Ways to encourage your baby to start moving, and begin their journey to walking.

Crawling is a stage in a baby’s motor development — however, not all babies will crawl, and they definitely won’t all crawl in the same way. Some shuffle on their bottom, others slither around on their tummies, others will roll around.

The important thing is that they’re moving. They don’t have to crawl – it’s just the most common way babies at this age get around. As they get older and their curiosity grows, moving around lets them explore their world.

First thing's first

Generally, a baby will have mastered the art of rolling from back to tummy, bringing their feet to their mouths and sitting independently before they branch off into some form of crawling. All this physical exercise is developing their neck, back, arm and leg muscles, and is part of a child’s journey towards walking.

Floor time builds strength

Having time on the floor on their puku will give baby a chance to exercise some of the muscles they’ll use to crawl. But many babies aren’t that keen on ‘tummy time’, and babies who get reflux will like it even less. They may end up preferring to bottom-shuffle rather than crawl.

One way to try to increase a baby’s enjoyment for tummy time is for whānau to get down beside them on the floor. A baby would much prefer looking into the face of one of their parents than a floor mat. Giving them some interesting toys to look at and reach for may also encourage them to spend a little more time on their tummy.

Crawling styles

The ‘commando crawl’ is a common early style of crawling, which is where babies use their arms out in front to pull themselves forward. Some babies will get up on their hands and knees without actually moving forward, and may just ‘rock’ in this position. It may take a lot more practice to co-ordinate their body enough to take off in full crawl mode. As with all learning though, repetition is the key. ‘Cross-crawling’ involves the left hand and right knee moving together, and the right hand and left knee moving together. Some babies will use a one-knee, one-foot combination and may never move into a cross crawl.

Health and safety for curious crawlers

Whatever style they use to get around, they can be fast and will need parents to maintain a watchful eye on them to keep them safe. A curious crawler will find all there is to find, including small choking-sized items and hazards like dangling cords, table cloths, house plants, electrical sockets and cleaning supplies. A good exercise is for the adults to get down on hands and knees on the floor and see the world from their baby’s viewpoint.

It’s also always important for babies to be up-to-date with Well Child Tamariki Ora health checks – particularly if a baby seems to be disinterested in moving, or unable to move on their own as the months go by.