When do babies start walking?

Your baby will probably start walking sometime between 9 and 15 months, but many babies don't walk until 18 months. Long before your baby learns to walk, they're building strength and skills like muscle control, balance, and coordination. You don't need to teach your baby to walk, but there are lots of ways to encourage them to take those first steps. And talk to your baby's doctor if they can't take steps on their own by 15 months or can't walk by 18 months.

dads with babies holding their hands to help them walk
Photo credit: © Jayme Burrows / Stocksy United

When do babies walk?

Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 15 months and are walking well by the time they're 15 to 18 months old. 

During your baby's first year, they're busy developing coordination and muscle strength in every part of their body. Your little one will likely learn to roll over, sit, and crawl before moving on to pulling up and standing at about 9 months old.

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From then on, it's a matter of gaining confidence and balance. One day your child's standing holding on to the couch – maybe cruising along it – and the next they're taking careful first steps into your waiting arms. Then your little one is off and running, leaving babyhood behind. Your child's first steps are a first major move toward independence.

How babies start learning to walk

Long before babies take their first step, they're working on the skills they need to go toddling across the room. In order to walk, your child needs muscle strength, balance, and the ability to perceive their body in space. Your little one acquires these skills slowly over the first year.

Birth to 2 months

Your newborn's legs aren't nearly strong enough to support them yet, but if you hold your baby upright under their arms, they'll dangle their legs down and push against a hard surface with their feet, almost as if they're walking. This is the stepping reflex, and it usually lasts until 2 months old.

During the first two months, your baby is gaining neck control and learning to hold their head up. Encourage this by starting tummy time right away. Wearing your baby in a carrier is another great way to encourage core development. Your baby is working to strengthen the muscles that they'll eventually use to roll over, sit, crawl, and walk.

3 to 6 months

By the time the fourth trimester ends, you'll notice that your baby is getting stronger and more capable. Many 4-month-olds can do mini pushups, lifting their head and chest off the ground when they're on their belly.

At this age, babies are also building their coordination. They'll start grabbing for objects, which helps them understand their bodies within space – an important skill for keeping upright while walking. They'll most likely also start to roll over in both directions and sit up while supported.

By the time your baby's about 6 months old, they'll bounce up and down if you hold them under the arms and let them balance their feet on your thighs. Bouncing will be a favorite activity over the next couple of months as your baby's leg muscles continue to develop.

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7 to 11 months

Soon, your baby will officially be on the move. Many (but not all) babies learn to crawl between 7 and 10 months. They may do the classic crawl, commando crawl on their bellies, or scoot on their butts – it's all normal.

At about 9 months old, your baby will probably start trying to pull themself up to a stand while holding on to furniture (so make sure everything in their path is sturdy enough to support them). If you help them by propping them up next to the sofa, they'll hang on tight.

Many babies also use the crib rail to pull to standing. If you haven't already, make sure to move your baby's crib mattress to the lowest setting so your baby can't topple out.

At 9 or 10 months, your baby will begin to figure out how to bend their knees and sit down after standing – which is harder than you might think!

12 to 18 months

After mastering the standing position, your baby will start to cruise, moving from one piece of furniture to the next for support. They may even be able to let go and stand without support for a few seconds.

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About this time, your baby will also probably be stooping and squatting. Once they can do that, they may be able to scoop up a toy from a standing position.

At first, your baby may take steps while gripping your hand, or with the help of a walking toy. But eventually they'll walk on their own.


How to teach your baby to walk

There are so many things parents need to teach their children, but walking isn't one of them. Most babies figure it out on their own. By giving your baby plenty of time to develop their muscles, balance, and coordination, you're helping them get ready to walk.

Here are other ways to help:

  • Give your baby lots of tummy time. This will allow them to develop their core and build awareness of their body.
  • Create safe, baby-proofed areas in your home where there's plenty of room for your baby to move.
  • When you notice your baby enjoys an activity – like jumping on your thighs or in a baby jumper – encourage them to keep doing it.
  • Once your baby is standing and cruising, you can encourage them to walk by standing or kneeling in front of them and holding out your hands. Or you might hold both of their hands and let them walk toward you.
  • Give your baby a walking toy to use for balance as they walk.
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Note: Old-fashioned baby walkers – where a baby sits inside the walker and wheels around – aren't safe, and pediatricians don't recommend them. They also don't help babies learn to walk. But toys that your child walks behind and pushes are fine to use. These help babies who are just learning to walk balance so they can take those first steps.

Also, hold off on introducing baby shoes until your baby is walking around outside. Going barefoot helps improve balance and coordination.

What to do if your baby doesn't walk

Some babies just take longer to hit this milestone. But talk to your baby's doctor if your child:

  • can't stand when supported by 12 months old
  • can't take steps on their own by 15 months old
  • can't walk by 18 months old
  • doesn't walk steadily by 2 years old

Keep in mind that babies have different timetables, and premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than their peers. If your baby was premature, date their milestones from your due date, which pediatricians refer to as your baby's adjusted age.

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After your baby walks, what's next?

After those first magical steps toward independence, your child will begin to master the finer points of mobility:

  • Standing: At 14 months, your toddler should be able to stand alone. They can probably squat down and then stand back up again, and they might even work on walking backward.
  • Steadier walking: By 15 months, your child may be pretty good at walking. They might walk with their legs fairly far apart and their feet pointed outward. This is normal and helps maintain stability.
  • Climbing stairs: At about 16 months, your child will begin to take an interest in going up and down stairs – though they probably won't navigate them without your help until age 2. Make sure you have baby gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
  • Dancing: By 18 months, your little walker may also enjoy dancing to music.
  • Jumping and kicking: Around age 2, your child's steps will be more even, and they'll get the hang of the smooth heel-to-toe motion that adults use. They'll also be getting better at running and jumping, and they may try to kick a ball.

By the time your child's third birthday rolls around, many basic movements will have become second nature. They'll be able to walk up and down stairs with one foot on each stair. They'll walk, stand, squat, run, and jump with both feet together, though some actions, such as standing on tiptoes or on one foot, might still require concentration and effort. To learn more, check out your child's walking timeline.

Follow your baby's amazing development

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

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Kelly Burch

Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist covering health, entrepreneurship, family, and more. She's passionate about bringing complex topics to life through stories that are easy to read and informative. Burch lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two young daughters. When she's not at her desk, you'll find her kayaking or hiking in the wilderness around her home. Burch is currently writing a book about traveling around the United States in an RV with her family for seven months.