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Before children learn how to walk, they'll go through several stages of preparation for the big milestone: sitting, crawling, standing with support, and cruising while holding onto furniture.

Cruising is one of the last steps in the process of learning to walk independently. A child learns to pull himself to a standing position anywhere from six to 10 months of age. [1] Within a few weeks of learning to stand up, your baby will start walking around the house while holding onto furniture for support. This process is called cruising.

Most parents hope that the child will walk independently soon after she learns to stand and walk with support, but cruising can last for months before she's finally ready to let go.

My daughter started cruising quite early, so we thought she'd be an early walker, but we ended up waiting almost three months for her to finally be able to take those first few individual steps. Parents have even reported their babies cruising for five months before making the first unassisted steps.

It's important to make a safe environment for the child around your home. This can mean anything from teaching her that you'll be there to catch her in case she falls down, to removing sharp and dangerous objects throughout the house [2]. If you use a baby walker, make sure to limit the time your child spends inside and monitor his every movement, as they can easily bring a baby to dangerous items around the house.

Never compare your child to others

Remember that there's a wide age range in which normally-developing children start walking independently. Learning to walk is among the most important milestones you'll experience together. As long as the baby is happy and the process is exciting for him, you shouldn't try to hurry things up.

Every child is unique, with special intellectual, emotional, social, and physical qualities. Although there's a general rule of thumb that most children will learn to walk independently around 12 months of age [3], it can really be anywhere from eight to 17 months, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). [4]

One child may learn to walk by himself even up to six months before another. This doesn't mean that the other baby has developmental problems. 

According to a Norwegian study, half of the children had learned to walk at 13 months. Twenty-five percent walked before their first birthday, and a whopping 75 percent walked at 14 months of age or later [5]. So, if your child is not what you'd call an "early walker“, you shouldn't be worried; he'll walk when he's ready.

Even though we often compare our children to others on the playground, this isn't a healthy habit. I know that by doing this, we try to assure ourselves that our children are as intelligent and as healthy as their peers. For this reason, you'll probably feel happy to know that the researchers found no link between the age at which the child learns to walk and their performance in conducted intelligence and motor tests. This means that by the time a late bloomer is ready for school, they are just as intelligent and well-coordinated as children who learned to walk early. [6, 3]

Don't stimulate a child to walk too early

Stimulating your baby to walk before she gets to the right developmental age for this is a bad practice and could harm a child. For instance, a six-months-old usually sits or crawls, and most of them aren't ready to stand and walk.

If a child shows signs that she'd like to stand, it means she's probably ready, but should never be overstimulated. Pediatricians generally don't consider it problematic if a baby holds up her own weight if she can. Here lies another danger of using a baby walker; you never know if a baby is ready to move around or is forced by the walker.

They will walk when they're ready

There isn't much you can do to teach your toddler to walk unassisted before she's ready. Cruising is a natural process children must go through before learning to walk.

Some children are afraid of letting go, while others are just lazy. Confidence is another important factor in the process of learning to walk, as well as the child's coordination and muscle development. Rushing children toward this important developmental milestone if they aren't ready might get them scared, or even hurt.

Some perfectly healthy children don't walk until they're 17 or 18 months old. If a child still doesn't walk after he's older than 18 months, make sure to check this with your pediatrician. Abnormalities such as autism might be spotted in early infancy [7]. Not walking at this age can signal that something is possibly wrong, but can also mean you just have a late bloomer.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents against purchasing a baby walker. Studies have shown that children who use baby walkers may actually learn to walk a month later than those who don't. They are proven dangerous not only because they can discourage a child from walking independently, but also because their mobility makes dangerous items such as stairs or poisonous items easily accessible. [89]

Encourage your little cruiser to walk by holding her hand around the house, and even outdoors — preferably in the park. Go diaper-free around the house as often as possible. Research has shown that infants displayed more missteps and falls while wearing diapers [10]. Toddle around with her whenever possible. It may sound silly, but it happens — sometimes children refuse to walk one day, and another day walk as if they’d been doing it for months.

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