Most babies are able to stand unaided and take a few tentative steps between the ages of 12 and 15 months. Delayed walking may be due a number of factors including genetics, illness, weight, and the desire to walk rather than crawl. Provided that your baby does not have any serious musculoskeletal defect that could prevent it from walking, a child physiotherapist may be able to help. Read on to find out how.
Consulting a Child Physiotherapist
During your first consultation, you physio will take a detailed history of your child, including information concerning premature birth, family history of late walkers, etc. They will then devise a number of exercises for you to work on at home with your baby to help them learn how to walk. You will need to attend regular consultations with your physio so that they can monitor your child's progress.
Useful Physiotherapy Exercises for Late Walkers
It's very important that you don't try to force your baby to stand and walk until the muscles in their back and legs are strong enough to support their weight and enable them to balance. You can help to strengthen the baby's muscles by encouraging them to sit upright and crawl.
- Use a large ball that is big enough for the baby to sit on. Sit the baby on the ball, holding their hips so that they are supporting their own trunk. Keeping hold of the ball, roll it back and forward, and then side to side. Your baby will need to use his core muscles to stay in balance, helping to develop hip stability and balance.
- Put toys out of the baby's reach so that they have to sit, reach or crawl toward the object.
- Use a stable object or toy that the baby can use to pull themselves up. Learning to stand like this with minimal assistance is good for muscular development and building strength.
- Provide push toys, such as an infant grocery trolley or pram, to encourage the baby to stand up and push the toy along in front of them. They often have strings too that encourage the child to pull the toy along without leaning on it for balance.
Note: Baby walkers are not generally recommended by physiotherapists because they force the child to stand in an unnaturally upright position. This can cause damage to the baby's back and neck, leading to muscular strain and discomfort that could discourage the baby from trying to walk.
If your baby is a late walker, you should first consult your family doctor to rule out any medical problems. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist who will provide you with a programme of exercises for your baby that you can use at home between consultations and you will also be able to determine if more serious musculoskeletal physiotherapy is necessary.