Baby Development

The Importance Of Crawling

Crawling babyMany moms may think that crawling is just one more childhood milestone and if their baby happens to skip this phase, a number of moms may think they have a whizz child on their hands, who has learned to walk before they can crawl!  This is not the case.

The fact is that crawling is a critical and very important milestone, and even though moms may be super proud of their baby genius who has skipped crawling and are now taking their first steps, parents should try to backtrack development and try their utmost to encourage and help baby to accomplish this essential life skill.


Possible reasons why babies don’t crawl

Perhaps one of the biggest contributing factors as to why babies don’t crawl is because parents have not taken the time to help the baby develop this crucial talent. Our modern lifestyle is constantly busy and filled with never-ending demands. A lot of parents may find that when baby is walking, life is made a little easier. What’s more, a lot of parents use walking rings or jolly jumpers and these devices have been shown to prevent babies from learning and developing the crawling skill. In a bid to help the infant accomplish the ability to crawl, moms and dads are encouraged to spend a number of hours sitting and playing on the floor, making use of toys or other objects which encourage crawling and actually teaching baby how to crawl.


Why is crawling so important?

Crawling is a lot more than just a means for the baby to get from point A to B. Studies which have been conducted into the importance of crawling, have demonstrated that crawling plays a major link between physical and neurological development. When crawling, a baby will form links or connections between both cerebral (or brain) hemispheres. If you think about what crawling actually entails, this connection will make perfect sense. For a baby to crawl successfully, they will have to master control over their movements as well as control over their limbs, first the right arm, then the left leg, followed the left arm and the right leg, and so on. The brain is responsible for sending messages to the legs and the arms and these messages will stem from both the right and left sides of the brain. The messages will cross or intersect each other in an area of the brain that is called the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is responsible for processing the message and for dispatching the message to the limbs, that the right arm should move first, followed by the left leg, etc.

While the baby is crawling, both hemispheres are communicating and exchanging information and this exchange is occurring virtually at the speed of light. While the art of crawling is being mastered, baby will be developing and enhancing skills which will prove to be essential in later life and very necessary for performing daily tasks, such as walking, running, exchanging an object from hand to hand, riding a bicycle, taking notes in class while the teacher is talking, driving, etc.

Apart from brain development and mastering skills which will be essential later in life, crawling is also important for spinal development and for perceptual and cognitive development. When crawling, a baby will feel the textures of different objects and items and this is important later on, when learning to grasp, pick up and use small objects, like crayons, pencils, etc.

The bottom line is that crawling is a significant milestone and fundamentally important for babies to learn and master.

Each and every newborn infant is born with the instinct to crawl, however this instinct will only be developed between the ages of 8 and 10 months old. Not all babies will crawl in the same fashion and each infant will develop their own unique crawl pattern and style. If your baby is not crawling in the traditional manner of left arm, right leg, etc. but is rather a scooter crawler – a type of crawl where the baby is shuffling along on their bottom, rather than crawling on all fours, this is still considered to be crawling. However, experts do warn that babies who are not able to correctly master the -all-four’ crawling pattern may struggle with coordination problems later on.


If crawling has been skipped

Children who have not crawled will in all probability struggle with several everyday activities, and may suffer with:

  • Under-developed hand-eye coordination (threading, ball catching, etc.);
  • Difficulty copying work from the board;
  • Trouble with vertical tracking, a skilled needed to solve maths equations and problems;
  • Problems in mastering activities that need upper and lower parts of the body to work autonomously, like swimming, riding a bike, and later driving a car.

It must be remembered that these are the most common symptoms which have been noticed in babies who have missed the crawling phase completely. It is quite possible that a baby who has not crawled may experience one or none of the above mentioned problems.


Encouraging crawling

Parents must ensure that baby is given plenty of ground playtime and tummy time. The baby can be placed on their tummy and a toy or object can be positioned just out of reach but still visible. Another method to encourage crawling is to lay baby on the carpet or blanket and help the baby into the crawling position by gently lifting them onto their elbows. Parents may also teach a baby how to crawl by mimicking crawling (which is bound to be met by giggles from baby). Time in a walking ring should be kept to a minimum or avoided all together.

When the baby has become mobile, moms will need to ensure that the home is crawl-safe. Remember to fit covers over all exposed electrical plugs, make sure that all sharp and hazardous objects are safely packed away and that baby is unable to reach any breakable goods. Lock away all harmful household cleaners and use the handy baby-safe locks to secure cupboards.


It is never too late

If your baby has skipped the crawling phase and is already walking, it’s never too late to master crawling. Encourage your toddler to learn how to crawl and develop the essential skills.

Parents who believe that their baby’s development is delayed are urged to consult with their paediatrician, who is correctly trained to assess a child’s personal development. Moms are urged not to compare babies and to remember that each and every baby will develop and grow at their own pace.


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