Why are crawling and creeping important for development?

February 23, 2018 / Diane L. Crecelius, PT, CEO

It is important to remember that each stage of development builds on another.  Each step is important for its own reason part of which is to build strength and/or endurance for the next step of development.  Preferably you do not want your child to skip any steps as it could affect the ability to master the next step.

Crawling is basically commando crawling.  The belly is in contact with the floor, elbows and knees are bent and the head is upright.  The child progressively pulls on the floor with bent arms and legs to advance himself across the floor.

Try this – it is hard work!

Your child will develop neck and back extensor strength as well as arm strength that will allow him/her to progress to creeping.  Creeping is a means of mobility with the arms straight, belly off the ground and weight on the hands and knees.  The child reciprocally moves his/her arms and legs to progress across the floor.

Something you might not consider that is gained with creeping is a different visual field.  When a child is commando crawling he/she sees a world that is on the ground.  Once creeping, the world a child can view expands.  This bring new information into a child’s brain to process and interact with.

A child puts weight on an open hand when crawling.  Did you know that this weight on the palm stretches out the small muscles in the hand.  This stretching of the muscles prepares a muscle for use for fine motor skills like pinching.  Children that do not crawl might have difficulty with handwriting or shoe tying as the strength and endurance to maintain small muscle control to perform these functional tasks might be more challenging.

Interesting fact: Look at your child’s sweet little hand and forearm.  Did you know that there are 35 muscles that control the movements of the hand?!?!  That is a lot of muscle action!

As you can see, much is gained while crawling and creeping so it is preferable that a child not skip this stage.  As a parent do not push your child to walk too quickly.  Encourage each stage of development to happen as there is a purpose for each stage that builds upon another.

What should you do if your child skips the creeping phase or does not creep for long?  Wheelbarrow walking is a fun activity that will put a lot of weight on the palms and simulate the same muscle actions as creeping.  So hold your child’s feet and have them walk with their hands.  Make a game out of it.  Place puzzle pieces or Mr. Potato Head pieces around the room.  Have your child gather the pieces and complete the activity at the end.

Continue to educate yourself as a parent on next step skills in child development so you know what toys to have at home and what skills to encourage and when.

For all your child’s developmental checklists go to https://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com.