Crawling is a way we first learn to translocate but , in all our lives, there comes a point where naturally try standing up and try to walk.. but why? What really pushes us over the edge to start walking?

When we first start walking, usually we fail many times but still we have this natural motivation learn walking despite the failure. Is this some sort 'intuitive' intelligence which babies have? To be more specific I can't imagine a baby to consider the pros and cons of walking vs crawling and then logically argue to himself/herself that learning how to walk would be something worthwhile to spend his mental resources on.

Reference video

  • $\begingroup$ In my experience (I have 2 kids), they are motivated by being able to move faster and reach more things. In the case of the second, he was also motivated by the fact that his older brother could walk, and he wanted to keep up (or sometimes get away!). They follow the example of the other humans around them - Mommy and Daddy do that, so I want to also - and see the benefits of being able to do it. Kids are smart, and they're able to reason and make choices based on advantages and disadvantages. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Sep 28, 2020 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ To get away from their parents? (Been there, done that, had it reciprocated in turn.) $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 28, 2020 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Why do newborn fawns struggle to stand up yet keep trying? Why do young kangaroos come out of their mother's pouch and try to stand and hop? Could it be instinct? I can't imagine them considering the pros and cons of trying these things. $\endgroup$
    – mgkrebbs
    Sep 28, 2020 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ Some acounts of feral children describe them walking on all four mimicking thair animal caretakers movement style. If walking upight was purely inborn instinct one would expect even feral chidren walking upright. $\endgroup$
    – BagiM
    Sep 30, 2020 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ Babies raised by dogs still crawl when they are teenagers. Children copy adults. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2020 at 7:20

2 Answers 2


You might be interested in Alison Gopnik's book "The Gardener and the Carpenter", where she gives thoughts on how children develop and learn. Children are very disinhibited in their behavior, and this is generally considered to be a consequence of their prefrontal cortex being immature, but she proposes that this is not a bug but a feature. That there is a tradeoff in any algorithm between "exploiting" the possibility space (incrementally improving your solution until it's as good as it can be) and "exploring" the possibility space (casting a wide net to find totally different solutions that might be even better). If you just "exploit" you are liable to stay stuck in local maxima; if you just "explore" you're never going to find a good solution because your search is too random and the possibility space is too large to examine every possibility. Good optimizing algorithms have alternations between the phases, with "explore" phases to look at many different areas of the possibility spaces, and "exploit" phases to optimize the most promising candidates. Gopnik's argument is that children are the "explore" phase of human development, and that is why they are disinhibited: they are motivated to try many different things for the sake of it, with no specific objective in mind or much thought to the consequences. (and in this view, an important job of parents is to make sure the consequences won't be fatal).

This might answer some of your question of babies thinking about "pros and cons". It might be more realistic to see them as thinking only in terms of "pros". Not, "if I do this this will be the consequences, if I do that those will be the consequences, what should I do given the consequences I want", but "what happens if I try this? And that? And that? And that? And that?"

Another factor that wasn't mentioned in the comments is imitation; children like to imitate others around them and odds are they see adults walking all the time.

In terms of walking though I'd expect instinct to play the major role. Not that walking would be hardwired per se, but there are probably movements and reflexes that babies are hardwired to try, and once they get to a physical maturity where walking is possible the odds are that they will try those movements, and find the results interesting at least, profitable at best.


To understand why we must first understand how.

Standing. Standing is crucial to being able to walk, that is, developing the strength to stand on one's feet[1]. Usually, this starts with supported standing by a parent or an object. This builds coordination, flexibility, and further curiosity for the tiny human to keep moving around in the way that they can, most efficiently (which is walking as opposed to crawling).

Now we can attempt to hypothesize why.

As others have said, efficiency is huge. It takes less energy to walk than to crawl 10 feet, once the ability is there. Many might say that it is similar to making the decision to walking 10 miles or learning how to bike so that you can bike 10 miles. Clearly, biking is a more efficient mode of transportation. Getting from one place to another is a very integral part of human development and ability. Efficiency, paired with the curiosity that seems very integral in a baby's psychology, leads to the baby wanting to travel from place to place and see and touch and eat everything it can.

Is it evolutionarily beneficial for babies to move around a lot, efficiently? I think the answer is yes. In order to prove this, let's assume the answer is no. If no, then humans as a whole would just be content not getting around efficiently and have indifference toward them using as much energy as possible during the action. This is clearly inhuman and not self-preserving, and obviously a contradiction. Thus, it must be evolutionarily beneficial for babies to move around a lot. Furthermore, the movement and curiosity may lead to increased exposure to the elements and foreign biological organisms, giving the kids the chance to develop their immune system, like we all know is so crucial at that age. There is probably more examples to help this argument, but this example proves the point and concept. Moving efficiently is evolutionarily beneficial.

A more sociological question would be, would babies try to walk if no one else did? Is it nature or nurture? If we all in society crawled, would the baby too? Mirroring might play a very powerful role here. Testing this would be very interesting, but it would likely violate the Belmont agreement.

  1. Standing. https://www.parentingscience.com/when-do-babies-start-walking.html

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