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Why Crawling is So Important for a Child’s Development

By Fraser Senior Occupational Therapist Kendra Williams and Pam Dewey • developmental milestones, CDC developmental milestones, crawling milestone, crawling and babies, when should babies crawl, infant development, babies and development, how important is crawling • March 10, 2022

The CDC recently released new developmental milestones for children. According to CNN, the changes are meant “to give parents and pediatricians clearer benchmarks that will make it easier to identify developmental delays early.” The idea of providing clearer benchmarks for parents is welcome.

“It’s important to avoid a wait-and-see approach when you have concerns about your child’s development,” says Fraser Senior Occupational Therapist Kendra Williams.

However, one of the changes has some occupational and physical therapists concerned. Previously, the CDC listed crawling as a target for babies by 9 months. However, crawling has now been removed entirely from the CDC’s new milestone guidance.

Children may not crawl for many reasons

Williams says there are many reasons a child may not learn to crawl. Perhaps they have an older sibling whom they want to follow, so instead of learning to crawl, they begin to walk to keep up. Infants who struggle with their strength and stability may decide to take the path of least resistance, which means they never learn to crawl. Babies who don’t have enough tummy time might also not learn to crawl. Not crawling may also indicate serious developmental delays or other issues.

Crawling helps develop a baby’s strength, coordination and depth perception

When babies learn to crawl, they must push themselves up and pull themselves forward. These movements help build strength in their upper arms and shoulders. 

Crawling also develops an infant’s upper and lower body coordination. We all have front-to-back and top-to-bottom invisible lines across our body, and crawling requires your brain to learn to coordinate movement across these lines.

Tummy time also helps babies develop their depth perception. Basically, infants do a face plant, push up against the ground and then lift their heads up. This allows them to change perspective and develop depth perception.

This can cause challenges later

When babies don’t build this upper body strength or learn to coordinate their body’s movement, it can affect their ability to write legibly, tie their shoelaces, button their shirts or brush both sides of their teeth with one hand. Even minor self-care things like pulling up their socks can prove challenging. It can also cause endurance concerns, which means children could get tired when they’re asked to do things like write a sentence or a paragraph.

If your child doesn’t have good depth perception, it can affect their ability to read and – later – their ability to drive a vehicle.  

Bring up concerns

Williams says if you’re concerned about your child’s development, it is always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician. The developmental guidelines are just guidelines. If you notice something that concerns you, reach out for an expert opinion.

The good news is even if your child is experiencing delays, there is help. An occupational or physical therapist can help young children improve many skills.

“When I work on handwriting with kids, we don’t just practice handwriting,” says Williams. “I help them build strength in their arms and legs, so they have the strength and stability needed for handwriting. So I recommend fun things like playing at the park, using the monkey bars and doing animals walks.”

Fraser offers occupational, physical and speech-language therapy for children. Learn more by calling 612-767-7222.