The Importance of Crawling for Baby's Development
Why is it so important that your baby learns to crawl? Crawling is often not listed on the developmental milestones chart and some babies go directly from sitting up, to standing, and then to walking. This means that they skip crawling altogether. As parents and caregivers, we are so excited that the baby is walking, that we don't often think of the valuable advantages of crawling. The OFY team is here to discuss just a few of these benefits.
The motor skill of crawling has many benefits. Not only can it boost your baby’s future motor skills, but it can also enhance their brainpower. It is important that crawling takes place on their hands and knees using a cross body pattern (moving one arm and the opposite leg together) to move forward. This pattern is not the same as scooting or belly crawling (sometimes referred to as combat crawl). Furthermore, as a baby learns to crawl their brain is making more and more connections.
First, the physical benefits are plenty. Crawling will enhance fine and gross motor skills, balance, eye-hand coordination, and overall strength, to name a few. The development and refinement of these motor skills will assist your baby when they are older with activities such as running, jumping, writing, buttoning, and throwing balls. Research supports that crawling on hands and knees is a preparatory phase for walking, and associated with an earlier onset of walking (Størvold, Aarethun, and Bratberg, 2013).
Check out our video and observe how supportive mom and dad are while watching their twins crawl. They do an excellent job of encouraging the boys' motor accomplishment.
As a baby learns to crawl, they begin to develop spatial skills. Spatial skills are the ability to locate objects in three dimensions using sight and touch. As a child begins to crawl more, they learn about distance and the placement of objects. They also learn to move around obstacles that they cannot climb or pass through. Research has shown that crawling plays an important role in the development of these spatial skills as well as cognitive skills. In one study, babies who crawled on their hands and knees were able to locate a hidden toy correctly, more often than babies who did not crawl on their hands and knees (Clearfield, 2004). In another study, crawlers outperformed non-crawlers in their ability to predict the movement of an object with their eyes (Kubicek, Jovanovic, and Schwarzer, 2017). Therefore, this not only demonstrates that crawling improves a baby’s spatial skills, but problem solving skills as well.
Discovering the distance and placement of objects also helps with improving the baby’s vision. Looking at that distant toy, and then refocusing on their hands to reach for the toy forces their eyes to make adjustments and work together. This will help them later in school when they need to copy words off the board, or even when they are older and learning to drive.
We have all heard of left versus right brain, referring to the two sides of the brain. Well, these two sides of the brain need to build connections so they can communicate with one another. This is not uniquely an innate skill of a newborn. There are things a baby needs to do get these two sides working together, and crawling is an extremely important one. The movements required to crawl using the cross body pattern causes the two sides of the brain to interact and make more connections, which improves coordination. As the skill of crawling becomes more automatic for your baby, they build self-confidence, learn to take risks, make decisions regarding speed and destination, and then there is always the excitement when they reach their goal of finally grabbing that toy or exploring a new area.
As parents we are anxious for our babies to walk, but do not forget that crawling is very important for your baby’s overall development. Keep in mind that the motor milestone for independent walking is 12-14 months, and some babies are as late as 18 months. Even though you want to brag about how early your baby is walking, do not push your baby to walk before they are ready, let them crawl instead!
Remember, the Our First Year backpack contains a variety of attractive toys to make crawling fun. Check out the OFY activity cards for more ideas...it's all in the bag!