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The most common question that parents ask about their healthy children is when the child should walk. In most parts of the world, it's a major developmental milestone, equivalent to talking and learning how to use a potty.

It all comes from the brain

No matter how old, intelligent, or strong your child is, and whether or not you put them in a baby walker, they won't take the first individual steps before the entire body — including the brain — is ready for walking. The brain sends signals and activates all the correct muscles needed for the process of walking, and all of these movements must come in the correct order. [1]

Walking is an important motor milestone associated with infants' understanding of their bodies in relation to the environment, according to a study conducted by Washington University and led by Natasha Marrus, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor in Psychiatry. They realized that learning to walk is connected with the brain network called the default brain network that operates when the brain seems to be doing nothing. Apparently, this network is crucial in developing one’s own sense of self, and disruptions can be linked to the early diagnosis of autism. [2]

One of the most challenging steps in the process of learning to walk is controlling top body heaviness. The head is quite large for toddlers' small bodies, and controlling it over the body while moving the legs in a walking pattern is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of learning to walk. This is why some children take longer to walk than others.

No shoes at home

Parents often wonder what the best shoes are for their emerging walkers, and they tend to purchase expensive hard-soled shoes too early. This may sound surprising, but experts recommend no shoes at all as much as possible. The reason for this surprising recommendation is that when the child is learning to crawl, pull himself up,  and to cruise around, he has to be able to flex the feet. It's also important to feel the floor underneath, and this is possible only if the child is barefoot or wearing light footwear. [3]

Just remember your stiffest shoes or your most uncomfortable heels, and you'll grasp how uncomfortable it is for babies to get adventurous in their hard soles, no matter how expensive they might be.

The main purpose of shoes is to protect our feet when walking outside. Putting shoes on a baby too early won't help them walk any sooner [4].

The final stages of learning to walk

The last step in the walking puzzle is figuring out how to lift off only one foot while the other is still on the floor. Your baby will stagger with her arms up as she learns how to keep her balance. To walk, a child will need to contract and relax a lot of muscles; around 200 of them are needed to make a single step. [56]

Most children will walk by the time they're 15 months old [7]. Children shouldn't have inactive periods that are longer than an hour, except when they’re sleeping. Experts recommend that you provide at least half an hour of adult-led outdoor activity every day, either playing in the park, playground, or going for a walk — and as much free play as possible, where a child can freely delve into toys and things around the house — of course, under your supervision. [8]

It is possible that the child makes a few steps on his own, and then for weeks, you don't see any changes. Don't worry about this, it won't be long until you see progress again. Children sometimes get lazy or even scared. Remember that if your child is otherwise healthy, the timeline of their developmental milestones is just a rough guide. [9]

Stay away from baby walkers

Hold back from purchasing a baby walker, as it may get your little one into trouble very quickly. According to research, injuries involving baby walkers are quite common, and often include head traumas, burns, falls down stairs, and finger entrapments. People often don't even realize how dangerous they may be. Ninety-two percent of families in the United Arab Emirates, for example, liked and used baby walkers to "keep the baby safe“.  [1011]

Stationary activity centers are interesting to babies and generally considered safe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They've been promoted lately as a safer alternative to baby walkers [12]. Push toys are also a good alternative for supervised play-time. They won't help children to walk sooner, but they are much safer than infant walkers. Just make sure you have an eye on your baby all the time.

If a child has special needs, she may take longer to achieve milestones such as walking or talking. Don't get jealous of other children on the playground if they're on their feet and yours still prefers crawling or cruising around, as that's for a very simple reason — yours is not developmentally ready to be walking yet. Every child is unique and will get there as soon as they're ready. It's not only that you shouldn't try to speed up the process, you can't even if you wanted to. Nature will once again take care of it.