February 16, 2015

Crawling. Is it necessary?  I guess that depends on who you ask.  A few years ago, the American Medical Association was considering eliminating crawling as a developmental milestone.  Not sure whose idea that was, but it wasn't a good one.  Every developmental milestone is important for the next milestone to develop.  They are the foundation to higher level skills.  I cannot tell you how many times I am doing an evaluation and the parent boasts about their child walking at 10 months.  For me, that's a red flag!  Chances are, if a child did not crawl, or didn't crawl for very long, they didn't tolerate being on their tummy.

images-33Why is "tummy time" important?

Tummy time allows a child to experience their environment in a whole new way.  They can see things from different perspectives.  It allows a child to develop the extensor strength needed for postural control.  Tummy time allows a child's head and neck muscles to develop.  Tummy time allows the child to weight bear through their arms, creating the strength and stability needed for future fine motor control.  Tummy time also allows a child to elongate the muscles of their ribcage, which can facilitate the breath support needed for speech production.  Unfortunately, children who do not tolerate tummy time don't typically crawl, as they don't have the strength to maintain or sustain this position.

images-31Why is crawling important?

Crawling is a continuation of tummy time.  Children who crawl will continue to strengthen the muscles of the arms, head, neck, shoulders, wrists, and fingers.  As an added bonus, they also develop their core strength.  The muscles of the head, neck, and trunk are important for postural control and stability (maintaining postures over time).  When was the last time you crawled?  Give it a shot, you'd be amazed at what a great workout it is for your abdominals. To make it even harder, try crawling over a soft surface (like your bed).  

While crawling, a child is constantly putting weight on their hands and wrists.  When this occurs and a child begins to reach for objects, the muscles and arches in the hand develop.  These muscles are important for refined fine motor movement, which is needed for self feeding (spoon/fork), writing, buttoning, etc.

Another added benefit to crawling is that it enhances eye function.  When a child crawls they are constantly looking far and then up close.  This helps develop the muscles of the eyes (eye teaming) and facilitates development of depth perception.  Crawling through an environment provides opportunities for understanding body part relationships, relationships to objects, and general awareness (perception) of his/her surroundings.  

Crawling also helps facilitate bilateral coordination skills.  While a child uses reciprocal movement of their hands and legs, ultimately they are using both sides of there brains.  Reciprocal movements are needed for future skills such as skipping or kicking a ball.  Some researchers feel crawling is important for efficiency in reading and writing.  

images-32Ways to get your child on their tummy/crawling:

Lay on the couch and have your child lay on top of you.  

Encourage plenty of tummy time - get down there with them, face-to-face.  Start slow, and slowly add more time.  

Provide plenty of floor space for the baby/child to move around.  

Place toys (or yourself) just out of reach to encourage your child to move

Place your child/baby over your leg, so their hands and knees touch the floor.  Gently rock your leg back-n-forth to encourage your baby/child to push into their hands and knees

Demonstrate how to crawl.

Crawl with your child to make it fun.


If your child is ever in need of motor therapy, chances are your therapists will have your child participate in a variety of crawling activities.  There are so many benefits to crawling, and it's fun!  






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