Crawling helps your baby strengthen her muscles enough to walk and is her first way of getting around efficiently on her own. In the traditional crawl, she’ll first learn to balance on her hands and knees. Then she’ll figure out how to move forward and backward from this posture by pushing off with her knees.
When it develops
Most babies learn to crawl between six and 10 months. But some children never crawl, instead opting for bottom shuffling, slithering on their stomach, or moving directly to pulling up, standing, and walking. It’s getting mobile that’s important, no matter how your baby does it.
How it develops
Crawling typically comes after a baby is able to sit well without support, which most children can do by the time they’re six or seven months old. After this point, she can hold her head up to look around, and her arm, leg, and back muscles are strong enough to keep her from falling on the floor when she gets on her hands and knees.
Over the next couple of months, your baby gradually learns to move confidently from a sitting position to being on all fours, and she soon realizes she can rock back and forth when she’s got her limbs straight and her body parallel to the floor.
Somewhere around nine or 10 months, she’ll figure out that pushing off with her knees gives her just the boost she needs to get mobile. As she gains proficiency, she’ll learn to go from a crawling position back into a sitting position. She’ll also master the advanced technique of cross-crawling: moving one arm and the opposite leg together when she moves forward, rather than using an arm and a leg from the same side. After that, it’s just a matter of practice making perfect — look for her to be a really competent crawler by the time she’s a year old.
If your baby crawls backward, is a bottom shuffler (scoots around on her posterior using a hand behind her and a foot in front of her to propel herself), or skips the crawling stage in favour of walking, don’t worry. As long as she’s getting mobile — no matter how she does it — she’s fine.
After your baby has mastered crawling, the only thing standing between her and complete mobility is learning to walk. To that end, she’ll soon begin pulling herself up on everything she can reach, whether it’s the coffee table or grandma’s leg. Once she gets the feel of balancing on her legs, she’ll be ready to stand on her own and cruise while holding onto furniture, and then it’s just a matter of time till she’s walking, running, jumping, and leaping.
As with skills such as reaching and grabbing, the best way to encourage crawling is to place toys and other desirable objects — even yourself — just beyond your baby’s reach. You can also use pillows, boxes, and sofa cushions to create obstacle courses for her to negotiate. This will help improve her confidence, speed, and agility. Just don’t leave her alone — if she gets stuck under a pillow or box, she’ll surely be frightened and may be in danger of smothering.
A crawling baby can get into a lot of mischief. Make sure your house is childproofed, and put a special emphasis on stairway gates. Your baby will be drawn to stairs like an explorer to Mount Everest, but they can be dangerous, so keep them off-limits until your baby has really mastered this skill (usually at about 12 months) — and even then, supervise her expeditions.
You don’t have to invest in shoes just yet. Your baby won’t need to wear footwear regularly until she’s mastered walking.
When to be concerned
Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others, but if your child hasn’t shown an interest in getting mobile by some means (whether it’s creeping, crawling, rolling, or scooting), worked out how to move her arms and legs together in a coordinated motion, or learned to use both arms and both legs equally by the time she’s a year old, bring it up at your next doctor’s appointment. Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones several months later than their peers.