It all happens so fast… one day your baby is sitting peacefully playing with toys, and the next they start crawling and are officially a mobile explorer. Once your baby hits this stage (normally anytime between 7-10 months), he’s on the go non-stop and you are left frantically baby proofing all areas of your house.
You may be wondering if crawling is even necessary- aren’t there many toddlers who skip crawling altogether? Yes- there are. And there’s actually some disagreement among pediatric professionals about whether crawling is a true developmental milestone. Your pediatrician may even say that as long as your baby is moving from one place to the other, it doesn’t really matter how they get there.. But crawling is so much more than just a form of mobility. Here’s why:
1. Crawling builds the brain
Crawling is a skill that allows both sides of the brain to get practice working together. Our brains are separated into two halves, the left and right hemispheres, and are connected by a neural “roadway”, the corpus callosum. As your baby crawls, his left leg moves in sync with his right arm. This reciprocal movement activates and coordinates both sides of the brain and body. Using bilateral coordination, or coordinating both sides of the body together, is necessary for a lot of skills your baby will learn to do in the future; buttoning a shirt, climbing a ladder, opening a water bottle, and stabilizing a piece of paper while writing.
2. Crawling strengthens
When babies crawl they are hard at work strengthening their upper bodies from their shoulders all the way down to the tiny muscles in their hands. This workout will help develop the palmar arches, resulting in better fine motor skills like effectively using a pencil when starting school in a few short years.
3. Crawling improves vision
By actively crawling through their environment, babies are building more efficient binocular vision. Their eyes are working as a team as they spot their favorite toy across the room and crawl towards it. Your baby is developing depth perception in their newly discovered 3-D world.
This early start to vision development plays a big role in later years for going up and down stairs safely, playing sports, and copying notes from a board at school.
4. Crawling develops the sense of touch
Textured sensory play doesn’t have to mean big messes of paint, dirt or water. Crawling on different surfaces like carpet, tile, and grass, helps babies refine their tactile systems (sense of touch). Later on, the tactile system helps kids feel a bug crawling up their legs or choose which book to pull out of their backpacks without looking.
5. Crawling builds body awareness
Weight-bearing through the joints-the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips- sends messages to the brain about where these body parts are in space. Since crawling involves full body weight-bearing, the brain is receiving and processing so much vital information as your baby crawls around. Having a strong sense of body awareness helps children understand personal space, sit still in their chairs, and navigate playgrounds fluidly.
How You Can Help Your Baby Learn to Crawl
Tummy time is one of the most important activities to prepare your baby for crawling. Getting them comfortable playing on their belly will help them develop their core and upper body strength, and eventually, they will start to push up onto their arms and be able to get their legs underneath their body. As they get more comfortable in this position, they will begin rocking back and forth on their arms and legs. Motivation comes next, as they start moving one leg forward, gaining the courage to explore. Our Babies on the Move course offers many more tips to build prerequisite crawling skills.
Once your baby is officially on the move, try placing your couch cushions on the floor for them to navigate. Crawling around or over obstacles will help to continue improving strength, balance, and motor planning abilities.
For some extra motivation to keep them moving, get out some toys like tunnels and balls to get them motivated to move.
What if My Baby Misses this Stage of Development?
Even if the crawling stage is missed, you can still encourage your toddler or preschooler to build similar skills through play and help them achieve all the above mentioned benefits.
Some fun ways to do this:
- Crawling through an obstacle course
- Holding yoga poses (eg. table, downward dog, plank)
- Hanging from monkey bars
Need some extra support to help you confidently support your child’s first year of development? Our online course Babies on the Move is for you!