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Do push toys really help kids learn to walk?

Experts say that push toys teach essential skills to babies learning to walk.
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Once your baby has mastered pulling up to standing, and begins bouncing up and down, she's building her leg muscles. These are essential for learning to put one foot in front of the other, and push toys can be the next step to getting her to move confidently. According to experts, push toys, such as shopping baskets or popcorn "poppers," give your new explorer something to hold on to for support, while also teaching her to look ahead for obstacles and how to maneuver around them. Of course, you may find your child prefers to push the box the toy came in around. That will work, too. In fact, anything she can push will help her learn to walk and develop the muscles she needs to do it well.

What about walkers, those toys you set a child in as she's learning to walk? Some doctors say they are not a good choice and that the dangers of walkers outweigh the benefits. Babies who use walkers can fall over, fall down stairs, or get their fingers trapped. They can even get burned, since kids in walkers can reach higher – to the top of the stove, for example – than they can from the floor. In addition, research suggests that the use of a walker can delay sitting, crawling or walking, as well as mental and motor development [source: Hoecker].

Extra equipment isn't necessary. You can get your child up and moving by holding her hands as she pulls up and takes those tentative steps. Give her a nice, soft landing pad – carpet or rug – for those inevitable crashes, and move furniture with sharp edges out of the way. One day, probably before you're ready, you'll find her toddling around the house. Then the next stage of your work begins!