How To Teach Your Child To Walk

How To Teach Your Child To Walk | Little Feet Pediatric Occupational Therapy Pediatric Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, St Louis MO

Walking is one of the most monumental milestones in your child’s development.

Once children learn how to walk, they can start exploring the world around them.

But if you’re a little nervous about the process, you’re not alone.

At Little Feet Therapy we’re a pediatric rehabilitation clinic and we offer pediatric occupational therapy and pediatric physical therapy to help address your child’s issues.

This week on our pediatric therapy blog, we’re talking about learning to walk.

We’ll answer some common questions people have about the process and offer tips to help your child along the way.

We will also talk about what to do if your child is having trouble learning to walk.

At What Age Should Your Child Be Able To Walk?

Children typically begin to walk when they’re around ten to sixteen months.

It’s important to keep in mind that each child develops at their own pace and may start at any time during that range.

Developing skills, such as walking, isn’t always related to physical or cognitive ability.

Your child’s personality can also play a role into how quickly they start walking or learning certain skills.

Some children are fearless and outgoing, and start walking as soon as they’re able.

Others may be shy and cautious, and want to take their time.

Each child is different and reaches milestones at their own pace.

If they’re a couple weeks behind the expected date, but they’re still making progress, they’re unlikely to have a developmental delay.

What If Your Child Isn’t Walking By Then?

If your child still isn’t walking by sixteen months, or is not attempting to walk at 14 months, it’s a good idea to speak with a pediatric therapist and get an evaluation.

There are many factors that can contribute to a delay in walking.

Some of them you’ll likely already know about, like if your child has cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or muscular dystrophy.

However, there are other possible causes you might not be aware of, including:

However, your child’s walking delay may also be idiopathic – meaning there’s no known underlying cause.

Even if your child has a walking delay, with a little assistance they’re more than likely able to catch up with their peers.

What Motor Skills Do Babies Use To Walk?

Motor skills are specific movements that require coordinating the body’s muscles to perform actions.

Gross motor skills refer to actions that use the body’s larger muscles, such as the leg muscles, arm muscles, and trunk.

As your baby grows, they will learn motor skills like rolling, crawling, sitting, and standing.

RELATED: Why Is Crawling Important For Babies?

RELATED: Why Is Rolling An Important Milestone For Babies?

These skills involve the use of various muscles in their body, such as the thighs, hips, shoulders, and abdominals.

As your child acquires new gross motor skills and puts them into effect, they will continue to further develop their muscles and coordination.

This lays the foundation for them to learn more complex motor skills, such as walking.

The various muscles trained through rolling, sitting, crawling, and standing help prepare your baby to walk.

Tips To Help Your Child Learn To Walk

Typically, children will naturally start walking as they develop their muscles and motor skills over time.

However, sometimes they need a bit of assistance and motivation.

There are numerous reasons why your child may be a delayed walker or need a little more encouragement, but you can help.

Let’s take a closer look at some tips that you can use to help your child learn to walk.

1. Make Sure They’ve Met Their Other Developmental Milestones First

Before you start trying to teach your child how to walk, ensure that they’re developmentally appropriate to begin learning to walk.

There are several developmental milestones that your child should first meet before learning how to walk.

These milestones include:

  • Crawling
  • Standing while holding onto something
  • Standing independently
  • Cruising, or walking while holding onto something

If your child is able to perform these actions, you can start teaching them how to walk.

If they aren’t yet performing these, it may be worth spending more time on them.

2. Build Their Walking Muscles With Squatting

In order for your child to start walking, their trunk and leg muscles need to be developed and strengthened.

One of the best ways to develop their leg muscles is by standing, either independently or with support.

The main thing here is that they are able to bear weight into their feet while their legs are straight in order to activate their muscles.

Another method to strengthen your child’s walking muscles is squatting.

Squatting will significantly strengthen and develop their hip and thigh muscles.

Squatting will also contribute to your child’s ability to stand independently.

You can encourage them to squat by placing toys at their feet and asking them to pick them back up for you.

3. Get Them To Walk On A Firm, Flat Surface

Firm, flat surfaces allow your child to work on their balance when they start to walk.

While it may be a little frightening to have your child learn how to walk on tile or hardwood floors, this surface will benefit them the most.

Once they’ve gotten used to walking on a firm, flat surface, you can introduce different textured grounds to further challenge and develop their balance and walking ability.

4. Keep Your Baby Barefoot Indoors

Having your child go barefoot indoors can be highly beneficial for helping them learn how to walk.

It allows them to experience different tactile surfaces with their feet, which helps them get used to walking or standing on different surfaces.

It also helps to develop and strengthen the small muscles in their feet, which eventually leads to developing their natural arch.

Standing barefoot allows the muscles in their feet to have an easier time molding to the ground and create stability.

It helps them learn how to naturally shift and bear their weight, which is essential for walking.

5. Find Them A Good Pair Of Shoes For Outdoors

Once your child is starting to learn how to walk, it’s a good signal that they’re ready for a good pair of shoes.

It’s important to find them a pair of shoes that are comfortable and allow them to have full range of motion with their feet.

Shoes with Velcro straps are beneficial because they’re adjustable and can continue to provide support for your child’s feet as they grow.

The straps are also easy for your child to close on their own, giving them more confidence and independence.

It’s also recommended for your child’s shoes to have a slight rise in the toe.

This helps prevent them from tripping over their own toes and encourages them to keep developing their walking skills.

Also, look for shoes that have a protective sole.

This can protect your child’s feet from hazardous surfaces and help them develop their balance and coordination and strengthen the various muscles in their feet and ankles.

Lastly, look for a shoe with a flexible heel.

A heel that is firm, but not too flexible, provides optimal support for your child.

6. Start Slowly, But Be Encouraging

When you first start to teach your baby how to walk, don’t expect them to pick it up right away.

They may only be able to take a couple of steps at the beginning, and that’s ok.

Continue encouraging them and celebrate their attempts and small accomplishments.

Showing them that you’re happy when they take a step will motivate them to keep going.

Gradually they’ll be able to take more and more steps and walk longer distances.

How To Teach Your Child To Walk | Little Feet Pediatric Occupational Therapy Pediatric Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, St Louis MO

7. Let Them Use Furniture For Supports

As your child first learns how to walk, they’ll likely walk while holding onto furniture for support.

Keep furniture close by and let your child use it for support to help them develop their walking skills.

Holding onto furniture can also reduce their fear and give them confidence to walk independently.

Another way they can use furniture is to help them more easily transition to a standing position.

Rather than standing up from the floor, they can sit on a low bench or chair and stand from that position.

This helps strengthen their trunk and leg muscles and encourages them to stand on their own.

8. Reduce Your Support Slowly

When your child first starts to walk, you’ll want to provide them with physical support to help them develop their muscles, balance, and coordination.

This may involve you holding them under their arms, on their trunk, or on their hands.

As they progress, slowly reduce your support.

You can start by lowering your hands while holding theirs.

Holding their arms over their head gives more support and holding their hands down by their chest, gives them less support.

Additionally, holding onto them with one hand rather than two once they are more stable.

You could also use a towel or sheet wrapped around their chest as a support rather than directly holding them with your hands.

As your child progresses, continue to reduce your support to encourage them to walk independently and develop their skills.

9. Stay Calm When They Fall

As we’ve already mentioned, when your child is learning to walk, they’ll inevitably fall.

While it may sound difficult, it’s important that you don’t yell, panic, or overreact when it happens.

This can cause your child to be scared.

They’re able to read your tone and body language, so remaining calm is important.

Staying calm and showing support and compassion can encourage them to get back up and keep trying.

Children look to parents for their reactions.

It’s important to transmit encouragement and confidence so that when they fall, they can brush it off and try again.

Do Walkers Help Babies Learn To Walk?

Not really.

According to research, they may actually disrupt your baby’s progress, since babies use different muscle groups when using a walker than when walking.

They also put your child at greater risk for falls and injuries.

A 2018 study found more than 230,000 cases of children less than 15 months old were treated for injuries related to using a walker between 1990 and 2014.

Another study suggests there’s no real benefit to using a walker, it’s best to avoid these devices.

If your baby is already using and relying on a walker, then you can reduce the time they use it to work on walking without the walker.

Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Pediatric Therapy Today

Are you concerned that your child is having trouble learning how to walk?

Do you suspect that they may have a developmental delay?

If that’s the case, we can help.

At Little Feet Pediatric Therapy, we can help with physical, developmental, and neurological conditions and can help get your child moving independently.

Book your appointment with Little Feet Therapy today.

Little Feet Therapy
3535 Randolph Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211
1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
St. Louis, MO
Raleigh, NC

Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.