The Importance of Crawling: Part 1 – Physical Development

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It’s incredibly common for parents of young kids to discuss developmental milestones. Things like when babies first sat on their own, first crawled, and first slept through the night are typical in conversations among young parents. One big topic of discussion is when a child started walking. Some parents may be so proud that their child began walking at 9 months old, while others make excuses for why their child didn’t walk until 16 months of age. The truth of the matter is that the age at which a baby walks isn’t hugely important, but what he or she does before walking is very important.

Crawling is the main topic of this week’s blog, and we’ll be parked on this topic for the next few weeks as we cover a series of crawling-related facts that all new parents and parents-to-be need to know. To begin, we want you to understand that crawling is a necessary milestone that you should do anything and everything to encourage. We know some babies want to get up and walk early on, but it’s vital for their development and future overall health that they crawl for as long as possible.

This week, we’re talking about the importance of crawling as it pertains to a baby’s physical development. Next week, we’ll dive into the importance of cognitive function and brain development as it related to crawling. And finally, we’ll round out the month with a blog on poor crawling patterns and how to encourage crawling in your little one.

Types of Crawling

There are two main types of crawling: belly crawling and criss-cross crawling (also known as hands and knees crawling). Not all babies will belly crawl, but many start moving in this way because it takes less strength and coordination. Belly crawling consists of using the leg and arm on one side of the body at the same time. Eventually, when baby gets a little stronger, he will begin criss-cross crawling, which utilizes opposite-side arms and legs. We’ll get to the cognitive importance of this hands and knees crawling next week, but for now, let’s explore the physical benefits of this type of crawling.

Benefits of Crawling for Physical Development

You know that physical development is important for your baby, from gross motor to fine motor skills and more. But you may not have known how helpful crawling is for developing many of those skills needed to successfully meet other physical developmental milestones.

Crossing Midline – Moving one body part across the center of the body to the other side is known as “crossing midline.” It’s an important skill that your child should be able to do with relative ease by 6 months of age. Criss-cross crawling further develops this skill. It allows for spine rotation, strengthens the lower back, prepares the ankles for bending and straightening, and improves hand-eye coordination.

Preparing Hip Joints – It’s pretty common knowledge that most babies are flexible, but some of that flexibility has to give way for stability in order for babies to learn to walk. Hands and knees crawling helps prepare the hip joints for walking by shaping the hip sockets, and it promotes better balance and strength.

Strengthening Spinal Curves – A healthy child will have an S-shaped curve in their spine when looking from the side. Crawling forces babies to lift their heads up, promoting a healthy neck curvature and strengthening the neck muscles. It also helps the other curves develop properly and further develops back muscles to support good spinal health.

Preparing for Future Skills – Because crawling does take a good bit of coordination, it is seen as a foundational milestone for many future motor skills. Hand-eye coordination will prepare babies to feed themselves, play with toys, and color. In the more distant future, it will also help them dress themselves, have good handwriting, and more.

Now that you have some insight into the importance of crawling for your baby’s physical development, we hope you’ll join us next week for more information on the cognitive development that comes with crawling. In the meantime, be sure to contact Dr. Grant Lisetor and his team at Greater Life Chiropractic to learn more about how chiropractic care can enhance the health and wellness of you and your entire family, babies included!


McEwan, M.H., Dihoff, R.E., Brosvic, G.M. “Early infant crawling experience is reflected in later motor skill development.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1991 Feb; 72 (1): 75-9.


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