As new parents, we “ooh” and “ahh” at our babies as they gain mobility and independence through crawling. Look how cute he is! Look how fast she can go! But as pediatric therapists, we see crawling as more than just a cute rite of passage.
When do babies start crawling?
So when do babies start crawling? Most little ones usually crawl on all fours between the ages of 6-9 months.
Once they can roll and sit up on their own, they begin to realize their potential for getting from point A to point B. And suddenly, a whole new world opens up to them as they begin to creep along on their stomachs, scoot forward using one leg to propel themselves, and even put several different movements together, gradually inching their way across the floor.
Why is crawling so important?
Crawling encourages the development of so many developmental skills including:
-Bilateral coordination – The coordinated use of both sides of the body together to perform a task.
-Reciprocal arm and leg movements – Alternating patterns of movement using both sides of the body.
-Weightbearing through the hands
-Integration of primitive reflexes – A set of innate and involuntary movements infants make in response to certain stimuli.
What if my child never learned to crawl?
So what about babies who seem to skip right over this important developmental milestone?
Babies who haven’t spent a lot of time on the floor or in tummy time may never learn to crawl. Some babies are in “containers” (e.g. car seat, carrier, swing) for extended periods of time during this crucial developmental window, meaning that they may not develop the strength and skills they need to crawl.
Other times, parents feel pressured to compare their babies to other kids. They may want their babies to walk “early”, holding their hands and practicing standing and walking before their babies are developmentally ready. This can lead to babies who learn to walk before getting all of that important tummy time, scooting experience, and crawling practice.
Physical and neurological conditions may also prevent a child from learning to crawl, as in children with Cerebral Palsy.
In some children, the primitive reflexes have not been fully integrated, which leads to difficulty with controlling and coordinating the movements needed for crawling.
Sensory development can also play a role in whether a child learns to crawl. Some children struggle with vestibular processing, which can lead to issues with coordination and balance. The visual system can also impact a baby’s ability to crawl, as he judges the distance between himself and the obstacles around him. Children who have difficulty with tactile processing may be reluctant to be on the floor or they may be unwilling to crawl over various surfaces.
What can I do to support my child?
No doubt about it, the single best way to support a baby in learning to crawl is to ensure that she spends plenty of time lying in all different positions on the floor (with supervision, of course). This means tummy time, sidelying, and lying on her back while looking at your face, reading books, or trying to reach for toys.
If your child is older and never met this developmental milestone and you continue to see deficits in the skills described above, it’s not too late to help him start to develop these foundation skills through fun and playful activities.
There are many ways to help kids work on bilateral coordination, strength, balance, reciprocal movements, hand-eye coordination, and more!
Here are some fun ideas from the team at SPIDERfit Kids to promote the foundation skills seen in crawling:
Baby Crawl – The basic crawl pattern helps set the stage for a variety of other aspects of movement and sensory development.
Sensory Prep for the Crawl – Once a child has developed the basic crawl pattern, help them develop body and movement awareness by change speed, direction, and other aspects of movement.
Imaginary Animal Crawl – Combining imagination with the crawling pattern aids in the development of coordination, body awareness, and strength!
T-Birds – Creating proper extension and posture is an important aspect of being able to crawl, as well as perform other upright movements effectively.
Be sure to stop over to check out more great content from our friends over at SPIDERFit Kids!