A common question we get in practice is, “Is it important for my baby to crawl?”
The quick and easy answer is yes.
Crawling provides many great experiences for your child and helps develop strength in other areas. Crawling is the first and longest period of time that your baby will be putting their weight through their hands to develop strength and stability at their shoulders. This is important because it allows them to build the strength and control of their hands for skills such as:
- Feeding themselves
- Playing with toys
- Handwriting in the future
- Being able to get themselves dressed
Some other benefits of crawling include:
- Increased grip strength and developing the arches of the hands
- Better visual tracking while reading
- Stronger trunk and shoulders which is needed for posture, handwriting and balance.
While some kids are creative and find ways to explore their environment via rolling (cue barrel rolling), crawling is really the first form of independent movement. It also helps prepare for future neurological development of their vestibular/balance system, sensory systems, cognition, coordination and depth perception. As well, it helps connect the right and left side of the body because of the cross-crawl mechanism (opposite arm working with the opposite leg).
Crawling helps to establish body awareness in space for you baby so they know where they are and how to maneuver around their environment. In addition, the rotation of the hips and shoulders in opposite directions while cross crawling creates some torsion in the spine which will help increase spinal muscle tone and develop optimal structure and curvatures of the spinal column.
Improper forms of crawling are common and may look cute to the untrained eye, but do not have the same neurological benefits as the normal cross crawl. Dysfunctional crawling includes bum scooting, army crawling, dragging a leg, pushing with one leg out to the side and other movement patterns that babies develop in compensation for an underlying problem. There are actually 24 different ways of ineffective crawling.
To help your child be successful with crawling, they first have to be successful with being on their tummy while playing at an early age. They learn to stabilize through their elbows into their shoulders around 3 ½ months. By 6 months, they learn more about creating shoulder stability (you see this when they do a cobra position on their tummy).
If your baby does not like tummy time, keep working on building up tolerance. Try placing a towel under their arms to provide support so they can focus on lifting their heads or put them on a yoga ball.
Why do some kids skip crawling?
While several factors can be at play, they may include:
- Arm, core or hip weakness
- Visual deficits
- Muscle tightness
- Container overload / lack of floor play (Or floor play time on slippery surfaces so it is hard to get traction)
- Low muscle tone
- Subluxations: Neurological/structural interference within the spine (inhibits normal development and movement)
- Passion for standing (as a reminder, standing is easier for babies because they can lock out their joints to gain stability instead of relying on their muscles)
What can you do as a parent?
- Work on side sitting – sitting with your baby’s legs in a 90 – 90 position, also called oblique sitting
- Take off their pants, stockings and socks when practicing to increase traction
- Place toys out of reach to encourage movement
- Practice on a carpet or a rug (something with traction is really important). Even grass can be useful
- Get a Chiropractor to make sure all their joints are properly moving and effectively. Please also make sure this is someone who also understands movement milestones in babies
If you have a toddler who is already walking but you know they skipped crawling or didn’t do the traditional cross-crawl – you can still encourage them to perform crawling by getting down on the floor with them and having them imitate you. There is still huge benefit to having them perform this exercise even if they have moved on to a new stage.
Just remember, motor milestones are meant to happen in sequence and if we miss a step it can throw off the development and function of the child. A child must crawl and walk before they talk, so if you see a delay or they miss a milestone then let us know so we can help!