Crawl, Walk...Run!

Baby's First Steps

first steps

Linda Farwell

Babies have an intense need to be just like Mommy and Daddy, and that's what drives the desire to walk. "Balance is so tricky," says neuroscientist Lise Eliot, PhD, author of What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Bantam). "You have got so many muscles in the legs, abdomen, and back that have to be precisely coordinated so you don't topple in one direction or another."

Babies are actually born with an innate knowledge of the movements needed for walking. Stand a newborn up on her feet and she will move one foot in front of the other in a walking-like motion. This so-called stepping reflex seems to disappear at around 4 months, but in actuality babies' legs simply become too heavy for their muscles to lift. By 6 months, when you support her standing up, she won't slump over because she is learning how to use her leg muscles for strength and her feet for balance. Once the muscles are built up, walking can begin in earnest. This just happens to coincide with the time when the brain is developed enough to handle balance and spatial understanding. Once babies can stand upright, one way we encourage them to walk is by holding them by their hands and helping them get across the room. So by creating a safe cruising environment and helping your baby balance, you're providing invaluable stimulation.

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