‘Are they walking yet?’ This is the first question people will ask a mother when a baby is almost one year old. As a first time mommy ten years ago, I used to get overwhelmed by people’s comments and questions as where my baby’s development has reached. Funnily enough and with all the effort I invested in them, my three big boys actually crawled after walking! However, by time I gained experience and learned my way through motherhood; it is then that I started enjoying parenting. In fact, I realized how important it is to help my child grow at his or her own pace and I reached a point where I do it with pleasure. Indeed, I appreciate and acknowledge that every child is unique and will meet certain milestones – like walking- when they are ready to do so! No rush…
Unlike my first three children, I decided not to use a walker with my twins hoping to give them an opportunity to explore their own bodies. I really wanted my birdies to work on developing and strengthening their muscles by keeping them on the floor and allowing them to discover their surrounding using all their senses. I am giving them the time and space to grow on their own pace and enjoying every step of the way – starting from the army crawl or bottom shuffling up until they can master crawling! People usually boast about the fact that their babies started walking at a very early age and skipped crawling altogether. However, many studies focus on the importance of crawling and how to help babies enjoy it.
Here is a brief summary on what I have acquired about crawling and would like to share it with you:
Physically, crawling helps in strengthening the back, shoulders, and the neck. In fact, the more crawling the baby does, the better and more prepared he will be for walking on two feet. It works on developing both fine and gross motor skills. Interestingly enough, crawling stimulates parts in the brain and help in developing cognitive skills, like comprehension, concentration, and memory. It also improves eye/hand coordination which will be later used in reading, writing, and doing physical activities.
Crawling trains the eyes to look at far distances and then focus back at the hands. Developing the binocular vision at an early stage facilitates catching a ball with ease and copying something from the blackboard when the child starts school. Since crawling is a cross lateral movement, it strengths the connection between the right and the left side of the brain and hence enhances learning later on. The more the baby crawls the more synchronized his skills become.
Babies who crawl are building self-control and self-confidence as they are making their first decisions in life. By discovering their potentials and learning from their failures, they know where their limitations are and how to approach new challenges. As parents, the more encouragement they get the more self-reliance is established. Here, it is very important that the parents do not overreact when the baby falls and show him that it is ok as they help him to try again.
Crawling allows the integration of sensory information. As the baby is crawling he is using the visual, auditory, and sensory systems. By moving along on all fours, he is learning more about his environment and he is using his senses. The more babies crawl and explore their physical environment, the better the development of their logic and reasoning skills become, which in return sets solid foundations for math skills later on in life.
New communication with mommy, daddy, or caregiver:
As the baby is exploring everything around him, he continues to look back and gets mommy’s approval, encouragement, or warning if in danger. This turning of the head when a mom calls her baby, helps him in developing new communication skills together.
Avoiding certain problems:
There is a thought-provoking theory about a link between the lack of crawling and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We are born with a reflex named the “symmetric tonic neck reflex” (STNR) which helps us operate our upper and lower body independently. “Usually this reflex is inhibited, or matures, between nine and twelve months. When a child gains independent control of his or her neck, arms and legs, the STNR is matured. This can be achieved through alternate hands and knees crawling for at least six months. When this reflex does not integrate, some of the symptoms are:
- Tendency to slump when sitting at a desk
- Difficulty keeping bottom in seat and feet on the floor when sitting at a desk
- Poor eye-hand coordination
- Slowness at copying tasks
- Difficulty copying from a blackboard while at a desk
- Difficulty with vertical tracking (important for math equations)
- Poor attention
The book “Stopping ADHD” cites a study by Dr. Miriam Bender who found that at least 75 percent of the learning-disabled people surveyed had an immature symmetric tonic neck reflex contributing to their disability.” (http://www.medcentral.org/Main/Whatssoimportantaboutcrawling.aspx)
It does not mean that if a child has skipped crawling, then he must have these difficulties and learning problems later on. It is still a matter of debate among some medical and research professionals as there is no scientific prove about it. However, since there are many benefits to crawling, parents should work on encouraging their baby to do so.
How to encourage crawling?
- Place items out of baby’s reach – just at a short distance – and ask him or her to try to get it. For the twins I used to build small towers out of wooden blocks and place them at a small distance, around them, and they used to crawl to reach it and have it fall down. They get triumphant in demolishing it.
- Go down on all fours and crawl along with your baby. This can also be done if the baby has siblings since he or she gets encouraged to imitate them. This is one of my boys’ specialties as they love playing with the twins in any possible way.
- Give plenty of tummy time and have the baby discover his or her own body’s strength.
- Provide the baby with a safe space for crawling.
- Place the palms of your hands on a baby’s feet when he is on all fours. This gives him support and gives him a starting point.
- Limit a baby’s time in a walker as it delays both crawling and walking.
- Know your baby’s limit and do not force him or her to crawl if he or she is not ready to do so.
- Continue to encourage your baby and tell him or her how proud you are of them…
All babies develop and grow at various stages and at different times. As a mother, you know your child’s abilities and capabilities more than anyone. However, if you have the slightest doubts, you can always seek professional help. A final thought on this matter was mentioned in a parenting magazine and I totally agree with it: “Though there’s little scientific proof that crawling is important, there are plenty of experts who believe it is—so what’s the harm in doing tummy time and letting nature take its course?”
(Check this cute video with the different stages of crawling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3xWaOkXCSQ)
Pictures: personal and pinterest