How to help a big baby learn to walk? Talk amongst yourselves.

Couch arms as walking supports

From Megan:

I've come up with a way that I hope will encourage my 14 month-old to walk. It's not that I'm panicky about her development. It's just that she's a big, big baby and my arms are tired from carrying her. So I'm trying something. I pushed together the couches in our living room so that there's a one-foot gap between them, making a nice aisle for her to walk up and down (with help from the couch seats). [Read the full story on Megan's blog. — Ed.]

I'd love to hear other Parenthackers' suggestions for helping their kids learn to walk. I'll brace myself for those who may criticize me for trying to push my child beyond her normal pace of development. They have no idea how heavy she is.

Anyone have a tip?


  1. Christina says

    I considered not even posting this — since the author is already ‘bracing herself’ – but figured it was worth a shot.

    Put simply, not a good idea. This isn’t the equivalent of rushing to teach your child the ABCs too soon — physical development can’t be rushed.

    Rather than rushing her to walk, how about just engaging her in more gross-motor play — soft stuff to climb & pull up on, stretching and reaching games, even baby yoga. She’ll walk when she’s ready!

  2. says

    We had the same issue with my tall, late-walking son. Pushing toys like mini-grocery carts and doll strollers helped him gain confidence. But ultimately, when he learned to walk, he didn’t stumble or fall – he confidently ran and was immediately on-par with his playgroup pals that walked early.

  3. Shari says

    My son didn’t walk by himself til he was 15 months old, but was perfectly fine with holding hands to walk. One day we gave him a big ball to carry, and he started toddling around on his own – having something to hold made him feel more secure about the whole thing, I think.

  4. says

    i sympathize with the heavy baby! and people are gonna judge your choices no matter what, as you know.

    i didn’t try this, but a friend recommended stretching a wire hanger into an O shape. you hold the hook part, the kid holds the stretched-out O part. it seems to me that it would work better for a kid who’s already beginning to walk, but i thought i’d just put that out there.

    ps very cute kids, and i like your wall art!

  5. Lynn says

    How about investing in a set of Walking Wings? I was given a set for my son who is almost 19 months, and now running (which is driving me nuts). He started walking at around 14 months. Anyway, they worked great for us. I even saw it recommended on The Doctors recently.

  6. Sarah E says

    No criticizing from me… my son was also a big baby and a late walker. While I never thought of this (just waited for him to walk), I think it would have helped because he liked to hold onto the couch and walk but I think the fact that he kept falling backward scared him a little. This doesn’t seem like “pushing” a child to walk sooner, just giving them a useful tool.

  7. Leah E. says

    my heavy son didn’t walk until about 14 1/2 months either, so i feel your pain. he would cruise, but never let go. when he finally did, he would turn around and lean up against the couch standing. when he got brave, he would take a step and then fall on a pillow i layed on the floor. he would then crawl back to the couch, stand up and do it again. after about 2 or 3 passes, i would move the pillow out farter while he was crawling back and couldn’t see me. each time he tried again, he would make it one step farther than beforem b/c he was aiming for the pillow. within 10 minutes, he was toddling across the room trying to reach the pillow. i had to wait till he was ready to let go, but after that he took off like wildfire. giving his a target to walk to really seemed to help!

  8. says

    I don’t think it’s possible to “push” a child to walk, so I think the original poster should cut herself some slack. What she is doing is adapting a physical environment to assist her child in developing a gross motor skill. Having a friend whose baby was 6 days older than mine, but outweighed her by 10 pound on their first birthday, I totally get this. The large body and head creates a physical challenge and while my thin child walked at 11-months, the other child was not able to comfortably take his first steps until he was around 16-months. One thing that worked in his case was putting curious objects–measuring cups, animals, small treats–at heights he could only get to by standing and cruising over to.

  9. Maureen says

    As a mom of 3 kids who all walked before a year (and one at 7 months), I got a lot of criticism for “letting” them walk too early. I’m not sure what I supposed to do to stop them, but that’s just to point out that you’re bound to get criticism no matter what. For the record, there’s no physical problem from them walking early.

    As for setting up an environment to help them in learning, I think it’s great. With my oldest we had sort of a “loop” set up in the living room that she could use to cruise around (couches, large cardboard diaper boxes filled with extra linens so soft but sturdy, etc.). She would loop around endlessly and loved it. Eventually she got brave enough to let go and toddle freely. With the second (the super early one) and the third I didn’t do quite a loop, but did make sure there were items they could cruise between. Unless you’re forcing the child to do reps of whatever it is, it’s fine. They won’t do it if they don’t like and will stop when they tire of it. Provide opportunity and let them run with it.

    Also, for what it’s worth my kids never had shoes on in the house when they were little and I really believe that bare feet (or socked feet) help them learn to walk more quickly. It’s also supposed to be better for their foot development to not spend a lot of time forced into shoes.

    Good luck!

  10. Kathy says

    The child is clearly already cruising so I think anyone tut-tutting this poor mom for “pushing” her kid is horribly misguided. I guess she’d better remove all the furniture and tear down all the walls and stuff so her son can’t lean on anything since that would obviously be pushing him. Sorry, perhaps that was too sarcastic. Honestly, if we didn’t give our kids a gentle push toward developmentally appropriate milestones here and there I don’t think we’d be doing our jobs.

    I think this was a brilliant idea to give him more stability while he explores cruising and early walking. You do what you feel is best for your baby and your family, mom, and don’t worry about the people telling you what to do. I don’t see a thing wrong with helping the poor kid cruise around a little easier.

  11. says

    Thanks so much for being easy on me, guys. What’s funny is that in the past week or so, since Asha got in touch with me about posting this, my daughter has gone from taking just a few steps at a time to full-blown walking (and a bit of running this morning!). Yea! I can’t say whether the couches helped or not–I’m sure she was just finally ready–but my arms are quite thankful.
    Lots of great suggestions here. Thanks!

    P.S. Marjorie, I made the hummingbird with fabric, scissors and liquid starch. Super easy.

    My tutorial is here:

    And more photos of the hummingbird are here:

  12. says

    I don’t have any particular tips, just that when my daughter started walking, it didn’t mean that I was able to carry her any less. It took months before it felt like my arms were finally getting a break. So I’m not sure how much relief Megan will get when her baby begins to walk. That being said, I wish her luck! It’s so exciting when you feel like it might happen any day now!

  13. says

    I hear ya! My almost 14 mos old son is 25+ lbs and not quite walking yet. Glad to hear yours is up and running – or at least, almost running. ;) What worked for my older two boys was to sit on the floor with another grown-up and pass the baby back and forth on the floor. Sit far enough apart that it takes four or five steps for him to go from one to the other, and close enough that you can do a hand-off. Eventually, baby gets enough confidence to take a few steps between the hands. The ‘hold a ball or other toy’ above also works wonders in our house.

    Lucas took his first steps last week, but hasn’t bothered to replicate the feat. It will come!

  14. says

    Our kids would stand behind our foot stools and push them around the room. They were light enough for them to be able to move, yet heavy enough that they didn’t move that quickly. We didn’t encourage it per-se, they just discovered this on their own.

    I also want to mention that when kids walk has nothing to do with how heavy they are. Our super huge/heavy boy walked much earlier than our skinny girl. I wouldn’t want people to assume that their heavy kid is going to be a late walker. It’s different for every kid.

  15. says

    My MIL says you are supposed to give the child a round clothespin to hold onto while you hold the arm or outside of the hand. The child gets used to this and thinks they have your finger in thier hand. It is much easier for you to let go than it is to try and disengage the death grip from your finger. They still have confidence from thinking they are holding your finger and you can guide them towards taking steps on their own.

  16. says

    My super heavy son was almost 15 months when he finally started walking. What sealed the deal for us? I refused to carry him in our home. I’d hold his hand so he could walk if he wanted to but mostly I’d just go about my chores (talking to him in kind tones so he wouldn’t feel alone). It took about two days for him to go from a cruiser to a full fledged walker.

    My daughter walked at 9 months and I didn’t have anything at all to do with that.


  17. Alex says

    Another “don’t worry” vote here–some kids, like my husband, go from not even crawling, to standing up and RUNNING. Our girl crawled fairly late–and then started walking a few weeks later.

    Just wanted to add for anyone who reads this later, you don’t need to buy push toys. Just show your baby how s/he can push around a laundry basket, cardboard box, or storage bin.

  18. says

    I second the comment about a large cardboard box. Our eldest learnt to walk when we were preparing for a move, so we found this out by accident. A large cardboard box has more resistance than any push toys like little prams etc. It is large enough for a toddler to push standing upright, and had too large a base to tip over.

  19. Kimberly C says

    My kid walked at 10 months, and I had very little to do with that. My mom, who watched her until 8 months old, was the queen of “blanket baby”- meaning that from the time my kid went to her at 6 weeks until she was moving on her own she was laying on a blanket. Her needs were met, of course, my mom just felt like if she was on a blanket in the middle of the floor, she could be more involved with my nieces and the other kids at the “daycare” Plus she was inspired by the other kids- if they could do it, so could she.
    What I think that I am trying to say is that though all kids are different, giving them a chance to explore their skills isn’t pushing them, it is giving them the space they need to practice and hone their skills. (most kids- I know that some have special developmental needs and whatnot.)

  20. says

    Most of the push toys we tried were too light and would move way too fast for my son to hold onto. One day, I left an empty box out. He started pushing it around the house. It was the perfect walking toy! He felt like he accomplished so much by moving the box around the house. It gave my back a nice rest and he was walking very well on his own at 7 months.