Most babies learn to walk at around 12 months of age, but depending on your child's development and personality, those first unassisted steps can happen anywhere from 9 months to 15 months.

Laid-back tots may be on the latter end of the spectrum, while "search and destroy" types might be chomping at the bit much earlier; bigger babies may also lag a bit compared to leaner types.

"You'll know your baby is on track even earlier by watching his efforts to pull to a standing position, or pulling up and walking with the help of furniture, pushing toys or you," says Southern California pediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., author of the 2008 book Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.

Successful walking requires balance, in addition to leg and trunk strength. Supportive family members and lots of opportunities to practice also enter into the equation. "Encourage your child by spending some time every day helping her stand and take some steps," says Altmann. "Even the most self-determined child needs the chance to practice—and your support, cheering and interaction are helpful." She also believes push toys can be helpful and fun:

"Just make sure you are always close by, and that toys are sturdy and sharp table edges are protected." Keep your fledgling walker barefoot to help her develop strength and stability in the feet and ankles. If your baby is 15 months or older and hasn't shown any attempts to stand or walk, talk to your pediatrician.