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How to help your baby crawl

Most babies will start to crawl around eight months. But, as with all developmental milestones, your baby will all move at their own pace. Some babies may start as early as six months, some much later and others may not crawl at all before jumping straight into walking.

Tummy time

Before your baby is ready to crawl, they need to develop strength in their neck and shoulders to keep their head lifted. They also need a lot of strength in their arms, back and core muscles to help hold themselves up and move around.

Tummy time is an excellent way to help your baby develop the strength they need to crawl. Some babies don’t enjoy it at first so it’s important to try and make it a pleasant experience.

Play soothing music to establish a calm, relaxed environment. Also, provide plenty of space and floor time on both front and back to let your child roll, kick and move freely.

6 tummy time exercise ideas

Once you’ve set up your space, help your baby crawl with these tummy time exercises to build core strength. It can be tiring for your baby, so don’t push them too hard. Start with 30 seconds and build up from there.

1. Tummy to tummy

Lie on your back and place your baby on your tummy. They will naturally lift their head to look at your face.

2. Face to face

Lie on your tummy in front of your baby and place some toys just in front of them to encourage them to lift their heads up.

3. Mirror mirror

Place a child-safe mirror on the floor in front of your baby – watch them push up to see themselves.

4. Sensory play

Place sensory items just in reach for your baby to touch and explore. These could include something crunchy like a foiled blanket, something smooth like a mirrored pebble and something textured like a ball with ridges.

5. Limit sitting

Try to limit the amount of time that your baby is sitting in pushchairs, car seats, bouncy seats and bumbos, as this can affect the development and strength of their core muscles.

6. Avoid props

It’s better to allow your baby to develop their core strength without the aid of propping up devices as they then use their own muscles. Propping devices can also sometimes encourage the baby to scoot on their bottoms.

Early crawling

Once your baby has developed their strength, they will start getting themselves into a crawling position usually by moving from sitting into an all-fours position, or by tucking their knees up beneath them from a lying face-down position.

Once on all fours, your baby may then test their strength and balance by rocking. This rocking stage is important as it helps develop the vestibular and proprioceptive systems in the inner ear which help us stay upright, know how quickly we’re moving and how we’re positioned. 

Gradually your child will be able to take their weight through their wrists and propel forward. You can encourage them by placing toys just outside their reach. Babies love to imitate so try getting down on the floor or encouraging an older sibling to demonstrate crawling to them.

The benefits of crawling

There are two main types of crawling, the ‘commando-style’  belly crawling and the bi-lateral hands and knees method we usually picture when we imagine the action of crawling. Of course, not all babies stick to one of these and there are plenty of interesting variations to be seen (including moving backwards) but all have their benefits. 

Crawling develops gross and fine motor skills, balance, strength, orientation and mobility. The motion of ankles bending and flexing and the spinal rotations that strengthen the lower back all help prepare for walking. Binocular vision is developed as babies change their focus and explore new environments while hand-eye coordination is improved as babies pick up toys in their hands as they move around.

By activating both sides of the brain, bi-lateral crawling heightens cognitive functions. Studies have shown that this supports reading, vision, hearing and body movement in later years.

Who knew there was so much to simply crawling? Remember that all children develop at different speeds and it’s important to not feel pressured to start your baby crawling before they are developmentally ready.