Few early milestones are as exciting as your baby's first steps. Walking opens up the world to both you and your baby. Although there are things you can do to help your baby walk, don't worry if she hasn't taken her first step by her first birthday. Around 50 percent of babies in the U.S. walk after 12 months, the Web site AskDrSears says, but 95 percent of babies walk between 9 and 16 months.
You can't make your little one walk, but you can set the stage by encouraging exploration. Avoid using walkers, which are unsafe and can delay crawling and walking. Limit the use of stationary play centers but offer push-pull walking toys, such as trucks with handles. Make your home a safe place to explore. Place covers on electrical outlets and cover sharp edges on fireplaces and furniture. Arrange furniture so couches and chairs are close enough together that your baby can cling to them as she takes those first furtive steps and remove any furniture that might topple under her weight, says the AskDrSears Web site. Place a toy or stuffed animal on the sofa a few feet away from your baby to encourage her to walk to it.
Save the Sneakers
Bright sandals or athletic shoes look adorable, but they might hinder your baby's ability to walk, especially if they're hard or stiff. Your baby needs to be able to feel and grip the floor, which helps build confidence and balance. Bare-foot is best, but you can use thin leather booties that are meant to replicate bare feet.
Offer a Hand
Babies typically progress from pulling up on furniture to shuffling or cruising around the furniture. Eventually, they let go of the furniture and take a few cautious steps. If your baby seems interested, try holding out your hand for him to grasp. He may take a few furtive steps toward you. As he gains confidence, hold his hands and walk slowly with him or let him walk from you to a partner. Once your baby starts walking, he'll probably want to hold your hand frequently. Walking with a little one can be frustratingly slow, but be patient. Soon you'll be running to keep up with him.
The Waiting Game
Learning to walk takes tremendous effort, and every child learns at his own pace. Some babies are so proficient at crawling or bottom shuffling that they're less interested in walking. Easygoing babies might walk later than those with a high-energy personality, says AskDrSears.com. A baby with a long torso and short legs may have a hard time balancing and may take longer to walk. The age your child walks has no correlation to later intelligence or athletic ability.