A baby’s first year is full of important milestones, and one of the biggest is learning to crawl. It means a whole new world of exploration and movement for teeny tots, and there are a heap of different ways to finally master the art of crawling.
From the bum shuffle to the commando and the backwards push, each baby has their own style of getting to the on-all-fours crawl, and that’s perfectly normal. And each cherub gets there in their own sweet time.
When do babies crawl?
According to Pregnancy, Birth & Baby babies usually start crawling somewhere between six and 13 months old. Generally, they’re able to get into the crawling position (on hands and knees) between six and nine months. By about eight months they’ll most likely to be rolling around, and doing some variation of crawling – commando crawling is pretty common.
Paediatric nurse Ariella Lew told Mum’s Grapevine that some babies who never do the tradition, on-all-fours crawl. “Many of a child’s early movements contribute towards their crawling including rocking on all fours, rolling and lifting themselves on their arm and managing to navigate themselves independently from place to place.”
What’s important to remember is that crawling is just one skill in a long line of skills babies are learning. And each skill is building on another skill they’re previously mastered. Each new skill is more complex than the one before – hence the saying, we need to learn to crawl before we can walk!
So, what skills has baby been building up until now? They’ve been working on controlling their head, arm movements, sitting up, rolling over from back to front and front to back and also holding their own weight through both their arms and legs.
Different types of crawling
Healthy Children explains there are a few different styles of crawling:
- Classic crawl: Up on all fours, moving one arm and the opposite knee forward at the same time.
- Bear crawl: Looks like the classic crawl, but bub keeps their knees and elbows straight, walking on their hands like a bear does.
- Commando crawl: Bub moves their body forward using their arms, while belly is dragged along the floor.
- Bum shuffle: One of the cutest crawls ever – when bub scoots around on their bottom using their arms to move around.
- Crab crawl: Baby moves backwards or sideways, using their arms.
- Rolling crawl: Your little mover gets where they need to be by rolling!
As Ariella points out, crawling is a very loose term. “Crawling is simply the name we give to the movement pattern prior to standing and walking. But it is a skill within itself that can take time to develop and requires other muscles to be strong before this occurs. This includes head and necks, abdominal muscles, arms and legs.
“Once babies have mastered how to roll, they are often keen to start moving from place to place and look for ways to do that! This may be rolling further and for longer, it may be reaching far with their arms and forcing themselves into a commando crawl, it may be trying to sit up or a myriad of other movement patterns. These are all signs that your baby’s natural curiosity is leading them to move and help them to explore their world and should be encouraged.”
How can I encourage my baby to crawl?
While your baby will obviously begin crawling when the time is right for them, there are a few things you can do to help them learn to crawl:
- Tummy time: It helps strengthen baby’s head, neck, back and leg muscles – all of which they need when crawling.
- Floor play time: Get down onto bub’s level and play together on the floor, trying to get them to move in different ways by enticing them with toys.
- Encourage reaching: Reaching across the midline is really good for a baby’s motor development, so place a toy just out of reach to encourage this movement.
- Play with balls: This encourages reaching and getting them to follow the direction of the ball and move towards it however they can.
- Model movement: Show them how to reach things and access the toys they are looking for.
- Independent play: Leave babies to play themselves on the floor with some toys and encourage independent exploration which will likely lead in turn to movement.
Here’s one more thing to know. Not all babies crawl – some skip the crawling stage altogether and just get up and walk.
“Many babies never crawl!” Ariella explains. “The reason crawling is emphasised is because it allows us to see movement patterns and strengths and weaknesses within a baby’s body. A relatively high level of body awareness and coordination is required for crawling. However, if your baby is showing core strength and stability in other ways and is moving independently and happily, there is most likely not a cause of concern. As with any milestone, trust your instincts if you are concerned!”
But if your baby is over 12 months and not yet crawling, it’s worth chatting to your healthcare provider.
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