Why Babies Should Not Skip the Crawling Phase
Crawling seems like an infant’s rite of passage. It’s cute, it’s exciting and let’s be honest, most of our little ones’ first step toward mobility usually follows a slew of phone calls to loved ones and ends up on social media. It’s a step we assume every child will take. But with a growing number of children skipping this step, the debate has sparked whether or not this milestone is necessary for development. What we have found at our center is crawling is essential and even critical for a baby’s early development. It could mean the difference between them holding a pencil later in school, having the right upper body strength to pull themself up from the floor, or getting that lateral movement the brain needs to eventually read, write, and comprehend. Even outside of education, there is a wealth of benefits your child can reap if they learn to crawl.
Now does this mean that if your child skips the crawling phase they will automatically have some type of learning challenge? Not necessarily. For some babies who skip the crawling phase, they turn out perfectly fine with no problems. However, for several students we see on a regular basis who show signs of underdeveloped motor skills, parents tell us they missed certain developmental milestones, like crawling or other milestones, which has made an impact on their learning ability in the classroom. If your child shows signs of wanting to walk before they crawl, encourage them as much as possible. You may even need to get down on the floor and crawl with them. It can make a difference as shown in this study, “Too many 4-year-old kids who can’t crawl: study.”
Learning Benefits of Crawling
Believe it or not, babies can make huge learning strides from building their muscle tone and gross and fine motor skills. Here are some of the benefits of crawling while your child is young.
The physical benefits are plenty. Crawling boosts gross and fine motor skills (large and refined movements), balance, hand-eye-coordination and overall strength are just a few. The development and refinement of these skills will assist your child later in life with activities such as running, jumping, writing, fastening clothes, and throwing balls. The strength they build also boosts their posture and preps them for walking.
Who would have thought that crawling could improve a child’s problem solving skills? As a child maneuvers around, they discover distance and placement of objects. Through trial and error they’ll also learn that they need to route themselves around obstacles that cannot be scaled or crawled through. So they create a new path and voila they have just developed and implemented basic problem solving skills.
Discovering distance and placement of objects also assists with a child’s vision. Examining a distant object and then refocusing on their hands in order to reach that object forces their eyes to adjust to the varying distances and encourages the eyes to work together. This development helps with later skills such as catching, driving, or copying words off a board.
Have you ever heard of the right and left side of the brain? Well, in order to function at our best, these two sides need to be in full communication with one another and their ability to communicate is not an entirely inborn skill. There are things we have to do to encourage these two sides to work together and crawling is a huge step. The movements required to crawl cause the two sides of the brain to interact which, in turn, improves coordination. Another mental benefit and one of my personal favorites to witness is the self-confidence. A child learns about taking risks and the failure and success that comes from those risks. They also learn to make decisions about destination and speed, and the pleasure of achieving goals. This is an easy benefit to witness as children grow more elaborate and determined in their movements. The smiling and clapping that follows reaching their favorite toy or person doesn’t hurt either.
Ways to Help Your Baby Crawl
Now that you know the importance of helping your baby crawl from the time they are babies, you are probably wondering how to encourage them to crawl instead of jumping right into the walking phase.
A great place to start is to ensure your baby gets plenty of tummy time. Tummy time allows babies to rock back and forth, which helps them get a better feel for the movement of crawling. It also allows them to stretch, play with toys and explore their surroundings. More importantly, tummy time gives your baby an opportunity to raise their head to strengthen those head and neck muscles. Too much back time can flatten the baby’s skull and create a misshaped head. Find a good place on the floor without sharp or hazardous objects around and put a soft blanket underneath them. If your child hates tummy time, try getting down on the floor with them to make it more fun. Talk with them or put a mirror in front of their face so they can have fun looking at their own reflection. Squeaky toys capture their attention or putting their favorite toy further away from them peaks their curiosity of crawling toward it.
Toys are one of the most enticing things to encourage your baby to crawl. Push-a-long toys help babies become curious about crawling after them or if you roll a soft ball along the floor, it encourages them to chase after the ball.
Try making an obstacle course out of soft pillows and cushions for your baby to climb and crawl over. You can also chase them on your hands and knees through the obstacle course to build their self-confidence in crawling.
There is no right or wrong way to get your baby to crawl, but there are different types of crawling you should encourage your baby to do. There is the traditional crawling method of moving forward, but you should also get your child to crawl backward. This works different muscles, encourages more head and neck movement, and gets them to move their legs in different patterns. As your baby begins mastering crawling, get them to do a bear crawl across the floor. Bear crawling is crawling with their arms and legs straight, rather than bent. You can also get them to do the bum shuffle across the floor on their bum cheeks. All of these exercises help your child build their fine and gross motor skills.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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