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Certain Variables Influence Walking

A baby's first steps are an important milestone, but unfortunately, parents can't do much to encourage their child to walk sooner. Kate Kelly, Managing Editor for American Baby Magazine, discusses walking and some factors that make it harder for certain kids.

Most babies take their first steps between 9 and 15 months, but some babies don't walk until later. "Once they're past 15 months, you should definitely bring it up with your doctor, but your child may just be a late bloomer," says Kelly. Your doctor can help you figure out if your child has an easily treatable condition - like low motor tone - that may be affecting his or her ability to walk. Treatment is fairly simple; Kelly adds that, "Interventions are available. It's nothing to really get that worried about."

Also, once some children start to walk, they may revert back to crawling in certain situations. "If he really wants to get somewhere fast and he's a really good crawler, he's just going to get down on all fours and go," says Kelly. So, if your child sees their favorite toy across the room, they may crawl to it instead of walking because they know they can get there faster. Once your child gains confidence in walking, though, this trend will dissipate.

While parents can't encourage walking, there are some factors that can determine when a baby walks. Personality is one of these factors. "A lot of times people think that if they have an early walker, it's a sign of [a future athlete," says Kelly. "It's really more indicative of what their temperament is, if they're a risk taker." Early walkers are usually kids who don't have a lot of fear. These babies just want to walk and worry about the consequences - like falling down - later. A later walker may indicate that your baby is more cautious.

A child's size also comes into play. "Bigger babies... need more strength to get up," says Kelly. A larger child may take a little longer to walk than a smaller one because they need more muscle strength to support their body weight.

Frequent ear infections may also hinder a child's ability to walk. The inner ear affects your balance, so a child with ear problems may have trouble staying upright.

Birth order can also affect a child's willingness to walk. A baby with older siblings will see their older brothers and sisters walking around and will want to imitate them. On the other hand, though, Kelly adds that sometimes older siblings coddle a baby too much and cater to their every need. If a baby gets whatever he or she wants, such as a toy or a book, they're not encouraged to get up and get it themselves. This can hinder a child's walking progress.

Finally, kick off those shoes! "Babies do not need support," says Kelly. Children learn to walk best when they are barefoot; this way, every part of their foot is touching the ground. A new walker should only wear shoes when they're outside. Even then, look for flexible, soft-soled shoes. "You can almost bend them in half," says Kelly. Flexible shoes allow a child's foot to bend and move, simulating that barefoot feeling. A hard soled shoe can hamper a child's progress.

For more tips on walking, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.

By Erin Petrun

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