We live in a world where we’re rushing from one place to the next, one experience to another and we’re rarely just in this exact moment, treasuring it for all that it can offer.
I fear that we’re no different when it comes to child development, particularly in regards to the milestone of crawling.
I’m a mum too. I know how easy it is to want to rush this phase of development. We put on our tunnel vision googles, with our eyes on the prize of walking. We fantasise about the time we’ll no longer have to lug our toddler around the shops and can simply walk alongside them, holding their hand adoringly.
Mainstream parenting advice reinforces these ideas by undervaluing the crawling process. This quote comes from birth.com.au, an influential blog read by a vast number of Australian mums.
“Babies who move around by shuffling on their bottom typically start walking later (up to 18 months of age) and may not pull themselves up to a standing position until older than 12 months. This is just a normal variation and nothing to be concerned about”.
We also need to consider the role of people’s comments in our desire to speed up development. “Isn’t she walking yet? What’s wrong with her?” or “My child walked at just 9 months of age, he’s pretty smart”.
The age of walking is not a sign of intelligence folks! Essential learning for the brain and body takes place during a baby’s crawling months. Supporting the crawling process for as long as it needs to unfold is your best bet for a child who will live on to reach their full potential.
Here are 6 amazing learning processes that occur during the crawling phase. 6 reasons to slow down and embrace the crawling!
1. Body Awareness
This is about knowing what parts of the body we have, where they are located, how it feels to move them and later, what they are named. Without good body awareness, children have to consciously look at what they are doing so that they don’t fall or make mistakes (such as looking at their feet while walking or running). They also require a lot more energy and focus to move or be still. These are things that the body is designed to do automatically when good body awareness has been established.
2. Spatial Awareness
Once a baby has begun to develop body awareness, they are then able to learn where they are in relation to the space around them. ‘Can I crawl under the table without banging my head? Can I squeeze between those two plants?’ and later ‘At what point should I stop running so that I don’t bang into the wall? Can I weave through my classroom without banging into anyone or anything?’ Spatial awareness is not only important for where we fit in the space around us but also for where pictures, letters, numbers and words fit onto the page in front of us.
The weight bearing action of this movement develops muscle tone in the baby’s back, shoulders, neck, arms and hands. A strong upper body is needed for good fine motor hand control, necessary at school for tasks such as handwriting.
4. Visual Skills
While crawling, a baby’s eyes learn to work together to form depth perception as well as to refocus between near (their hands) and far (where they are about to crawl). These fundamental skills are needed later for success in ball games and copying from the board.
5. Brain Development
The cross-pattern nature of crawling (left leg & right arm/right leg & left arm) establishes good communication between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. This enhances future learning by speeding up the processes of information storage and retrieval.
When provided with frequent opportunities to explore safely on hands and knees, crawlers are busy learning about themselves, their environment, the people within it and the boundaries that are in place. They are able to seek out favourite toys, discover uncharted territory, experience new sensations, approach family members/peers to initiate interaction, and to delight in their growing physical skills and independence.
“You have to crawl before you can walk”
Crawling is an essential milestone for establishing body awareness, spatial awareness, strength, visual skills, brain integration and an abundance of learning opportunities. Don’t rush this milestone, enjoy it and spread the word.