5 Exercises That Help Babies Learn How to Walk

smiling baby boy in overalls walking with a parent's help.Along with their first words, a child’s first steps are one of the biggest developmental milestones that parents look forward to celebrating. Gaining the ability to walk signals tremendous progress on the road to independence.

Although each child develops on their own unique timeline, most 1-year-olds will be able to pull themselves up to a standing position and walk along while holding onto furniture (a.k.a., cruising), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If your child is in the furniture cruising stage, there are a few activities you can guide them through to help them on their way to taking their first unsupported steps. Here are some exercises that help babies learn how to walk on their own, as recommended by Sarah Kappers, a student of physical therapy on clinical with Little Steps, and Dr. Steve Sanders of Primrose Schools.

1. Traveling between parallel pieces of furniture.

This exercise works well if you have a couch and a coffee table close together. You can also set up two chairs of the same height. Have your child start holding onto one surface. They can then rotate to place one of their hands on the opposite piece of furniture before turning around fully.

Gradually move the furniture farther apart so your child must stand on their own and even take a couple of steps to travel between the two. Be prepared to catch their fall in case of stumbling.

2. Standing up from a sitting position.

Have your child sit on a small stool near a surface they can hold onto for support. Start by having them stand up from the stool while leaning on the surface. Then, gradually move the two pieces of furniture so there’s more distance between them. Your baby will need to take steps to reach the supporting surface from the stool. Again, be close by and ready to lend a hand.

3. Walking with help.

Stand behind your little one and put your hands on their upper arms. Gently raise them up to a standing position, and then move their arms forward (first one, then the other). Their feet will move along with their arms. Do this for a little while to help your child practice walking with your assistance.

4. Navigating corners.

Arrange tables, couches, chairs or other pieces of furniture so there are straight edges your child can hang onto running perpendicular to each other. Guide your child in navigating the inside corners (e.g., by reaching between the side of a coffee table to the side of another table or chair next to it). To make things a bit more challenging, you can move the pieces of furniture/surfaces farther apart.

5. Learning to sit on a stool.

Have your child sit on a baby-sized stool on their own, without back support. Ask them to lean forward, pick a toy up off the floor, and then sit upright on the stool again. This helps their back, shoulders and legs become stronger in preparation for independent walking. Be ready to catch them if there are any wobbles.

Overall, remember to keep your child away from any sharp corners or other safety hazards while they’re cruising. Additionally, all parents and caregivers should know that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using baby walkers. Despite the name, these devices actually discourage kids from walking on their own, and they also increase the chances that the baby will tip over or fall down a flight of stairs.

If you’d like to learn more about helping your child walk independently and/or any other developmental milestones, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of pediatric professionals. We’re dedicated to delivering comprehensive and compassionate care to improve the lives of children of all ages. For more information about our services, please call 847-707-6744 or email info@littlestepspt.com.

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