Are there ways to encourage crawling on hands and knees? You betcha, and it starts sooner than you might think. These tips are highly respectful and will not push your baby beyond what he’s ready for. They’ll help you provide experiences for your baby that allow him to explore important precursors to crawling.
Crawling is immensely important (read why here). Follow these tips to give your baby an optimal chance at crawling—just jump in at your baby’s current stage!
(*Be sure to catch my #1 top tip at the bottom!)
The First Months
- Hold Baby in a little ball: Think of his shape in the womb all curled up (‘flexion’). This is baby’s “home base,” and we IDMEs like to call it “Baby Ball.” Outside the womb? It’s about softening, regulating, and balancing muscle tone. Hold him gathered up in a curled position, rather than head arching back or limbs dangling. The secret: when Baby has this flexed position as his basis, it makes his milestones more powerful. That’s because—think of a spring—if you start curled and unfurl into movement, your body is ‘toned’ and ready to go. If you start from an arched position (spring already stretched), you’ve used up your umph before you even start.
- Comfort in tummy time is essential: Crawling is a culmination of prior reflexes and movements that all happen naturally in relation to gravity and the floor. But please don’t force; if tummy time is not enjoyable for your baby, get respectful support.
- Do ‘side time’ too: Lie your baby on his side sometimes. Some parents do this for sleep or nursing; you can also rest and play here together. In order to crawl, your baby will need to learn to maneuver his weight. Lying on the side provides access to this skill, as he eventually rolls from here to his front or back and becomes comfortable managing his weight on all surfaces of his body.
Around 5 to 9 months
- Pushing on the tummy: This is a key precursor to crawling! After your baby has mastered supporting himself on his forearms, look for pushing backward and pivoting in a circle, and eventually moving forward on his belly. If he’s at this age but not pushing himself around, try this. Belly-moving will strengthen Baby’s torso and hand-eye coordination and prepare his leg joints and arms for the more complex motion of crawling on hands and knees.
- Allow Baby to put things in his mouth: This builds hand-eye coordination, which is necessary for crawling, because once he’s motivated to go somewhere, his crawling motion will start with a reach of his hand, then the rest of him will follow. So create a safe environment with items you’re comfortable having your baby ‘mouthe.’
- Let Baby get the toy himself: Once your baby starts to move around, watch any tendency to consistently bring out-of-reach items to him. First, see what he can do. Motivation is …a motivator!
My #1 Top Tip
Keep your baby “as low as he goes”—avoid placing him in a sitting or standing position before he can get there on his own. This may come as a bit of a surprise, because it’s opposite the current trend (at least in the US). But propping them upright before they’re able to get there on their own can make it much more difficult for Baby to follow his natural progression and access crawling.
Here’s what can happen. In his early life, your baby was stationary, just learning how to lift his head and support himself. But at some point, his brain will say, “now, go!” A baby on his tummy will naturally ‘go’ by first pushing around on his tummy, then later by crawling on hands and knees. However, the baby who has been placed in a sitting position doesn’t yet know how to get himself back down onto his belly. When his brain says “go” and he’s sitting, he’ll adapt and do just that: go. But often by scooting on his bottom or crawling with one foot and one knee—he has no other choice.
This is not meant to be a guilt trip; but parents need this information. If you’ve already sat your baby up, it’s not too late!
So, allow your baby to discover each milestone completely on his own. Many people aren’t aware that babies can learn to sit, stand, and walk without being taught. But it’s ideal that they do these things on their own.
Generally at any age, when you want to put Baby down, make it your habit to place him on the floor at his natural developmental stage, rather than in a device or in a position he can’t do yet. This provides him with more time to move freely, exploring naturally in ways that lead to crawling.
Some of these tips sound easy or obvious, but in reality it can be a bit different with a scrumptious live and wiggling baby! Always pay attention to your gut feelings and reach out when you have questions or want support.