According to Heidi Murkoff, author of the "What to Expect" series of child-development books, children can learn to walk as early as 7 months or as late as 18 months. Many factors--including personality, genetics and muscle development--contribute to variations within this normal development spectrum. Parents and caregivers can help to encourage a child's gross-motor development, but no adult can "teach" a chlid to walk unless she is physically, emotionally and cognitively prepared for the task.
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Eliminate infant walkers from your home; ask that your child's other caregivers also avoid these dangerous contraptions. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that, despite common misconceptions, infant walkers actually delay a child's ability to walk by several weeks or months. Infant walkers also cause hundreds of injuries every year; the AAP supports a nationwide ban of all infant walkers with wheels.
Provide your child with a push-toy, such as a play lawnmower, shopping cart or vacuum cleaner. These toys provide a baby with a supportive structure for balancing, while also encouraging leg muscle development and healthy coordination.
Keep your child's feet bare when he is at home, especially when he is attempting to walk with his push-toy. Booties and sneakers impair a baby's balance. If you are concerned about the temperature of your home, a pair of socks with non-skin soles can keep your baby's feet warm without harming his developing coordination.
Encourage your child to stand or cruise against furniture. Place your child's favorite toy on a sofa, ottoman or short table and challenge her to retrieve it. Understand that if a child is not physically capable of standing or cruising, this encouragement may not be successful. If she can not reach the object independently, don't be afraid to help her. Remind her that she has your approval and acceptance regardless of her physical abilities.
Contact your child's pediatrician if he is not trying to stand by 12 months or is not cruising along furniture by 15 months. Heidi Murkoff states that most late walkers are simply uninterested in walking; however, a significant delay may require physical therapy or other intervention techniques. If you have any concerns about your child's development, discuss them with a qualified pediatrician or child development expert.