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Crawling Babies - Should Your Child Really Master This Skill?

There is a lot of debate about crawling babies... and the question very often asked is "Should my child really master this skill? Yes or no?" It's also one that triggers a heated debate every time it is asked.

So, let's try to get some perspective on the answer.

I'd like to start off by using the following parallel to describe a basic principle relating to crawling babies:

Let's say you'd like to be a gardener and decided to grow tomatoes from seeds rather than starting off with a few small plants.

After you have carefully prepared the beds you plant 20 seeds. You do everything perfectly right. Now, in al probability, things go as planned and you eventually have, say, 18 small tomato plants… the remaining 2 seeds never germinate and grow.

You let them grow even more and find that 12 of the tomato plants eventually have tomatoes.

Now here is where most parents are too hasty.

Folks look at the 18 little plants that grew from seeds and argue that they were successful. But that was not the real goal! The goal was to grow tomatoes. And as far as we perceive our goal, they were only really successful with the 12 plants that grew tomatoes.

Very much the same principle applies to decide whether crawling babies have an advantage or where this skill must be mastered or not.

Many people reason that crawling only aims to get your baby mobile. I disagree.

I argue that the ultimate goal with your child is having him fully developed and optimally using all his skills and talents… not just getting him mobile. I reason that you will only really know if you were successful and reached your real goal when you evaluate your child's performance years later when s/he goes to school.

One of the primary goals must be to ensure your child is functioning in every respect.

For that you must look at the whole picture, especially when s/he starts formal schooling. And this is where many parents are ignorant. They are unaware that there is a link between a baby's inability to crawl a few years earlier and potential learning problems at school.

One of the standard things I do professionally is ask parents to fill in a questionnaire before I test any child for learning and development problems. The questionnaire is to get comprehensive background information about every kid I see, regardless of his or her age at the time.

And one of the questions is whether your child reached all the milestones and at what age… regardless of your child's age when s/he comes to me for therapy.

My goal with these questions is to confirm whether they mastered all the milestones. And when the milestones were achieved. Effectively I am also trying to establish if the child mastered all the basic learning skills.

Over many years the responses and subsequent test results showed me one thing...

If a child never learned to crawl, s/he has a high probability of struggling with some learning problems at school.

The most frequent learning problems these kids experience are:

  1. Having difficulty distinguishing the letters p, b, d when reading, or even f and t. So, in stead of reading 'pot' they may be reading 'dot'… meaning that many sentences rarely make sense. As a result they find it very difficult to understand what they read.

  2. Reading a number like 41 and then involuntarily writing 14 or any other numerical reversal. Working with numbers is really a big problem for many of these kids.

    In lay terms we talk about "reversals" and the effect thereof is most prominent in reading and mathematics. What's more, it is known that crawling is a great activity to teach the skills to overcome and prevent such reversals.

    In fact, some child development experts go even further by stating that a child's vision and speech skills are partly determined by the amount of time s/he spends crawling as a baby.

    Without going into too much detail, it simply comes down to this: crawling babies naturally have the stimulation and encouragement for the brain to integrate the left and right side of the body. It effectively helps the body to take a lot of information ("input signals"), process it correctly and give the right answers.

    One thing you need to appreciate is that reversal problems are usually only spotted between 5 and 8 years old when kids go to school. That's often the first time these skills are formally tested and used.

So, what does this mean?

Since many parents rarely look at their baby's "ultimate" goal, they are seldom in the best position to argue whether crawling babies have an advantage or not.

That's why it is often difficult for parents, and even pediatricians, to relate these learning difficulties to the inability to crawl almost 6 years before.

Of course we must also appreciate that there are some kids that never crawled and yet have no learning problems at school.

What about babies that never crawled?

What happened here is that these kids did other activities to stimulate and encourage development of the very same skills. One of the many ways is to use the right educational (or often also called "learning") toys and games.

There are many more other activities and games which can stimulate the same development. But unless parents specifically aim to motivate and encourage development of these "undeveloped" skills, it will very likely not happen.

What to do about crawling babies?

So, regardless of your personal preference and opinion about crawling babies, my suggestion is to continue encouraging your child to crawl.

Bottom line is this… prevention is better than cure. Let's do what we can to ensure our baby fully develops all skills and talents… even if that means encouraging baby crawling.

4 Toys I've Successfully Used For Getting Crawling Babies

I very often see babies who are a bit slow learning to crawl. I've successfully used toys such as those listed below for encouragement and ultimately seeing crawling babies (click the pictures for more information).

The Bendy Ball toy which can be used with the crawling techniques to encourage your baby to crawl    The Crawl Ball toy which can be used with the crawling techniques to encourage your baby to crawl

The Lamaze mirror which can be used with the crawling techniques to encourage your baby to crawl    The Rolling Tumbler toy which can be used with the crawling techniques to encourage your baby to crawl

Go from Crawling Babies to Teaching Your Baby to Crawl