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Movement, Coordination, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old

Walking is the major milestone for kids this age, and over the coming year they'll get much better at it.

As kids' mobility improves, so does their ability to explore where they couldn't before. So take a child's-eye look around your home and update childproofing to keep up with your child's growing skills.

How Is My Child Moving?

Though some babies take their first steps around their first birthdays, most learn to walk in the months after they turn 1.

Kids who are learning to walk are called "toddlers" because that's exactly what they do — they toddle, keeping their legs wide apart and seeming to hesitate between each step, jerking from side to side as they move one foot forward, then the next.

About 6 months after taking their first steps, toddlers develop a more mature gait, holding their hands at their sides (rather than out in front for balance) and moving with their feet closer together. They also tend to move their feet in a way that looks more like walking — moving from the heel to the toe.

During these months of practice, most toddlers take a few spills, but this is part of learning to walk. You can't protect your little one from every fall, but you can reduce the risk of injury by only allowing exploration in safe areas (and away from furniture with sharp corners and other hazards).

After walking for a couple of months, your toddler will begin to feel more confident about walking and take on new challenges — such as taking a few steps backward, picking up and carrying objects, and moving while pulling a toy behind.

By the time they turn 2, most toddlers can run, kick a ball, and walk up the stairs.

How Can I Encourage My Toddler?

Give your child lots of things to do and see. Take walks around your yard and the neighborhood or visit a local playground. At home, you can make an obstacle course of pillows or boxes and encourage your child to walk, climb, and crawl through it. Buy a few balls to practice kicking and throwing.

Toddlers are using their hands more. Toys and craft supplies that help develop fine motor skills include:

  • paper and crayons
  • sculpting dough
  • stacking toys that kids can build up and knock down
  • simple puzzles

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Normal child development tends to follow a certain pattern. The skills that kids develop early serve as building blocks for future skills. Still, the time it takes to develop these skills can vary widely among kids.

Let your doctor know if your toddler doesn't do the following:

By 15 months:

  • take a few steps alone

By 18 months:

  • walk without holding on to anything
  • climb on and off the couch or a chair
  • scribble

By 24 months:

  • walk (not climb) up the stairs with or without help
  • run

Not reaching individual milestones doesn't always mean there is a problem. But talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your child's development.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: May 17, 2022

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