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Why It Takes So Long For Babies to Learn to Walk

Updated on May 14, 2011

Human babies...

Are one of the only creatures on earth that take a year or more before they are even able to wobble along the floor on their feet. Our close relatives - the chimp - are able to walk by 6 months. Elephants, giraffe's and horses are able to walk within a day. It can take anywhere from 11 to 18 months before a human baby can walk.

So what's the deal? Why does it take so long for human babies to learn to walk?

My! What a BIG brain you have!

Did you know that 80% of babies caloric intake, feeds just it's brain alone? Wow!

That big brain in there is most of why we are able to survive so well, though it is also most of the reason why babies are so vulnerable in that first year of life. Without our brains being so large, it would take us forever to learn and adapt. Though having such a large brain means that as babies, we have a lot more to contend with when it comes to gravity. Especially since our brains continue to grow faster then our bodies, from the moment of conception up until we are about 6 years old.

Because our big brains throw off our center of balance, it takes human babies much longer to become able to walk. Which is an interesting notion, because we already subconsciously know how to walk from the moment we are born.

Underdeveloped Nervous System

Although the rest of earths creatures are able to do everything they need to do, from the moment they are born, humans are not so easily endowed. Though scientists believe that it's actually a blessing rather than a curse.

The reason for this, is because it's part of developing our ability to learn. Almost all other beings on earth, are born with all the intelligence and motor skills they need to survive. There is very little learning involved. Humans are not born with this. We are born with some abilities to help us survive, such as the stepping reflex and holding our breath under water, but the rest are nearly completely learned abilities.

So what does our ability to learn have to do with our ability to walk? Well, even though we are born with a stepping reflex that shows we instinctively know how to walk, our nervous system is not developed enough to allow us to do so for a long while. This slows us done, and allows us to experience the world in a way that no other creature can.

It gives us a time when we can focus on many things, such as developing our senses, learning language and observing the world around us. If we were just able to get up and go from the start, we would probably loose a lot of our ability to learn and adapt to the world around us.

We only have TWO legs...

All other mammals are born with four legs, or at very least, two legs that require the aide of arms in order to walk. Which is virtually the same equivalent.

Having only two legs, becomes a great attribute as we grow older and become more skilled in walking. Scientists have found that walking on two legs is the most efficient way to cover ground, and it also enables our brains to learn more, because our hands are free to do other things while we walk.

The only downside - it takes us long to become able to balance on only two legs.


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    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando FI Chor 2 years ago from Andalusia

      In addition to all the above, the reason humans babies are so helpless at birth compared to other animals, is due to the huge size of a human brain. A large brain requires a large skull. After a longer gestation period than nine months, the baby's skull would be too large to pass through the birth canal. So even though a human baby could do with much more time in its mother’s womb to get ready to come into the world, if its head grew any bigger, it would not be able to come out. This is why, for a further six to nine months after birth, a human baby is in the so-called “in-arm” phase. A bit like a kangaroo baby, a human baby has to be held all the time until its body is strong enough to learn to move on its own.

      Source: My article: "Yoga with your Baby or Toddler". Full article here on the right under 'Related Hubs'.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 6 years ago from Texas

      Wow... lots of interesting stuff here. Thank you for sharing!

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Very interesting hub....having had 6 kids I can tell you they all have different time tables...the 5th kid took forever to walk but starting talking(and has not stopped) almost at 12 months....meanwhile #6 walked at 9 months...but still is not really talking...who can figure it out...thanks for sharing this hub...voted up