Crawling is important for babies, toddlers and big kids! Crawling is important for all ages!
If you are thinking, "My child skipped crawling and went straight to walking, how does this apply to my child?" or you have a school-age child who is well passed the crawling stage then please continue reading as this article is for you as well!
Crawling can appear in a variety of ways. Some babies "commando crawl" pulling themselves forward on the ground with their arms, dragging their legs. Some babies "bear crawl" with arms and legs locked in place. Some babies "crawl" by shuffling backwards or sideways. Traditional crawling involves "four point positioning" with arms moving in a reciprocal coordinated way with legs (ie. right arm and left leg move together).
Note: I'm not including bottom-shuffling as "crawling", although some babies move this way, there is no weight-bearing on the arms and therefore does not have the same benefits of crawling I'm about to outline.
Whether a baby is learning to crawl for the first time, a baby being encouraged to crawl even though they can walk, or an older child is crawling for fun... there are therapeutic benefits for them all!
Therapeutic Benefits of crawling!
Crawling is a developmental milestone usually reached before walking. It is a gross motor skill that enables a baby to explore and interact with their environment. New found mobility can help a baby to reach new surfaces, pull to stand with furniture and seek social interaction.
Physically, crawling helps a baby or child to strengthen their back, neck, shoulder, tummy, arm and hand muscles. Crawling can help develop eye-hand coordination and more importantly bilateral coordination (use of the two sides of the body and the brain). During crawling (at any age), there is coordination and synchronisation of the two hemispheres of the brain as both the left and right sides of the body are used. We need integration of the two sides of the brain to enable us to perform cognitive skills such as reading, writing, communication, etc.
“Cross lateral movements, like a baby’s crawling, activate both hemispheres in a balanced way. These activities work both sides of the body evenly…Because both hemispheres and all four lobes are activated, cognitive function is heightened and ease of learning increases.”(1)
Crawling not only strengthens the big muscles of a baby (or child's) body, it also helps to strength hand muscles. Specifically, crawling can help with the development of the hand's palmar arches and separation of the two sides of the hand.
Crawling also has great sensory benefits. This aspect is especially important for older kids and the main reason I include it into my therapy sessions. Crawling is a form of "heavy work" and includes getting kids off their feet (out of extension patterns) with their bodies aligned for deep breathing. This alignment can also be achieved if the crawling surface is dynamic (eg. an air mattress) or uneven (eg. cushions) or up an incline. This combination of heavy work and deep breathing is really helpful when looking at ways to calm a child's sensory system and helping them to modulate their bodies.
Ways to encourage crawling
(1) for babies who have not yet reached the developmental milestone (under 12 months)
* Tummy time will strengthen neck, shoulder, arm and trunk muscles. Tummy time encourages reaching and pivoting skills which are precursors for crawling. Tummy time experiences also assist to develop perception, body awareness and sensory motor skills
There are many fantastic ways to encourage tummy time. Read about some of themhere.
* Supported kneeling in a crawling position (4 point positioning with an adult behind baby using their legs to provide the necessary support in this position). Supported kneeling promotes good hip control and trunk stability as well as strength in thigh, bottom and stomach muscles. This will assist with standing, crawling, pulling to stand and walking.
Facilitate the hip-leg-foot together and the opposite arm/hand during play.
Supported kneeling in a crawling position may also be encouraged over a roller or adult leg. Read about a home made roller here.
* Supported kneeling at a higher surface (eg. low sofa, small chair, coffee table, etc). Some children will be comfortable in this position on their own and others will need help to be supported around their hips. With support, the position provides opportunity for trunk rotation and development of core muscle strength.
Christie from MamaOT has more great suggestions for helping babies to crawl. Read ithere.
(2) for all ages
There are so many ways to encourage your older child to crawl in their natural environments or with simple props.
* tunnel play
* over a therapy ball
* up a slippery dip (slide)
* obstacle course
* up a grassy hill
* "bear walk"
* over a mattress/bed
* at the beach on the sand or in shallow water
* scooter board
* in the dirt
* across the lawn
* from bedroom to bathroom
* under the dining table
* under a clothes horse
* across a trampoline, under the trampoline (with no one jumping)
So does it matter if your child skips crawling and starts walking? Children develop in different ways and some prefer to stand. Some babies will move quickly to walking and prefer this to being on all fours. Others will walk and still crawl when they feel like it. Some children will crawl for a long time before eventually walking.
There are great benefits for your baby and older child to crawl. I always suggest that babies and children should be encouraged to crawl whether they have "skipped" it or not!
Incorporate crawling into your daily routine!
Do your babies and kids love crawling?
1. Carla Hannaford Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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