We applaud the first roll-over, video the first step, and record the first words, but what about the first time your baby crawls across the floor? This is perhaps the most important developmental milestone and also the most under-appreciated. It is sometimes regarded as a nuisance milestone because the baby is suddenly on the move, and we have to childproof, scrub the floors, and keep the family pet out of the way. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of crawling, and remember, once your baby pulls to standing and takes that first step, the opportunity for these benefits is lost forever.
1. Crawling strengthens your baby’s trunk muscles.
Think planking for babies. Just as a 30-second plank does wonders for our core, strengthening our abs, back muscles, obliques, shoulders, and hip girdle, crawling does the same for babies. Because babies develop from head to toe and from their trunk outward, a strong core is the foundation for the rest of their strength, coordination, and agility. The weight-bearing through the shoulders and hips builds the strength necessary for good posture and motor skills.
2. Crawling helps both sides of the brain work together.
Because the left side of our brain controls the right side of our body and vice versa, the two sides of your baby’s brain need to learn to work together to have coordinated movement on both sides of their body. The reciprocal action of crawling helps stimulate this and teaches the brain to work together; thereby, the motor skills become more coordinated from left to right.
3. Crawling helps the development of your baby’s visual skills.
His vision is still developing throughout the first year when crawling is naturally occurring, so during this time, your baby’s world is still very close to him. He does not have the 20/20 vision of an adult. His vision is still developing well past his fourth birthday. When your baby is crawling on the floor, his toys are all within eight to 36” from his face, which is the field where his vision is most acute, and he can see most clearly. He is also gazing at the floor ahead of him while crawling, strengthening the tiny muscles around his eyes and improving his visual-motor skills. Crawling also helps develop binocular vision, or the ability to look ahead in the distance, then back down at his hands while crawling.
4. Crawling strengthens your baby’s hands and builds fine motor skills.
Because your baby is weight-bearing on her hands while crawling, the musculature of her hands is strengthened, and she will have better dexterity for grasping items, coloring, holding a pencil, and eventually writing.
5. Crawling helps with balance.
It takes some skill to balance on all fours, which is an important building block for walking.
6. Crawling improves your baby’s spatial skills.
Crawling requires some pretty sophisticated navigating over toys, under chairs, around table legs, and through mommy’s legs. This understanding helps your baby learn about his world, body awareness, and begins to lay the groundwork for higher-level critical thinking.
7. Crawling builds self-confidence.
It can be scary to venture off away from mommy and daddy for the first time, but taking these risks will help your baby discover his potential and limitations while he explores his world on his own.
Crawling doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a long process of scooting, creeping, rolling, and eventually pulling those little knees underneath their bodies to propel themselves forward. Encourage crawling! Get down on the floor with your baby and place toys just out of reach. Some babies will pull themselves to standing and try to go straight to walking, skipping the crawling milestone altogether, but encourage her to get back to all fours. Once your baby masters walking, she will have little time for crawling, and all of these great benefits will be missed.