Brain Development in Babies Who Take Longer to Walk

By Sara Ipatenco
About half of all babies walk by their first birthday.
About half of all babies walk by their first birthday.

It's normal for babies to start walking anywhere between 9 and 16 months, according to Dr. William Sears, writing for AskDr.Sears.com. Walking occurs when a baby has established three things: muscle strength, balance and temperament. Late walking isn't usually a cause for concern unless your baby has other developmental delays. Though problems with brain development can influence when a child walks, this is rare.

Stages of Development

Walking might seem like an independent activity, but there is a series of gross motor skills your little one must master before being able to walk. Shortly after birth, your baby will learn to control her head and neck muscles, which will lead to the ability to control her torso and legs, according to Liz Tomey, author of "How To Create A Super Baby." From there, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up on her own and crawl. At around 8 months of age, your baby will likely begin pulling herself up on furniture and will gradually learn how to stand up on her own. This is followed by walking on her own.

Brain Development and Walking

The human brain starts developing about 3 weeks after conception, and babies are born with approximately 100 billion neurons, according to Judith Graham, an extension human development specialist writing for the University of Maine. As babies learn about the world around them, their brains begin forming connections between neurons, which lay the groundwork that enables babies to learn new things as they grow. This brain development is essential for giving a baby the physical and mental capability to stand up and take those first steps.

Stimulating Brain Development

Just because a baby is a late walker doesn't mean her brain isn't developing. According to Sears, late walkers are often happy entertaining themselves and take a more cautious approach to pulling themselves up, cruising along furniture and eventually trying out their walking legs. In other words, late walkers are often busy making other types of brain connections, and they get around to walking later. You can stimulate your baby's brain development, however, to help encourage your little one to take her first steps. Talking, singing, rocking, holding, comforting and touching your baby are effective ways to encourage brain development, according to the Zero to Three website. Reading to your baby also encourages brain development as does encouraging your baby to be physically active through activities such as tummy time and free play on a blanket.

Late Walking and Your Baby

The majority of babies master the skill of walking between 13 and 14 months of age, but some babies walk earlier and some walk later, Tomey notes. As long as your baby is crawling, standing and sitting, there's usually no reason to worry; late walking isn't correlated with later intelligence either, Sears reports. Your child's pediatrician, however, might refer you to a pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician, especially if your baby has missed other developmental milestones. In most cases, however, more practice and time to be physically active is all that's needed to encourage your little one to start walking.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.