Baby’s first steps
Before your baby takes their first wobbly steps, they will have spent some time practising. Their skills will develop and change as they move from lying to sitting; then sitting to crawling and sitting to standing holding on. These stages of baby development are fuelled by an insatiable curiosity in wanting to touch, see and smell everything. On all fours or standing straight, style doesn’t matter as long as your baby is free to explore everywhere (as long as it’s safe). Help your baby progress at their own pace by providing varied and regular opportunities to explore. There is no hurry – babies grow and develop at different rates, and they need to develop many things including muscle strength and mental strength in order to walk, which develop over time.
During the first few weeks following birth, your baby learns to tone neck and back muscles as you hold them in different positions. This gets muscles ready for the more intensive exercise that they will be doing soon. Pedalling the legs, doing windmills with the arms and rolling are also excellent for tummy muscle development.
Your little champ begins to prop themself up on forearms while lifting their head – this upright posture will develop further over the next few months. Your baby is driven by the curiosity to discover a fascinating world and they will practice rolling over and over and crawling (in a fashion) to get a better look. Although not entirely graceful, your baby’s efforts make you giggle and interact with them which they absolutely love.
At around 8 months old your baby’s efforts are rewarded. A well-earned promotion since your skilled gymnast is now able to sit alone without toppling over and reach out their arms to get hold of objects. Your baby becomes aware of the presence and usefulness of their own body in the quest to explore their surroundings, alone.
Between the age of 9 and12 months, your baby uses strategies to get what and where they want. First it’s on all fours, then on the knees before standing and holding onto furniture or mummy’s and daddy’s hands. Even if your baby is a little unsteady, they will gradually gain self-confidence and competency by sitting and standing alternately over and over again.
All that is needed now is a little courage and determination to go it alone and this happens somewhere (on average) between 10 and 14 months. Your baby’s first steps will be unforgettable for both of you. If your baby is still not walking by 15/16 months then discuss it with your doctor, child health nurse or physiotherapist.
Some ways to inspire confidence in your baby to walk:
A burning question for many parents when their little one is about to walk is ‘does my baby need shoes or not’? According to the experts, the wearing of proper shoes is not needed until your baby is going for walks outdoors.
At home, leave your baby’s little feet bareon soft and firm surfaces. It is the best way to enable them to acquire the proper foot rolling motion and ligament development. When your baby is going outside choose soft, lightweight shoes and you may even want to have your child fitted by a child shoe specialist.
- The playpen:
Playpens are available in all sizes and materials and have a number of advantages. It gives your baby independence as they can stand to stretch their legs while safely holding on to the bars. It leaves you free time to attend to your business elsewhere knowing they are safe. It also helps you slowly stretch out the boundaries. For a few months your baby will want to walk holding on to your hands. At first they will be hesitant moving forward on one foot, then the other, and will gradually feel more at ease and more confident, but might not be quite ready to let go. It is important not to rush your baby and to congratulate their efforts. Even when your little explorer is only holding on with one finger, they still need your reassurance.
At around 10 to 12 months or earlier, your baby only wants one thing – to discover what is happening at the other side of the room or garden. The problem is between wanting to and being able to get over there. Toys that they can safely lean on when learning to walk are therefore highly useful. Toys should be both solid and light with semi-blocking wheels (to prevent your baby shooting off).