A surprising aspect of parenthood is seeing how quickly your baby changes. Every parent has experienced the wonder of a baby doing new things each day. Year one is filled with developmental milestones as your baby learns to interact with their environment. One important milestone is learning to crawl.
When Does a Baby Crawl?
The ability to move around the room changes your baby's world and yours! Crawling is the beginning of your child's independence, so understanding the process is essential.
Babies develop the skills to begin moving around their environment between 6 and 9 months of age. Some transition into crawling quickly. Others take a bit more time. If your baby’s abilities don't quite match, that doesn't mean that there is a problem. But if you have concerns, check with your doctor.
How Does Crawling Develop?
The five senses. From birth, your baby uses their senses to understand their environment. This begins with sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. These sensory experiences are important to your child’s mobility. Children that live in a rich sensory environment with social interaction are more motivated to move around and explore.
Development. There are developmental steps that lead your baby to become more mobile. Activities to watch for are when your baby:
- Engages with you by smiling and looking at you
- Lifts their head and looks around when lying on their tummy
- Moves items from hand to hand and brings them to their mouth
- Reaches for items that are just out of reach
- Rolls side to side without help
- Begins to sit without support
- Rocks back and forth on their arms and legs
What Does Crawling Do for My Baby?
Your baby learns to control their arms and legs by crawling around their environment. They also learn how to reach objects of interest and begin to become more independent.
Other benefits. Crawling also helps your baby learn to understand their own abilities by moving over different surfaces in their environment. They begin to understand how they must adjust movement to go up, down, and across different kinds of inclines and textures.
Crawling also provides an opportunity for your baby to support their own weight with their arms and hands. This leads to important control of their arms that will develop muscle strength and fine motor skills. These are important for your baby to develop the later skills of dressing, eating, and writing.
Emotions. Transitioning into crawling marks a significant step toward your child’s emotional and social development. Once babies can move toward objects of interest, they are beginning the steps necessary to share interesting items with parents and others.
Crawling allows your baby to begin to develop their own willful attention to things that interest them. Before this, they are typically able to respond only to the items presented by someone else, whether parent, sibling, etc.
How Can I Help My Baby Become Mobile?
Tummy time. A key step toward beginning to crawl is when an infant is old enough to experience time spent lying on their stomach. This is called “tummy time.” It provides a great opportunity for interaction with your baby in addition to making them more mobile. Some steps to successful tummy time play include:
- After your pediatrician says it’s OK, place your baby on a firm surface.
- Only take part in tummy time play when your child is awake and alert.
- Do not leave your child unattended during tummy time.
- Begin with short (3 to 5 minute) sessions of tummy time, ending the session if your baby becomes fussy or tired.
- Present items to your child, allowing them to lift their head and reach toward the objects.
- Place toys around your child to allow them to rotate around while reaching for them.
- Remove any items that could present a risk, such as small items that could cause choking.
What Should I Do After My Baby Begins Crawling?
Safety first. Once your baby begins crawling, prepare a safe environment for exploration. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Put all small items that pose a choking risk out of your baby’s reach.
- Try crawling around the area and looking up to see what might tempt your baby to climb.
- Be sure all chemicals (medications, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc.) are safely locked away.
- Strap furniture that is at risk of tipping to the wall. Specialty straps are available for this purpose.
- Always provide supervision. Once babies get mobile, they move quickly!
What If I Suspect a Problem?
Crawling is a skill that most babies transition into without problems. It is very likely that with a bit of support and supervision, your baby will be mobile and exploring the world before their first birthday.
However, if you are concerned that your child is not following along the expected path of development, it is always wise to check with your healthcare provider. Programs are available to help children from birth to 3 years of age develop important milestones. The earlier these are accessed, the better your child’s outcome can be.