Learning to crawl
Crawling – assuming your baby does it – normally starts between 6 and 10 months of age. Besides giving your baby regular tummy time, preferably on the floor, there are several things you can do to make it easier for him to get moving. Do not overdress your baby, as this would hamper the movement of his limbs and joints. When possible, leave your baby’s feet, knees and elbows bare, as this will give him better grip.
To help your baby get moving in the prone position, let her push off against your hands with her feet. This should help her begin to belly crawl. If your baby looks about ready to get onto all fours, you can help by bending her legs gently and lifting up her bottom. Don’t force your baby into this position though, and don’t try to rush her into crawling on all fours.
You can also encourage your baby’s mobility by dangling his favorite toys just out of reach, or once he has started to belly crawl, calling for him to come to you on the other side of the room. Avoid aids like walkers, which take a lot of the effort out of getting around – to babies’ detriment.
Learning to walk
Babies normally start walking between 10 and 18 months. Some parents get anxious when their baby shows no signs of walking at a year of age. If that describes you, then remember what Glenn Doman says about the importance of crawling in developing speech as well as reading and writing skills. If he’s right, then learning to walk late might actually be a good thing!
As your baby gets ready to start walking, she will grab the furniture and pull herself up to a standing position. She will then experiment with “cruising” – moving around on her feet with the furniture for support, and occasionally standing for a few seconds unaided. Let her do so barefoot, as this will make it easier for her to develop her balance and coordination.
There’s plenty you can do to help strengthen your baby’s leg muscles besides. Before he begins to stand (or even crawl), let him grip your fingers (holding his wrists as a precaution) and pull him up to standing, so that he’s supporting his own weight. Later, you can help him “walk” by supporting him under the arms. When he starts to cruise, encourage him to let go of the furniture by holding out your fingers and letting him grip you with both hands. Before you know it, he’ll be holding on to you with one hand only.
Babies start getting up on their feet before they know how to get back down, so don’t be surprised if your little one cries for help while standing. Rather than picking her up, you can help her learn to sit down by gently bending her knees and supporting her weight until she reaches the floor.
Enjoying the journey
Whether your child is learning to crawl or to walk, give him as much opportunity to move around as possible, minimizing the use of playpens and other restrictive devices. When he first starts walking, help by directing him to flat, smooth surfaces. As his coordination improves, let him walk on an incline and on uneven surfaces, both of which will help to develop his balance.
Most of all, enjoy your little one’s first unsteady steps into the world. Babies grow up fast, and it won’t be long before looking after your child involves a lot more running than walking!