Worried because your wee one has yet to take his first step while all the other babies his age are toddling right along? No need to fear! It is actually more common than you'd think for babies not to start walking (or anything else) on a set schedule.
Maybe the baby books or your friends told you that your child should be going for 10-mile hikes and perhaps even ballroom dancing by 12 months. Your child didn't read those books, and he doesn't pay much attention to your friend's opinions either. He is doing what his body tells him to do. You need to trust that baby knows best. If you're having a little trouble tuning out all the criticism about the fact that your little one's not yet up and running, here's some advice for you:
- Talk to your pediatrician. This is the first thing you should do if you have any concerns about your child's late walking. If any type of physical problem could be causing this delay, the sooner you bring it to the doctor's attention, the better her chance of treating it successfully. If there is no problem, though, you'll at least gain some peace of mind from knowing that a medical professional doesn't see anything to worry about.
- Safe space. Make sure you have an open area in your home where your little one has plenty of room to move, as well as a few interesting objects just out of reach that may prompt him to want to get up and explore.
- Obstacle course. Set up a little “obstacle course” in your living room with your couch, chairs and coffee table arranged so that your tiny tot can cruise between them, holding on to something safe and solid as he goes. Arrange toys around the course so he's got some incentive to move from one area to another.
- Push car. Look for a little push car with a handle that your child can hang on to. Many little walkers like to take their first steps holding onto something that moves along with them.
- A little help from my friends. Enlist the aid of an older child, spouse or friend, and have the two of you stand a few feet apart with baby between you. Help him to stand, holding onto your hands, then have the other person reach out to him and help him take a few steps to the other side. Encourage him to go back and forth, moving just a little bit apart as he gets the hang of this new game.
- Physical therapy. If you really have concerns about your child's late development and he's not showing any signs of wanting to get up and move on his own, ask your pediatrician to recommend a good physical therapist who specializes in young children. A therapist can evaluate your child's physical condition and show you different types of exercises specifically tailored to your child's needs.
- Don't worry! Not only is late walking in most cases not a cause for concern—it can also be a very positive thing. Believe it or not, chiropractor Peter Fysh, D.C., says that late walkers can actually be smarter and better coordinated when they reach school age. He cites studies in which early walkers consistently demonstrate lower scores on preschool assessment tests, and says this is due to the fact that the crawling stage is actually extremely important to the way a child's brain develops.
Just remember, too, that someday you will look back and laugh … like the day your former late walker is running all over the place, bouncing off walls, and you just can't keep up with him. In fact, now may just be your last chance to relax, sit down and take a breath! Soon enough you'll be chasing your child around the house, and neither of you will even remember that he wasn't walking as early as the neighbor's kid.