When Do Babies Start Walking?

When Do Babies Start Walking? - Header Image

Key Points

  • Most babies take their first steps between nine months and one year of age, turning into confident walkers by 14 months.
  • If your baby isn't walking by the time they're 18 months old, consult your doctor, but there is probably no cause for concern.
  • Plenty of tummy time and reduced reliance on walking aids are the best way to help your baby learn to walk.
  • It is not recommended that babies wear shoes when first learning how to walk.
  • Studies have shown no link between early walking and increased intelligence or coordination.

The first few years of a child's life are full of exciting milestones. The first smile, the first time they roll over, the first time they sleep through the night – sometimes it seems like your little baby is doing something new almost every week. Perhaps one of the biggest and most important milestones in every child's life is when they take their first steps and officially become a toddler.

So, when do babies start walking? Most babies will take their first steps between nine months and one year of age, and will be confident, independent walkers by 14 months.

However, as with almost every other aspect of parenthood, this is simply a guide. A baby taking their first steps anywhere between nine and 18 months is considered normal, and even then there can be outliers where children begin walking later or earlier (such as babies walking at six months of age, as we'll see later in this article!).

Not only does your baby's first steps indicate an enormous leap into independence, but this milestone also has a fundamental impact on your day-to-day life. Now, even more so than ever before, you will need to develop eyes in the back of your head as your new toddler sets out to explore their world.

What Is The Average Age For A Baby To Start Walking?

According to the World Health Organisation, most children begin walking alone (defined as taking at least five steps independently in an upright position with a straight back, without any contact with a person or object) between eight months and 18 months. However, it is more commonly accepted for babies to take their first tentative steps between nine months and one year, and to be confident, independent walkers by approximately 14 months of age.

Baby taking his first steps

Babies find walking to be an enormous transition from standing. Standing involves the contraction of the muscles in the legs, ankles, and hips, to provides a sturdy base to support the weight of the child. Walking, however, involves a delicate balance between relaxing and contracting muscles on each leg in turn to allow their knees, hips, and ankles to bend – first on one side then on the other.

Keep in mind that once a baby starts walking, they are not likely to completely give up crawling. By the time a baby takes their first tentative steps, they have usually had several months to become confident (and fast!) crawlers. Walking is difficult and slow to begin with, so your baby may alternate between walking and calling depending on whether they're looking to build new skills or simply get wherever they want to go as quickly as possible.

What Is The Youngest Age That A Baby Has Walked?

While this is a very rare occurrence, the youngest recorded age a baby has started walking was at 6 months!

According to news reports, two babies in the United Kingdom both started walking at six months of age. In one instance, a little boy named Xavier was sitting up on his own at three months of age and began walking without support at six months .

In the other news report, a little girl named Freya was standing at two months of age,sitting by herself at four months, and began walking at just six and a half months .

What Are The Signs That A Baby Will Soon Start To Walk?

Before your baby starts walking, be on the lookout for some very clear signs that they getting ready to take the next developmental leap. Typical signs include:

  • They can stand independently
  • Being pulling on objects to stand themselves up
  • Cruising meaning they can walk while holding onto objects
  • Start shifting weight between their legs
Baby cruising on table

Walking can't occur until standing has been mastered, so your baby will already have spent plenty of time standing while supporting their weight on people and objects, and then standing independently.

When your baby starts pulling themselves up to stand, you know that their first steps are imminent. From there, the next step will likely be your baby shifting their weight between their legs while standing still.

At this point, they are experimenting with contracting and releasing their muscles, and learning how to shift their balance to support their weight momentarily on one leg, leaving the other leg free to move.

At roughly the same time that your baby’s shifting weight from one foot to another, they'll begin cruising – using furniture, toys, and even people's legs to hold onto as they make their way around the room. It won't be long now!

How Can I Help My Baby Learn To Walk?

On the one hand, your baby will walk when they are good and ready to walk. On the other hand, there are things you can do to help your baby develop the strength and flexibility they need to coordinate their limbs and achieve this very significant physical development milestone.

Father helping his son to learn to walk

Most importantly – and despite what you might be told by your local baby store or other online advice – you don't need to purchase any special equipment to help your baby learn to walk. In some instances, it can be all this special equipment that can delay a baby from starting to walk.

Before babies can learn how to walk, they must first master the art of crawling. Crawling is most easily achieved when babies have had plenty of tummy time, giving them the opportunity to learn how to hold their head up, start to roll, and to eventually pull themselves up to a crawling position.

These are all vitally important milestones for your child to achieve before they can begin walking, so the more chance your child has to play and explore on the floor, the better. This means spending less time in walkers and seating aids and more time just playing and being free to move around on the floor.

Walkers, in particular, are often touted as an easy way to teach babies how to walk. However, the opposite is often true. While in a walker, the baby is in a seated position with their hips flexed. To make the walker move, the baby uses only their lower legs, without engaging their hips at all.

This is an unnatural walking position – one that must effectively be unlearned when the baby starts learning to walk unaided. Rather than providing a baby with a variety of walking equipment, concentrate on giving them plenty of unaided playtime on the floor.

Should My Baby Wear Shoes For Walking?

Despite how adorable tiny baby feet look in tiny baby shoes, it is not recommended for babies to wear shoes when learning to walk .

Baby wearing one shoe and eating another

Part of learning to walk involves your baby using their feet to feel the ground and know where it is safe to step without having to look down. If it's too cold or unsafe for your baby to be barefoot, socks with rubber grips underneath are a safe and reliable alternative.

When Should I Worry About My Baby Not Walking?

While babies can vary considerably in the time it takes them to reach their various developmental milestones, a baby who has reached 18 months of age but is not yet walking is considered to be a delayed walker .

It is important that you consult with your child's doctor – if you haven't already done so – if a child is not walking by the time they are a year and a half old.

However, in most instances, there is no cause for concern since the question of when do babies start walking vary on so many factors. Your doctor will most likely run some routine tests to check for problems with your child's hips such as hip dysplasia, leg weakness, or poor muscle tone.

In some instances, your doctor may recommend a period of physical therapy to help your child learn the basic movements needed to begin walking and to build up the required strength and flexibility in their ankles, legs, knees, and hips.

Is There Any Link Between Walking Age And Intelligence?

If your baby has passed their first birthday and still seems happy to crawl or sit and watch the world go by, try not to worry. While it's always a good idea to bring up any concerns you have with your baby's doctor, rest assured that there is no link between late walking and problems in later childhood.

Children who start walking early turn out later to be neither more intelligent nor more well-coordinated

One particular study considered this question in-depth and concluded that reaching the walking developmental milestone earlier did not lead to higher levels of intelligence or coordination in later childhood.

Windows of Achievement for gross motor milestones
Milestone Range
Sitting without Support 3.5 - 9.5 Months
Standing with Assistance 5 - 11.5 Months
Hands & Knees Crawling 5 - 14 Months
Walking with Assistance 5.5 - 14.5 Months
Standing Alone 6.5 - 17 Months
Walking Alone 8 - 18 Months

As seasoned walkers ourselves, it can be easy to forget just how difficult learning to walk really is. Walking requires strength and stability in the ankles, hips, and abdomen, as well as a steady sense of balance – not to mention the physical strength required in a baby’s legs to carry their weight.

When wondering when do babies start walking, keep in mind that walking isn't solely about physical capabilities. Some babies are naturally inquisitive and keen to explore and gain their independence, while other babies love nothing more than sitting and observing the world around them.

Some babies are headstrong risk-takers and will happily fall down five times and get back up six times, while others are risk-averse and may choose the safer option of crawling (or waiting to be carried!) as a means of transport.

If you're concerned that your baby hasn't started walking yet, bring it up with your child's doctor. But just remember that – just as every adult is unique, so too is every baby. Children reach their milestones in their own time, and nothing will stop a baby from walking when they decide they are ready to do so.