Can My Baby Walk Before Crawling?
Babies typically hit major physical milestones in a predictable order – sitting, rolling over, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and then walking. But sometimes eager little ones skip crawling altogether and go straight to walking. So is it possible for a baby to walk before crawling? Let’s take a deep dive into this topic.
Is It Normal for Babies to Walk Before Crawling?
Walking before crawling is unusual but not necessarily abnormal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most babies take their first steps around 12 months of age. However, anywhere between 9 and 15 months falls within the normal range.
On the other hand, most babies start crawling between 6 and 10 months, with 9 months being the average. So if your 8 or 9 month old is already pulling themselves up and taking steps, walking prior to crawling is well within normal development.
That said, the vast majority of babies do crawl first. Crawling helps strengthen core muscles and coordination needed for walking upright. It’s an important developmental stage that shouldn’t be skipped or rushed through. If your baby is not showing any interest in crawling by 10 months, speak to your pediatrician.
Signs Your Baby is Ready to Walk Before Crawling
While rare, some babies are born strong and determined enough to go straight to walking. Here are some signs your baby may walk before crawling:
- Strong leg muscles: Babies who skip crawling often have very strong leg muscles from an early age. They can bounce well when supported in a standing position.
- Eager to stand: Your baby tries pulling up to stand whenever possible, using furniture, your hands, etc. for support.
- Cruising abilities: While not fully walking, your baby takes steps sideways while holding onto furniture.
- High activity level: Babies who walk early tend to be very energetic, active, and eager to explore. Crawling doesn’t satisfy their curiosity.
- Good sense of balance: Babies ready to walk demonstrate good control of their head and neck muscles along with balance.
- Walking motions: While supported in a standing position, your baby makes stepping motions like they’re trying to walk.
If you notice these signs, your active and determined baby may be ready to walk prior to mastering crawling. But keep in mind that skills can develop rapidly in early babyhood. Even if your baby isn’t crawling yet at 6 or 7 months, that doesn’t mean they’ll walk first.
Benefits of Crawling Before Walking
While walking first is unusual, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. However, there are good reasons babies tend to crawl before walking:
Strengthens Muscles and Coordination
The cross-body movements required for crawling build strength in baby’s arms, legs, core, and neck. Crawling also improves coordination between the left and right side of the body, which aids balance needed for walking.
As babies crawl, they must perceive the space around them and objects from different angles. This boosts visual-spatial abilities.
The inner ear houses the vestibular system, which controls balance and spatial navigation. Crawling stimulates the vestibular system, preparing it for maintaining balance during walking.
The cross-lateral movements of crawling make babies aware of the two sides of their body and how to coordinate them. This body awareness is key for learning to walk.
Confidence and Safety
Mastering crawling gives babies confidence in their physical abilities. And mobility skills built from crawling help keep babies safe as they explore the world around them.
So while not 100% necessary, crawling provides babies with important developmental benefits. If your baby seems ready to walk pre-crawling, you may want to encourage crawling as well.
Encouraging Your Baby to Crawl First
If your baby is showing walking readiness before crawling, you don’t need to panic. But you may want to provide opportunities to strengthen crawling skills too. Here are some tips:
Dedicate plenty of tummy time for strengthening arm, leg, shoulder, and neck muscles essential to crawling. Try scattering toys around just out of reach to motivate movement.
Hold your baby in the crawling position and gently walk their knees and hands forward. This shows the crawling motion while building strength.
When your baby pulls up to stand, gently sit them back down. Limiting standing access encourages trying new skills like crawling.
Get on all fours and crawl alongside your baby, which motivates them to follow along. Make a game of chasing after one another.
Celebrate small achievements like crawling belly scoots or forward knee crawling. This motivates your baby to practice this new skill.
With encouragement, your baby will likely start crawling soon, even if they walk first. If you have concerns, discuss options with your pediatrician. But trust your baby’s natural development.
When to Be Concerned About Skipped Crawling
While walking prior to crawling is unusual, it doesn’t automatically signal a problem. If your baby is engaged, progressing steadily, and meeting other milestones, they are probably just strong and skilled.
However, if you notice any of the following, be sure to bring it up with your pediatrician:
- Your baby shows no interest in crawling by 10 months.
- Your baby isn’t pulling to stand by 12 months.
- Your baby exhibits very weak arm strength and coordination.
- Your baby seems disconnected from their body and environment.
- Your baby appears floppy or lacks muscle tone when held.
These could signal an underlying condition causing delay, like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or hypotonia. Early intervention can make a huge difference, so speak to your doctor right away if concerned.
Helping Your Baby Transition From Walking to Crawling
For babies who do walk first, incorporating crawling into play provides huge developmental benefits. Here are some tips to help your early walker become a crawler too:
Baby-Proof for Safety
With a walking baby, thoroughly baby-proof your home. Block stairs, anchor furniture, install safety gates, cover outlets, etc. Limit falling risks since crawling strengthens protective reflexes.
Low to the Floor Activities
Provide toys and activities on the floor to get your baby down low and motivate crawling. Things like balls, push cars, shape sorters, music players, etc.
Hide and Seek
Make a game of hiding just out of sight and having your baby crawl to find you. Clap and celebrate when they do.
Dedicate plenty of tummy time for building crawling arm and core strength. Try scattering toys around just out of reach.
Place cushions, pillows, or rolled towels as “obstacles” for your baby to crawl over. This teaches them to lift their belly and strengthens coordination.
If your baby walked first, these tips encourage developing crawling skills too, ensuring complete development. But if you have any concerns, your pediatrician can assess progression and provide support.
When Can You Expect Your Baby to Start Walking?
If your baby walks prior to crawling, you may wonder when to expect those early steps to start. Here’s an overview of normal age ranges:
- 8 months: Walking unassisted at 8 months is extremely rare and requires an evaluation. Most babies aren’t even crawling by then. Early walking may signal hypotonia or hypermobility syndrome.
- 9 months: While on the early end of normal, some exceptionally strong and coordinated babies do walk at 9 months. Support and celebrate this milestone!
- 10 months: Walking independently at 10 months is uncommon but not alarming. If your baby is engaged and hitting other milestones, they are likely just precocious walkers.
- 11 months: Many advanced babies take first steps around 11 months, right on the cusp of normal development. Expect lots of stumbling and falling still.
- 12 months: Walking well by the first birthday is perfectly on track. Most babies take initial steps around this age before improving balance and coordination.
- 15 months: If your baby is still not walking by 15 months, it’s a good idea to discuss options with your pediatrician. Help may be needed to get your little one moving.
Remember that early skills like walking may progress slowly at first. Expect a lot of falling, cruising along furniture, and wanting to hold your hands. With patience and praise, walking abilities will kick into high gear around their first birthday.
Supporting Your Early Walker
If your baby starts walking before crawling or shortly after, here are some tips to help foster their development:
Scan your home constantly for falling and injury risks. Secure sharp edges, block stairs, cover outlets, etc. Early walkers lack protective crawling experience.
Provide Fall Protection
Use soft, cushioned flooring and scatter pillows and cushions for falling safety. Helmets can protect heads too. Keep your baby away from hard surfaces.
Hold Hands and Guide
Provide plenty of hand-holding, back support, and gentle guidance as your baby practices walking. This prevents injury and motivates progress.
Shower your baby with over-the-top praise for cruising, standing, stumbling steps – any and all walking attempts. This encourages ongoing effort.
Note when your baby hit rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking milestones. Make sure they aren’t missing any key physical development stages.
If your baby seems disconnected from their body, lacks strength, or missed milestones, don’t hesitate to speak with your pediatrician about early intervention options.
With attentive support and baby-proofing, your early walker will be racing all around the house in no time! Reach out to your doctor if progress seems off though.
The Takeaway: Should You Worry About Baby Walking Before Crawling?
While most babies do crawl first, walking prior to crawling is simply an unusual sequence of normal development. An eager, coordinated baby intently trying out their legs may surprise you by taking steps early.
Allow your strong-willed and energetic baby to demonstrate their abilities without rushing or worrying. But do provide opportunities to develop crawling skills too through tummy time and assisted practice.
Walking early is not necessarily cause for concern. But discuss any major delays, weaknesses, or disconnectedness with your pediatrician right away. Early intervention can make a huge difference!
The key is supporting your baby at their own pace. Not all little ones follow the exact same roadmap. Trust your baby’s abilities while taking steps to keep them safe and nourished with skills. Soon enough, your incredible baby will be walking, talking and running circles around you!