Crawling Is Important
Most infants will begin to crawl on their stomach at eight months of age, and begin to crawl on their hands and knees a month later. Crawling on hands and knees is a very important developmental milestone for many reasons. However, it is common for parents to say their child skipped crawling and went straight to walking. Here are a couple reasons why crawling is important as well as tips to encourage crawling for both children that are not walking yet and those that are walking already but not crawling.
Crawling on hands and knees in a reciprocal pattern is a great strengthening activity for children. This strengthens arm and leg muscles along with neck, back, and stomach muscles. Crawling on hands and knees develops the hip and shoulder girdle, allowing for better stabilization at these joints. This position also helps build the arches of the hands which can later affect fine motor skills like handwriting.
Crawling on hands and knees in a reciprocal pattern also works on balance and coordination. Children have to shift their weight and maintain their balance on one arm and leg while the opposite arm and leg work together to propel the body forward. The movement of opposite arm and leg forward requires dissociation of the extremities which improves coordination. Playing and moving on hands and knees also helps to develop the spatial awareness of children. This is what helps us learn where our body is in relation to the space are around us. As a child develops this spatial awareness, they begin to learn where they are in relation to different objects around them and become aware of when an objects position is changed.
Fortunately, there are many ways to encourage crawling. For your child who is not crawling or walking yet, encourage tummy time as much as possible when the child is awake. Tummy time mats are a great way to make this activity fun. You can encourage forward movement by placing a favorite toy or yourself a few feet way. If there are other children in the same age range or a little older, you can have them play and crawl with your infant, encouraging them to follow. When they begin to move forward, encourage them to crawl on different surfaces and even over the top of a pillow or your legs.
For your child who has started walking, you can still encourage crawling during play to continue to develop fine motor skills. You can have your child imitate how different animals walk such as a dog or a bear. You can build a fort or buy a play tunnel that they can crawl through. Another fun option to get kids crawling is by building an obstacle course using items in your house. You can have them crawl over different types of surfaces such as pillows or couch cushions on the floor, crawl around objects, and through a fort (or tunnel). Obstacle courses can be extra fun if they have friends over and they make a game out of it.
Milestones for children are based on standardized norms, and it is okay if your child does not begin crawling right at eight or nine months. If you have any concerns about why your child may not be crawling for whatever reason please contact your pediatrician and ask for a physical therapy referral.
Cech, D, Martin, S. Functional Movement Development: Across the Life Span. 3th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 2011.
Mcewan, MH, Dihoff, RE, Brosvic, GM. Early Infant Crawling Experience Is Reflected In Later Motor Skill Development. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1991;72(1):75-79. doi:10.2466/pms.19220.127.116.11.