Step-by-Step: Why Crawling is Crucial for your Baby’s Development

by Dr Miné Willemse

Crawling is a crucial developmental milestone

Everything flies by so quickly, one minute you’re peacefully holding your beautiful newborn baby and the next they start crawling under every chair and climbing up every stair exploring the world. Crawling is a crucial developmental milestone that babies reach around eight to ten months of age.

You may be wondering if crawling is even necessary – aren’t there many children who skipped crawling completely? Crawling is so much more than just a cute form of mobility. When a child is walking early does not necessarily mean they are advanced. It does however indicate that their brain has missed some very important developmental steps that can cause issues later on. Crawling provides a wealth of positive benefits to babies, it is an essential part of their growth and development.  Here are 8 reasons why.

 

Crawling strengthens muscles

  1. Strengthens Muscles

    By crawling your baby needs to support their own weight and therefore are actively strengthening all the big and small muscles from their shoulders down to their tiny fingers. This is necessary to develop their gross and fine motor skills. This milestone is the first and only time they have to put weight through their hands to strengthen and stabilise their shoulder joints. Not only does this milestone strengthen the upper body, but it also strengthens the muscles of the head, neck, back, hips and legs – this is a full-body workout.

  2. Enhances Brain Development

    While your baby is crawling both sides of the brain practice to work together. The crawling movement encourages your baby to cross there midline which is very important in order to develop the brain’s left and right hemispheres. As the left leg moves simultaneously together with the right arm the movement activates and coordinates the left and right sides of the brain and body. This is an essential way to build brain connections for various other skills your baby will learn to do, climbing on the monkey bar, opening a bottle and fastening clothing. It also helps them develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they navigate their environment.

  3. Improves Vision

    When babies crawl and explore their environment, they discover that their favourite teddy can be far away or close to them. This is known as binocular vision which is the near and far part of vision your baby is training while crawling. As their eyes work together to look far into the distance, they see their favourite teddy across the room and crawl towards it, then look back down at their hands while reaching for that toy. It helps babies develop their spatial awareness and improves their depth perception.

  4. Improves Coordination and Balance

    Crawling also helps babies develop their hand-eye coordination, as they learn to coordinate their movements and reach for objects while on all fours.  This skill is vitally important for writing and even reading. It also helps to develop balance which is essential for the next milestone – walking.

  5. Develops the Sense of Touch

    Different textured sensory play does not necessarily have to be big messes of dirt or playing with paint. By crawling on various different surfaces such as slippery cold tiles, rough carpets and outside on different textured gravel, sand and grass will also help your baby to refine their sense of touch.

  6. Builds Body Awareness

    Distributing weight through all the joints in your little one’s body gives a lot of proprioceptive input to the brain by activating these proprioceptors found in the joints and muscles. The brain receives and processes the messages from these receptors about where the body parts are in space. This process helps babies to understand the relationship of where they are positioned in the environment around them. With practice and experience, it helps them to learn problem-solving skills by crawling around a toy instead of over it.

  7. Improves Socialization

    Crawling also helps babies develop their socialization skills, as they are able to choose who and what they want to interact within their environment.

  8. Helps Build Confidence

    Crawling is a significant achievement for babies, and it can boost their confidence and sense of independence. By navigating around their environment on their own, they start making decisions for themselves. With each decision comes either success or failure and quickly they will learn what they can and cannot do. By overcoming these failures and learning from them they slowly increase their confidence.

Crawling over obstacles helps your babyFor some extra motivation here are some tips to help babies develop their crawling skills:

  • Encourage Tummy Time from as early as day 1 – Tummy time is essential for babies to develop neck, back, and shoulder muscles, which are essential for crawling. Give your baby as much floor time as possible, by exploring helps them try new movements.
  • Create Obstacles – Set up obstacles such as pillows and soft toys to encourage babies to crawl over or around them. Crawling around or over obstacles will help continue to improve strength, balance, and motor planning abilities.
  • Use Toys – Use toys such as balls, blocks, and soft animals to encourage babies to crawl toward them.
  • Offer Praise – Praise and encourage babies as they crawl towards you or an object, as this helps boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Does it matter if my baby’s crawl looks funny?

It certainly does. This may occur for various reasons and this indicates that your baby is missing out on important developmental inputs. Sometimes when there are weaknesses in certain parts of a baby’s body such as the shoulders, hips, or core muscles, the baby can develop other forms of crawling as compensation such as inch worm crawling, bum shuffling, army crawling and janky crawl. A typical baby crawling pattern would be when your baby is on all fours using both sides of the body equally, moving one hand forward while the opposite leg moves forward, simultaneously and symmetrically. If you notice that your baby prefers moving with an atypical or nonsymmetric crawl for longer than 4 weeks, be sure to take them to a chiropractor with a special interest in paediatrics who can help you learn fun and supportive ways to encourage crawling so your baby can gain all the brain benefits.

Crawling is a vital milestone in a baby’s development, and it provides many benefits that will be useful throughout their lives. By encouraging and supporting their efforts, we can help them develop the skills they need to become confident, independent, and well-rounded children.