As a physical therapy student I remember one of my professors stating that crawling was a milestone that was okay to skip. I should note, I don’t think this was a pediatrics professor. I thought that sounded right, as my mom told me I never crawled as a baby. I turned out fine and didn’t have any motor or sensory issues, so perfectly normal right? Then I started to work in pediatrics and all of a sudden I was hearing more and more about crawling being important, especially from my OT counterparts. There are many benefits of crawling and the good news is crawling can be performed even when a child is walking.
Benefits of Crawling
Crossing The Midline – When a baby crawls, two different sides of the body have to work together to make the movement. This requires the left side of the brain to talk to the right side of the brain. This is great for building a foundation for motor coordination as they grow.
Development of Visual Skills – When a baby crawls, the baby looks ahead to see what is in the distance and then looks back down at their hands. This requires the baby to adjust the focus of their eyes. Making these adjustments in their vision is good for strengthening eye muscles and their ability to use their eyes together also known as their binocular vision.
Strengthening – When a child crawls bearing weight through their hands they are working on strengthening the small muscles in their hands. When the child bears weight on their upper extremities they work on strengthening through the shoulder complex and core.
Wrist Extension – Crawling puts baby in a position of wrist extension when on their hands and knees. According to my OT colleagues wrist extension is essential for developing hand writing skills.
Opportunities to Crawl
My thought is, not all babies will crawl and many of these babies won’t have developmental problems later and do just fine . I use myself as a good example, I never crawled and didn’t have any trouble. However, I believe crawling is beneficial due to the fact that it allows babies to work on developmental skills. The great thing about crawling is that even a walking child can crawl when playing. What I think is really important is giving your baby the opportunity to decide whether or not to crawl by giving your baby time on the floor and avoiding the container shuffle.
Give your baby plenty of floor and tummy time in a safe open area.
Avoid overuse of certain pieces of baby equipment. Be sure to moderate prolonged use of any containment device and allow plenty of free play.
Place motivating toys in front, behind and to the sides so baby is encouraged to move and pivot.
Setting up tunnels or boxes to move through once baby is strong and starts moving. Moving through a tunnel was the first way that my baby started to crawl. He still crawls through his tunnel on a regular basis today!
Mirrors are a great way to motivate baby to move and play in floor time.
Try giving baby plenty of different environments to explore, whether it be indoors or outdoors. Using items like bubble wrap, blankets or grass can be motivating for a baby to move and check out their environment.
Once baby is stronger and starting to move, setting up an obstacle course on the floor is a fun way to motivate baby to move.
If your child is walking and skipped crawling still provide and encourage opportunities to crawl!
Continue play with crawling through tunnels or boxes.
Get on the floor and crawl with your kids.
Crawling can be performed with simple play such as with push objects (example cars) on the floor!
At the park, there are plenty of opportunities to crawl!
Have you seen more benefits from crawling? I’d love to hear them!