Get baby walking?!?! Did I really just say that?! Do I want to encourage my baby to walk?! We are currently in the midst of our son learning to walk. He has been cruising (walking along furniture) since he was ten months old. Call me crazy, tell me I’ve lost my mind, tell me to be careful what I wish for, tell me not to rush things but yes, I’m excited and eager for my son to be vertical, up on two feet. It pains me to look at his bruised and callused little knees and feet. And his hybrid crawl, going between regular and crab crawling, is just awkward and cumbersome. He demonstrates all the prerequisites for walking, though he’s so efficient at crawling that he always defaults to it. At thirteen months old, it’s time for my son to take the leap. The time has come for us to get to work, work on walking.
There is no doubt in my mind that babies will walk when they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready, however we can support this skill development by offering practice. Practice and repetition build confidence and that’s just what my little man is lacking, keeping him from taking off on two. Here are some of the activities we are doing to help our son build confidence and move from horizontal to upright mobility.
Tips to move from cruising, to toddling, to walking:
- Hand hold-The starting point. When babies legs are strong enough and they ready to take a few steps, they will gladly grab hold of your two hands and walk in front of you. Hold their arms out to their sides, this is how they balance. Babies naturally hold their arms out while toddling to keep their balance. Once they are good at this, then you move to the one-handed hold, walking beside them. This allows babies to practice taking steps and process the feeling.
- Wrist hold-My son is clever enough to sense my upcoming hand release and therefore is clinching to my fingers and dropping to the floor as soon as I pull them out of his clutch. I’ve since started holding him by his wrist, which allows me to easily let go and him to continue moving forward. This is working!
- Push and Pull toys– Activity walkers and ride alongs teach babies the power of walking and give them the experience of what it is like. They are basically a tease to get babies upright and enjoying the view. Offer baby lots of opportunities to use activity walkers during the transition phase from crawling to walking. My son is really into his Vtech Learn and Zoom Bike right now.
- Takes two to tango-Get a partner involved and have baby practice walking a couple of rounds between the two of you. You want to be at eye level with baby while doing this. You can start by exchanging baby back and forth providing full support then gradually letting loose.
- Bait-Entice baby to walk to get something fun and cool, an object of desire. New or unfamiliar items usually work really well for this. Hold or place the item in front of baby within a few walking steps then gradually increase the distance. When baby gets close to the object, move it further away. Once babies are in motion, try to keep them in motion.
- Wide open spaces-Practice in large, open, clutter-free spaces where things baby can grab onto are limited. For example, when I practice with my son in the hallway, he beelines straight for the wall. It doesn’t help that he walks sideways and in circles but he quickly seeks support. Keeping the area clutter-free reduces fall risks.
- Elevate and support-Practice having baby start from an elevated sitting position such as on steps. This way they can easily move from sitting to standing and don’t have to coordinate moving from floor sitting, to standing, to balancing, to getting in motion. From a step, they are already half way there, it takes less effort to get up and go. My little is using my legs for support. When he stands in front of me, he presses the back of his head up against my legs. It’s ok, because I get him standing as straight up as possible then give him a teeny nudge to get him in motion and pair this with language such as, “let’s go get daddy,” seems to work.
- Set the stage-Get babies in situations where they are between two pieces of furniture or a large toy and furniture within a few steps walking distance apart and they will likely begin to adventure upright between the two without even realizing it.
- Try Again-Babies are going to fall…a lot! Be careful not to over-react when they do. If they are in no harms way say something like, “uhoh fall down, let’s try again” and move right back into being upright and practicing walking.
- Role Model-Have mini walking friends lend a helping hand. This is a win for all involved and by far my favorite tip!
- Practice-Set aside daily practice sessions multiple times a day of which your attention is solely dedicated to walking. Practice sessions should be short and sweet, just a few minutes. You don’t want baby to get frustrated. Practice allows babies to learn what works and what doesn’t. Have your baby walk (hand-held) more than being carried. When you do carry, put them down in standing position versus sitting. Practice on different surfaces (carpet, grass, hardwoods, sand, gravel, uneven surfaces). Practice and repetition = confidence.
- Encourage– Babies thrive on attention and love being praised. Give them lots and lots of excitement and verbal encouragement such as, “yay, good walking” or “woowho, you did it, you walked.” It’s important to state “walk, walking, walked” so baby learns what it is you are asking them to do.
These are activities that we are presently integrating into our days. It will not be long until they are old news, but for now we practice and learn. Do you have any walking tricks to recommend?! Please share.
Respect, kindness and love begin with babies…we must show them the way!