As an OT, one of the questions we always ask when obtaining a developmental history is whether or not the child crawled. We ask this because crawling is so critical to development. Crawling is this amazing trifecta of sensory systems coming together. It integrates the visual sense, proprioception, and tactile senses. Involved in crawling is motor planning or sequencing the steps the body needs to put into place to propel forward. Bilateral coordination is what makes it all happen and you have this amazing collaboration between the senses that delights both the child and parent!
Crawling is beneficial for developing gross motor skills and build a proximal base of support. You cannot have efficient fine motor skills without this strong base of support so it is essential to move the body to build this strength. Crawling builds these proximal muscles at the center of the body which in turn also facilitates the muscles that we use for breathing, eating, and talking.
Crawling also helps to integrate some of our primal reflexes such as the ATNR that develops in utero and the STNR which develops around 6 months of age to help with crawling. If these reflexes are not integrated in children (this happens when there is not enough tummy time or crawling), problems can persist with fine motor skills, posture, crossing midline, and reading.
Now, you may be saying, “ack! my child totally skipped crawling!”
That happens… but it is never too late to get a child crawling. I even have older kiddos I work with on the floor crawling through tunnels, imitating yoga poses, playing board games on their tummy, weight bearing on one hand and doing something with the other hand. All of these activities contribute to building the skills that develop with crawling. So the lesson is not to worry about the past but set your kiddo up with some fun activities to get those senses working together.
Did you know that crawling helps with reading too? When children crawl, they are integrating both hemispheres of the brain, the eyes are working together, visual tracking is happening and these are the same things that happen when we read!
So what can you do to get your kiddo crawling? Well, one of the best tricks in the book is to get a cup of coffee or tea or whatever beverage you prefer, sit on the couch and put your legs up on the coffee table. Drape a blanket over them and invite your kiddos to come crawl through the tunnel! It is simple, fun for them, and a way to connect AND get them crawling! Now expand this to help motivate your kiddo through their morning routine, “Hey can you crawl to the bathroom and meow like a kitty?” I don’t know about your kids, but my 5 year old goes through phases of loving to pretend she is a baby again or a cat or a dog. Use this phase as an opportunity to encourage crawling!
I always have a tunnel on hand for rainy days, the witching hour, OT sessions, and tot group! This is a favorite tunnel you can snap up on Amazon…
Use what you have around the house and lay out a piece of bubble wrap or foil for them to crawl over. For little kiddos you can make a sensory box for them to crawl through and touch different textures inside (carpet pieces, cotton balls, bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, felt, flannel fabric…)
You can also make fun games like hiding items or letters or numbers written on post-its under chairs so kids must crawl to look under. This is a super fun way to jazz up homework! Just send your teacher a note to tell her you adapted the worksheet to make it multi-sensory!
These foam wedges are great for young crawlers and toddlers and can be used in fun obstacle courses and games around the house! As your kiddo gets older, you can also get a wide wood plank and set it up outside for some natural crawling obstacles!
So if you do nothing else this summer, focus on getting outside and playing back to the basics with crawling in the grass or sand, sitting on the couch to relax while the kids crawl under your man-made tunnel!
I love to hear from you- shoot me a question if you have one!