Understanding variations in the onset of walking in children

Amy Fenton
Authored by Amy Fenton
Posted: Friday, April 26, 2024 - 20:52

The milestone of a child's first steps is a momentous occasion for parents and caregivers alike. However, it's common for children to grow out of the pushchairor double pram at different ages, sometimes causing concern among parents. Understanding the factors influencing the onset of walking can provide reassurance and insight into this developmental stage.


Genetics play a significant role in determining when a child will start walking. Studies have shown that there is a hereditary component to the age of walking onset. Children with parents who walked early are more likely to start walking earlier themselves.

Muscle strength and tone:

The development of muscle strength and tone is crucial for walking. Infants vary in their muscle development, which can affect their ability to support their body weight and take their first steps. Factors such as prenatal movement patterns and early motor experiences can influence muscle development.

Motor skills development:

Walking requires the integration of various motor skills, including balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. Some children may take longer to develop these skills than others, leading to differences in the age of walking onset.

Environmental factors:

The environment in which a child grows up can impact their walking development. Factors such as access to safe and spacious areas for exploration, encouragement from caregivers, and cultural practices regarding infant mobility can all influence when a child starts walking.

Birth order:

Birth order may also play a role in the age of walking onset. First-born children tend to achieve developmental milestones earlier than later-born siblings, possibly due to increased attention and stimulation from parents.

Physical characteristics:

Individual differences in physical characteristics, such as body size and weight, can affect the onset of walking. Larger infants may take longer to develop the strength and coordination necessary for walking independently.

Developmental delays:

In certain instances, delays in motor development leading to a later onset of walking can be attributed to underlying medical conditions. Conditions such as cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder affecting muscle control and coordination, muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder causing progressive muscle weakness, or developmental coordination disorder, characterized by difficulties in motor coordination, can significantly impact a child's ability to achieve walking milestones within the typical timeframe. Early recognition and intervention are crucial for addressing these challenges and supporting optimal development.

Addressing concerns:

It's important for parents to remember that variations in the age of walking onset are normal and often within the range of typical development. However, if parents have concerns about their child's walking development, they should consult with a pediatrician or developmental specialist. Early intervention services are available to support children who may be experiencing delays in motor development.

The age at which a child starts walking is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and individual factors. While some children may take their first steps earlier than others, it's essential for parents to provide a supportive and nurturing environment to encourage their child's physical development. By understanding the factors influencing walking onset, parents can better navigate this exciting milestone in their child's life.