Articles and Topics
Why won’t my 18-month-old walk?
Rachel North Providence, RI
The development of little children is like a dance. Sometimes they want us to lead, but sometimes they insist on leading. Learning to walk is one of the times when they are definitely the leaders. In child development there is a word that is definitely overused and difficult to define; that word is “ready,” or in a more commonly used form, “readiness.” It sounds as though neither of your babies is “ready” to walk independently, and there is little you can do to hasten the act other than what you are now doing—holding their hands and letting them get the “feel” of being on their feet and moving around. Obviously they lack the confidence to let go and need your strength and support for temporary assistance.

Both of your children were born prematurely, and that is clearly a factor in delayed walking. Until they are at least 6 you need to subtract one to two months from their chronological ages in thinking about whether their development is seriously slow. If you make that subtraction for both of your children, you are talking about 15 to 16 month old children. And many perfectly normal children do not walk until that age.

So walk with them. Put toys out of reach to encourage them to walk toward them. Praise the efforts they make. Best of all, get down on the floor and hold them up in front of you, with their fathers or other adults in the same position about two feet away. Try to get them to walk back and forth, quickly catching them if they fall and gradually moving the other person back more and more. Praise success, but try not to make too big a deal out of it.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education