Milestones: Running

One of the most important milestones in your child's life is learning to walk! This is literally a big step towards independence. First, your child is still leaning against the sofa and carefully tries first small tapers in your open arms. Later on, she runs, hops and jumps perfectly, leaving her time as a baby behind her.

When does my child learn to walk?

During the first year of life, your baby gradually gains strength and begins to coordinate his movements. In the beginning, it learns to sit, roll and crawl. Then - at about eight months - it can pull itself up and stand on two feet. From then on, it is above all a question of trust and balance: Most babies dare their first steps between the ninth and 12th month and can go well with 14 or 15 months. But do not worry if your child needs a little longer. Many children do not walk until they are 16 or 17 months old.

How does development work?

In the first two months

In the first few weeks of your life, if you hold it up under your arms, your baby will dangle his legs and kick his feet firmly to the floor. Almost as if it wanted to run. But that's a reflex that disappears after two months: Your child's legs are not strong enough to run.

At Five Months

When your baby is around five months old it will bounce up and down when you balance it with your feet on your thighs. Hopping is a favorite pastime of your child over the next few months. All the while, as your child's leg muscles grow stronger and learn to spin, sit, and crawl.

Between nine and ten months

When your baby is nine to ten months old, it tries to hold on to furniture and pull it upright. If you put it on the sofa, it will stick to it.

In the next few weeks, your child will master this better and finally go on an exploration tour. He is helped by the furniture that he still holds on to (Scott 2010, Sheridan 2008). Now and then it lets go of the support and finally can stand without help. When the time comes, your child will probably be able to take steps as long as you are still holding on to it. And it may try to pick up toys from the ground.

At nine or ten months, your baby will find out how to bend his knees and sit down after walking. That's harder than most adults believe!

Between eleven and 13 months

With eleven months your child can probably stand alone, stoop and sit down by herself. It may even work if it holds your hand. But it will take a few more weeks for your baby to walk the first few steps alone. Most children do their early tiptoeing and with their feet turned outwards.

At 13 months, three-quarters of all infants run without help, albeit shaky. If your child is still exploring with the help of furniture, all that means is that it will take some time to get lost. Some children do not walk until 16 or 17 months or even later.

What's next?

After the first magical steps toward independence, children learn to master fine motor skills.

  • At 14 months your toddler should be able to stand alone. It can probably also bend forward and straighten up again. Maybe your child is already practicing backwards.
  • At fifteen, a child can walk pretty well on average, and enjoys tossing and pulling toys.
  • At 16 months, your child will want to try climbing stairs - even if it takes a few more months to master it alone.
  • Most kids are busy runners at 18 months old. Many can run up the stairs by the hand (even if they need some help for a few more months to come back down) and love doing gymnastics across the furniture. Your toddler may try to kick balls, even if that is not always successful. And when you play music, your child may like to dance to it.
  • At 25 or 26 months, your child's steps become more even and it rolls the foot from heel to toe, as adults do. At this time, children will also be better at jumping.
  • Around the third birthday, many of the basic movements have already passed into the flesh and blood of your child. It will no longer focus its energy and attention on running, standing, running or jumping. Although some actions, such as standing on tiptoe or on one leg, still require high concentration and full effort.

How can I help my child learn how to walk?

While your baby is learning to stand, it may need help finding out how to land it on the butt. If it fails and cries, do not just pick up your child and then lay it down or sit down. It is much better to show your baby how to bend the knees and sit down without falling forward. Let your child try this with your help.

You can encourage your baby to walk by standing or kneeling in front of your child, holding it by the hands and leading it towards you.Or you buy your child a slide car or similar construction that it can hold on to and push forward (in this case, find something that is stable and has a wide base, so do not wobble or even fall over).

Because walkers make it too easy for the child to walk around the area, preventing the healthy development of the upper leg muscles, some experts warn against using them (Capt 2008 and 2011, ECSA 2010, Hall and Elliman 2006, NHS 2009, RoSPA 2010).

With shoes, you can wait for your baby to walk outside or on rough and cold surfaces (NHS 2009). Walking barefoot promotes balance and coordination.

As always, make sure that your baby has a soft and safe environment in which to train his new abilities. Read our child safety guide and never leave your child unattended. It might fall or need your help.

When should I be worried?

As already described, some children do not walk until they are 16 or 17 months old. And that is quite normal. It is important that the skills develop on the whole. If your child was a bit late while rolling and crawling, it may take a little while to run.

As long as your child continues to learn new things, you do not have to worry. Babies learn differently, some faster, some slower than others. But if your child is very clear, talk to the pediatrician about it. Keep in mind that premature babies reach this and other milestones later than their peers.

Sources

Capt. 2008. Baby walkers: factsheet. Child Accident Prevention Trust. www. capt. org. uk [as of May 2011]

Capt. 2011. Safety FAQs: I've been given a baby walker. Should I use it? Child Accident Prevention Trust. www. child safety week. org. uk [as of May 2011]

ECSA / ANEC. 2010. Baby walkers: joint position statement. European child safety alliance / ANEC. www. Euro safe. eu. com [as of May 2011]

Farrell P and Sittlington N. 2009. The normal baby. In Fraser DM, Cooper MA. eds. Myles textbook for midwives. 15th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 763-783.

Hall DMB, Elliman D. 2006. Health for all children. 4th ed (revised). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 90

NHS. nd. Birth to five development timeline. NHS Choices, Birth to five. www. nhs. uk [as of May 2011]

NHS. 2009a. Safety for babies. NHS Choices, Birth to five. www. nhs. uk [as of May 2011]

NHS. 2009b. Leg and foot problems in children. NHS Choices, Birth to five. www. nhs. uk [as of May 2011]

RoSPA. 2010. Should my child use a baby walker? Royal Society for the prevention of accidents. www. RoSPA. com [as of May 2011]

Scott O. 2010. Delay in Walking. Patient UK. www. patient. co. uk [as of May 2011]

Sheridan M. 2008. From birth to five years: children's developmental progress.London: Routledge

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