According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an infant typically starts walking around her first birthday. That said, some children get up and off to a walking start slightly before or after the one-year mark. If your child is 15 months old and hasn't begun to take some strides, don't worry that she is falling behind in her motor development just yet. Those who start walking on the later side can still keep up with their early-walking counterparts, given some extra encouragement from Mom and Dad.
Assess your almost-toddler's developing motor ability. While there is no substitute for a professional opinion, you know your child best and you spend more time with her than just about anyone else. Although there is some variation among children when it comes to walking, there is a fairly stable progression of movement milestones leading up to this mark. Look for your child to master milestones such as sitting unassisted, crawling and pulling up to a standing position on her own. Failure to meet these milestones may mean that she could benefit from a professional consultation or expert help to get herself up and walking.
Provide plenty of opportunities and surfaces for "cruising." While not every child cruises, holding onto objects to steady herself while taking first steps, this can help your little one to gain confidence in her newfound walking ability and develop balance. Young toddlers can use soft, sturdy surfaces, such as the edge of a sofa, to cruise on their way to walking unassisted.
Make things interesting above floor level. Add items that catch your toddler's attention to her standing eye level. For example, instead of putting her favorite toys on the carpet, stack them on the couch cushions. This can inspire her to stand up and start walking over to grab the things she wants.
Provide lots of support -- both physical and emotional. Your child will fall, but don't let a tumble equal a fail. Pick her back up and reassure her that she is doing her best to tackle this new task. If you feel that she won't completely understand your words of encouragement, make it simple, smile and praise her with an easy, "Great job!" or "You're walking!"
Take her outside. Look for a soft, grassy surface that is free from any obstacles or hazards. The change of scenery may interest her and inspire her to stretch her legs so she can get a good look at nature.
Try using a push toy to help your little one steady herself while walking. According to the child development experts at KidsHealth.org, push-pull toys can help your child with the large muscle development that is necessary for walking and balance. Keep in mind that a push toy -- which your child holds onto while walking -- is not the same as a baby walker. Push toys include shopping carts and other sturdy-wheeled vehicles that are made for infants and young toddlers to hold onto while standing up and walking.
If your child is walking indoors, keep her feet au naturel. Shoes aren't necessary for walking inside and may constrict her feelings of freedom or present an unnecessary obstacle. When you take your toddling tyke outdoors, give her a pair of comfortable shoes to wear that are made from flexible materials and have a nonslip sole.
Avoid using a baby walker. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this once-trusted helper item does little to actually help young children build walking skills and may even hinder infants and toddlers from wanting to walk. Additionally, walkers may tip over easily or cause the child to take a tumble down the stairs, leading to a serious health and safety issue.
Never leave your child unattended when she is learning how to walk or even after she has found mastery in this new task. Always supervise her at all times.