baby standing on a toki mats play mat

5 Tips to Help Your Baby Start Walking

November 13, 2023

Of all the milestones that your baby will reach as they grow, walking is perhaps the most exciting. Walking opens up an entirely new world of independence for your little one, letting them venture out to explore their environment on two feet. Parents delight in their baby’s first steps, not only because it’s a major motor milestone, but also because it means their (very) tired arms finally get a break. When your little one begins to explore the big, wide world on their feet, it makes all those days of diligent tummy time sessions worth it. Although every baby is different and develops on their own timeline, many babies take their first steps around their first birthday, typically following these stages in this order:

  • Pulling to stand
  • Turning and looking after pulling to stand
  • Cruising along furniture
  • Standing independently
  • Stepping while supported by a parent or caregiver
  • Walking!

Once your little one begins practicing any of these pre-walking skills, you’ll know that their first steps aren’t far behind. While some babies are eager to hit the ground running, others have a more cautious approach to walking. Falling is inevitable for every child, and those who have a more reserved temperament may be reluctant to venture on two feet when crawling feels so much more secure and comfortable. After all, learning any new skill takes time and practice. If your baby is pulling to stand, cruising efficiently, and even walking with your help, but hesitant to take steps independently, here are some tips to build their confidence and help them learn to walk on their own.

Go barefoot

Whenever possible, leave the little baby shoes behind and let your baby roam barefoot. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, going barefoot encourages little ones to walk correctly and helps them develop strong, healthy feet. Walking is a complex motor skill and the human foot is a complex structure. With 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons in each foot, your baby’s body needs to understand how to use them all, and shoes can affect this process.

baby's bare feet on a toki mats play mat

Pad the floor

If your baby has taken a tumble or two already, they’ll be even more hesitant to continue taking steps on their own. Making the floor safe and comfortable in case they do fall can go a long way in alleviating their fears and helping them become more confident. Toki Mats play mats are made from natural latex foam that’s 1” thick and perfect for padding falls. Because the material is uniquely springy and dense, it’s soft enough to absorb tumbles but supportive enough for unsteady feet to stand on. If your little one loses their balance, they’ll feel confident enough to get right back up and try again.

Create distance

Babies who are cruising along the sofa with ease can be challenged by cruising between pieces of furniture that are just beyond reach. Set up an ottoman one or two steps away from the sofa and encourage your little one to go back and forth between the two so they have to take an independent step each time. The trick is leaving the distance small enough that it’s perfectly doable, then slowly increasing the distance as they get more comfortable.This challenges them to use their balance and gradually take more and more independent steps.

Encourage them with toys

Although the use of baby walkers is discouraged because of the hazards they pose, a push toy like a cart or toy lawn mower can be just the thing to motivate your baby to walk with some support. Just make sure to always supervise and help slow down the toy whenever necessary. Push walkers engage the shoulder muscles and core, and help your baby make walking progress while giving them the confidence to move forward.

baby walking on a toki mats play mat

Keep their arms low

If your little one loves to practice walking while holding your hands, it’s perfectly fine to help them move in this way. But, while it’s easier for you to hold their arms up over their head, make sure their arms stay down by their sides so their hands are shoulder height or lower. When they walk with you holding their arms up high, they don’t use their core muscles to steady themselves and instead rely on you to maintain their balance.

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5 Tips to Help Your Baby Start Walking

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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