Mastering the Walk
Probably no milestone is as chock-full of thrills, chills, and excitement as your baby's first steps. Between 13 and 15 months, "all of your child's energy will be focused on taking those first unsupported steps," says DeAnn Davies, a child development specialist at Healthy Steps, a pediatric care program in Phoenix. "You might notice that your child isn't learning new words at the same rate, for instance, because she's so busy trying to master walking."
Just imagine balancing on a tightrope without a net, with little ability to stop, start, or change direction. Carrying on a conversation would be the last thing on your mind! In fact, walking requires such enormous complexity of balance and coordination, "he really can't do anything else and may not even be able to listen if you're talking to him," says Karen Carter, MD, a developmental pediatrician at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center, in Augusta.
The Pitter-Patter of Little Feet
- First, your child pulls to stand on whatever looks handy -- the coffee table, crib rail, or couch will do nicely as her first balance beam.
- Now she's on cruise control. Her fingers will do the walking first, as she slides both hands along whatever's supporting her, using mostly the weight of her arms to support her body.
- Soon, your child will rise to the rank of Expert Cruiser, as she discovers that she can stand back from her support with arms outstretched. This move places more of her weight on her legs. Instead of sliding both hands together now, she'll be confident enough to cross hand-over-hand; feet eventually follow in kind, as beginning walkers move from sliding their feet to picking them up off the ground and balancing.
- When she can rely on just one hand and one foot to support her, she'll be ready to cross small gaps between safe handholds. She won't yet release one support unless she can reach another, but she'll crank up her cruising speed and delight in moving from couch to table to Dad's pant leg, improving coordination as she learns how to judge distances and recognize objects from this new perspective.