Around my daughter’s first birthday, I started to get anxious about her motor skills. Lena had just gotten the hang of crawling and cruising, and I was thrilled about it — until I noticed that my friend’s 1-year-old was walking and even climbing stairs like a pro. Rationally, I knew it was a bad idea to compare them, but the fact that Lena hadn’t figured out how to do something her peer had already mastered made me worry. “There’s a wide age range for hitting many milestones, and it’s completely normal for children to have differences in abilities, motivation, and pace,” says Anatoly Belilovsky, M.D., a pediatrician in Brooklyn, New York. “Parents should remind themselves that raising kids isn’t a competitive sport.”
Still, even the most laid-back moms and dads will find it hard not to stress when it comes to milestones as major as walking and talking. We asked the experts to highlight the developmental skills that send parents into panic mode — and what you can do to help if you think your toddler is lagging behind.
Waiting to WalkKids may attempt their first step as early as 8 months, but they’re not considered “late walkers” until after 15 months. And even then, it doesn’t mean your child has a serious delay. He might be getting around just fine by crawling — and not be in a hurry to walk — or he could be focusing all his energy on mastering another skill, such as talking. “Development often comes in spurts,” explains Geoffrey Putt, Psy.D., a pediatric psychologist and director of parenting and family support services at Akron Children’s Hospital, in Ohio. “Kids may develop quickly in one area while holding back in another.”
What you can do: Start off by making sure your child has enough floor time and room to practice. Check childproofing (put up gates to guard stairs and secure bookshelves) so you can let him cruise around furniture without safety concerns. You can also encourage him to take steps by playing movement games such as “Come to Mommy,” walking with him while holding his hands, or giving him sturdy push-toys (not baby walkers, which can hinder development).