Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Learning to walk

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Babies usually start walking sometime between about 10 and 18 months old.
  • Activities such as crawling and pulling themselves up to stand help your baby develop muscle strength and balance for walking.
  • You can help your baby by providing a safe environment for early walking, giving lots of playtime and encouraging your baby to move around independently and experiment.

When will my baby learn to walk?

Walking for the first time is one of the many exciting and memorable milestones in your child's development. Your baby has been preparing to walk from an early age. Now all the rolling, sitting up, bottom shuffling, crawling, furniture cruising and standing culminates in your baby's newest adventure: first steps.

Babies usually start walking sometime between about 10 and 18 months old. Before walking, babies will usually have been crawling (between 7 and 12 months) and pulling themselves up to stand (usually between ages 9 and 12 months).

How does my baby develop walking skills?

To walk, your baby needs to have developed many skills, including balance, coordination, standing up and being able to shift their body weight from one leg to the other.

Each new skill your baby develops builds on the previous skills your baby has learnt. As your baby gets older, the skills they learn get more and more complex.

While your baby was busy crawling and pulling up to stand, then cruising between pieces of furniture, they were building muscle strength. They were also developing skills like balance and coordination, which are all needed for walking and, later, running.

Once your baby starts to walk, they continue this process. They may experiment with moving from the floor to standing then back down again. They may move from sitting to standing and back again, walking, and then squatting to play. All these activities also help strengthen their muscles and balance. They’ll keep on practicing and experimenting to improve their walking skills. They may walk in different directions, on different surfaces and while carrying large toys.

What can I do to help my baby learn to walk?

You can help most by providing a supporting physical and social setting and opportunities to practice walking.

Here are some general tips for helping your baby at this stage:

  • Play together — being with or near your child when they explore helps them feel safe and builds their confidence.
  • Encourage independent walking — being active and moving around builds your child's muscle strength and posture, which helps your child get better at walking and prepares them for running.
  • You can start by positioning yourself about two metres from your baby and encouraging them to walk to you. Once they’ve achieved this you can increase the distance. You can encourage them to push a toy pram or trolley. Once they’re confident walking around, you can set up an obstacle course with soft cushions or foam shapes to walk over or around.
  • Make your home safe — as your baby starts to move around the house more, keeping the area around them clear ensures there are no accidents and creates lots of opportunities to walk and explore.

Do not use a baby walker — these do not help your baby learn to walk and can actually delay development of walking skills. They also cause thousands of injuries every year in Australia.

When should my baby start wearing shoes?

Your baby doesn’t need to wear shoes unless they are going outside. When they are inside, letting them crawl and walk in bare feet helps their feet and toes develop normally. If it’s cold, then wearing socks are fine.

When choosing shoes for your baby, it’s important that you get shoes that fit properly right from the very start. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to foot deformities.

When buying shoes for your child, you should consider having them properly measured to make sure they aren’t too tight and provide the correct support.

Learn more about children’s feet and how to choose the right shoes.

When should I seek help?

If your baby is 18 months or older and isn't walking on their own yet, or if you're concerned about any areas of your baby's development, contact your child’s doctor or a child health nurse for advice.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

Child's development 1 to 2 years |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 1 to 2 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Baby walkers and exercise jumpers

Baby walkers and exercise jumpers can delay walking development and can be dangerous – the Australian Government and other health and safety professionals don’t recommend them.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Age 1-5

It's a world of firsts when you're under five - from walking to words, relationships to raging in the supermarket. There are loads of fun ways to practise social and emotional skills with your child. Have a read, then have a go!

Read more on Beyond Blue website

Preschool play ideas & creative activities | Raising Children Network

Play fosters imagination in preschoolers, which is important for development. Play ideas include nature walks, busy boxes, dress-ups, puppet play and more.

Read more on website

Child development: the first five years | Raising Children Network

The first five years of life are critical for child development. Find out how your child’s experiences and relationships shape the way your child develops.

Read more on website

Child's development 2 to 3 years |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 2 to 3 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Child's development 8 to 12 months |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 8 to 12 month old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Child's development 3 to 5 years |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 3 to 5 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Development milestones - your child 12 to 18 months

Learn about development milestones for babies (12-18 months), how to aid your child's development, identify development delays and when to get help.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Your baby's growth and development — 9 months old

At 9 months, your baby will be developing their personality. They will form stronger attachments with people, preferring some over others.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.