Six or seven million years ago, our ancestors stood up on two feet and walked -- a milestone in evolution. A baby's early steps can seem just as momentous, to you and your child. "Once kids become upright, their worldview and their view of themselves begins to expand," says child psychologist Carol Baicker-McKee, Ph.D. Walking separates babies from toddlers, so to parents it signifies that their child is growing up. No wonder we have so many worries about this developmental high point: Will my baby walk on time? Does walking late mean she'll be unathletic? What should we do to fix his pigeon toes? We've addressed the most common concerns about going mobile.
The Issue: She's slow to crawl.
Studies suggest that kids who crawl early have a slight tendency to walk early, says Laura Levine, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and author of Child Development: An Active Learning Approach. While most kids crawl for at least three months before walking, not all will follow the typical progression -- rolling, sitting up, crawling, pulling up, standing alone, cruising, and then walking. In fact, in recent years, as parents have been putting babies to sleep on their back to help prevent SIDS, kids are on their stomach less and get fewer opportunities to work the neck and trunk muscles that facilitate crawling. "As a result, many kids are crawling later -- and some skip it and go straight to walking," Dr. Levine explains.
It's fine to give your child an incentive to crawl, such as putting her on the floor and then placing a few toys just beyond her reach. "Just keep in mind that children will do things when they're ready," says Lynn Davidson, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at Montefiore Hospital in New York City.
While crawling is not critical to normal development, it is important that your child develops the ability to use the muscles on both sides of her body, which can be seen when she is scooting on her tummy. "Kids don't develop handedness until age 2," explains Dr. Davidson, so if your little one favors one side, only rolls in one direction, or always uses the same foot when scooting, see your doctor to rule out possible neurological problems.