Calms an active, exploring baby who may get overstimulated
  • Allows a walking baby to be contained when needed for safety
  • Reduces risk of injury if your baby loses balance and falls
  • Gives your arms a break from carrying when your baby gets tired
  • Allows you to continue daily tasks while keeping baby secure
  • Enables longer outings as your baby can rest in the carrier when tired

When sized appropriately, baby wearing can make the transition to walking a bit smoother for both parent and child. Select a carrier that keeps baby positioned comfortably with proper back and hip support. Read guidelines to ensure their airway remains open and unobstructed.

Tips for dealing with the new challenges of a walking baby

Your mobile baby will bring many joys along with some new challenges for parents:

  • Childproof your home and vigilantly look for safety issues as your baby explores.
  • Contain them with gates to keep out of dangerous areas – watch out for stair falls!
  • Keep doors closed to rooms like the kitchen that hold dangers for them.
  • Don’t underestimate their speed and climbing ability – they can move surprisingly fast!
  • Utilize play pens, activity centers and baby gates to keep them safely contained when you can’t actively supervise.
  • Distraction and redirection are key – offer fun toys when they go for no-nos.
  • Baby wear to keep them close when containing them is essential for safety.
  • Practice gentle but firm discipline so they learn boundaries.
  • Ensure they maintain good sleep habits like naps and bedtimes.
  • Accept it may take longer to get out the door – be prepared!

The good news is this phase doesn’t last too long! Keep your toddler safe and stimulated, and you’ll both get through it.

When do babies transition from walking to running?

Babies typically master basic walking skills between 12-18 months. After this initial period of gaining balance and confidence walking, they will transition to more advanced skills like running, jumping and climbing.

  • 14-16 months – Begins walking faster and taking quicker steps.
  • 16-18 months – Runs stiffly, still lacking coordinated arm swing.
  • 18-24 months – Runs more smoothly but still somewhat unevenly.
  • 2-3 years – Gains fluid, coordinated running form similar to older children.

The transition is gradual. Babies initially walk with a wide stance using their arms for balance. As walking skill improves, steps get faster, stance narrows, and arm swing increases. Running form continues smoothing out up until 3 years old.

But safety should be considered. Unsteady new walkers around 14-20 months should not be encouraged to run due to fall risks. Evaluate surface and surroundings first. While baby’s system matures, focus on improving walking coordination. Running can come later!


While there is a wide range of normal, most babies take their first independent steps around 12 months of age. Walking early before 10 months or later after 15 months does not necessarily signal a problem, but warrants mentioning to the pediatrician for evaluation. Support your baby’s development by providing safe opportunities for practice without pressure. Supervise your new walker closely and baby proof your home for their safety. With patience and encouragement, you’ll soon be chasing after your tiny toddler!