Why Crawling Matters
Sharon St. Hillaire, PT, DPT

Crawling is a major milestone in a baby’s development.  However, how often have you heard parents say “my kid just skipped right over crawling!”   Or, how many well-meaning pediatricians tell parents not to worry when their child isn’t crawling? Although skipping crawling does not mean a child will certainly have motor problems, crawling is vital because of the physical, neurological, and functional benefits it provides.  These are all crucial for children and their development.

There are several ways babies can crawl, but the typical crawling on hands and knees requires coordination of the limbs on opposite sides of the body.  This helps develop an important band of nerves that allow the two sides of the brain to communicate.   Activities involving cross-lateral motions like crawling involve the even use of both hands, both feet, both sides of the core, and both eyes.  Because both sides of the brain are being developed and activated, cognitive function and ease of learning are increased.

When upper and lower extremity movements are combined, the baby’s body can move diagonally, as well as in the direction of the spine.  This is crucial for transitional movements between different positions, such as going from a sitting position to being on the hands and knees.  This leads to the ability to cross the midline of the body, which is important for reflex integration, daily function, vision, hearing, and learning.

Other benefits of crawling include:
  • Improved hand strength
  • Increased Bilateral Coordination
  • Increased trunk and shoulder girdle strength.  These positively affect things like posture and handwriting.
What if my child isn’t crawling?:

While some babies just completely skip crawling, not crawling can often be due to low muscle tone or muscle tightness. It can also be due to arm, core, or hip weakness as well as too much time spent in jumpers, exersaucers, or baby seats. Sometimes, babies prefer standing because there are ways to “cheat”, such as locking out joints to gain stability instead of using their muscles.

If you have concerns about your child not crawling, or not meeting other milestones, a physical therapist may be able to help.  Contact the Speech Pathology Group to set up an evaluation today.