What Can I Do To Help My Baby Learn How To Walk?
It’s such a fun time in a baby’s development, when they look like wanting to get up and go for a wander. No longer the little individual who is happy to lie there and be attended to, he now wants to be independent and explore his world at every opportunity. Once he walks, he can finally follow you around without crawling; he can keep up with his brothers and sisters and see what they’re getting up to out of his line of sight.
Walkers and jumpers
Contrary to popular opinion over the last few decades, walkers and jumpers do not speed up the process of learning to walk, and can in fact slow it down. Plonking a baby into a walker seems like a great idea, but it actually has him sitting, not standing on his own two feet. It can slightly hinder the development of the muscles he needs to walk, and when he does try walking, the sensation of standing and trying to maintain balance won’t feel as natural. Similarly with jumpers, the sensation is different to what he should be aiming towards.
Every day, make time to help your baby stand and hold himself up. Of course, he’ll start by holding on to furniture or to you, but that’s just fine. Before he can walk, he needs to balance. This process also helps strengthen his leg muscles. You can even sit on the floor facing him, hold his hands and encourage him to pull himself up to a standing position. Then, if he seems ready, coax one of his feet forward toward you. Give him lots of verbal encouragement too, and tons of smiles. He’ll see that it makes you happy that he’s trying to walk and he’ll love impressing you!
How to hold your baby
When possible, rather than holding your baby’s hands when he tries to walk, try to kneel and hold him by the torso. This feels more natural than having hands up in the air. Sometimes though, it can be lovely for him to be flanked either side by a parent, grandparent or sibling, each holding one of his hands, and helping him teeter forwards as he tries to become more sure of himself.
Leave shoes off
Our feet were created perfectly for walking. Soft pads on the soles, complete with non-slip skin is just what we need, so there’s no real need for shoes while learning to walk. If the floor is cold, see if you can buy some of those cool socks that have the rubberized pads on them to avoid slipping.
Try different surfaces
If you’ve ever seen a baby on a sandy beach, you’ll see how excited they get when they feel the sand between their toes. Babies love to feel different textures. Take him outdoors to try walking on grass, or practise on carpet, linoleum, wood or tiles. Each new surface will feel like a new experience.
When baby can pull himself up to a standing position, try putting something like a cardboard box in front of him that’s sturdy enough not to collapse and light enough that he can push it. With each gentle push, he can take an extra step forward.
Remember, all this extra exercise is going to make your baby tire more quickly so be prepared for some earlier bedtimes. He might also be hungrier than normal. All of these are signs that he’s growing and developing beautifully.