Expert Articles

Understanding the Importance of Crawling for Infant Development and Assistance Methods (Part 1)

Author: Sonia Yu
Registered Occupational Therapist


Parents often have different questions regarding their child’s crawling development, such as: When should a child learn to crawl? Is it a problem if a child skip crawling and goes straight to walking? What can be done if a child doesn’t enjoy crawling? Now, let us delve into understanding more about infants’ crawling development.

Crawling is a significant milestone in an infant’s developmental process. Typically, infants start learning to crawl around 6–10 months old. Through crawling, infants can develop the strength in their hands, back, and core muscles, as well as promote skeletal development. While crawling, infants manipulate their limbs and move through left-right alternation and weight shifting, which enhances their balance, body control, and coordination. It also promotes the development of both the left and right brain hemispheres, fosters visual tracking and spatial awareness, and lays a foundation for future development of gross and fine motor skills. Additionally, crawling provides stimulation to the sensory system, including touch, vestibular (movement and balance), proprioceptive (muscles and joints), visual, and auditory senses, further promoting the development of sensory integration abilities. If infants lack crawling practice, their muscle, skeletal structure, and sensory integration abilities may not develop fully, potentially affecting their abilities in tasks such as writing, engaging in sports, and learning. Therefore, we should encourage and assist infants in engaging in crawling exercises to ensure their comprehensive development. Below are some considerations for assisting infants in learning to crawl.

Before formally learning to crawl, infants should have sufficient tummy time to practice and ensure they possess adequate strength in their head, neck, hands, upper body, and core muscles to support their body. The next step is for infants to attempt to support themselves in a four-point kneeling position, using their hands and knees while attempting forward and backward rocking motions to further strengthen their upper body and core muscles. Subsequently, parents can demonstrate and guide infants in crawling by alternating their right hand and left foot, and vice versa, while gradually reducing assistance and continuing to encourage practice with verbal prompts.

When assisting infants in learning to crawl, it is important to ensure they have a safe environment and enough space for crawling activities. You can provide protective padding on the floor and remove sharp, hard, or small objects to prevent infants from grabbing them accidentally. Adults should also supervise infants closely to prevent accidents, falls, or injuries. Additionally, providing appropriate toys to infants, such as stuffed animals, sound-making toys, colourful balls, or rollable toys, can attract their attention and motivate them to crawl. Interacting with infants, offering positive praise, and allowing them to experience the joy of success can enhance their confidence. Once infants master basic crawling skills, you can introduce moderate challenges, such as placing obstacles for them to cross or navigate around, which helps improve their coordination, motor planning, and problem-solving abilities.

Lastly, it is important to remember that each child develops at their own pace, and some may require more time and assistance to learn new skills. We should adjust the level of help and challenges based on each child’s abilities to facilitate gradual development. If a child consistently struggles to acquire crawling skills, it is advisable for parents to seek professional advice to understand the underlying reasons and assist in their child’s development.

During the period of infants learning to crawl, various situations may arise, such as crawling backward, keeping their belly close to the ground, or showing reluctance to crawl. In the next article, we will attempt to analyse and provide corresponding assistance methods for each of these situations.

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Understanding the Importance of Crawling for Infant Development and Assistance Methods (Part 1)