If you’re like most new parents, you may stare at your newborn in amazement and eagerly await anticipated milestones, like laughing, sitting up, and crawling.
Right now, it might seem like your baby will never become mobile. But the truth is, they’ll be climbing the furniture and unlocking the baby gates before you know it.
Fortunately, you don’t need to teach your baby to crawl. This is a natural developmental milestone that happens when your baby is ready. Even so, there are a few things you can do to encourage your baby to get moving. And, of course, there are things you can look for to make sure your baby’s gross motor skills are on track.
Since babies have an innate desire to move around, helping them learn to crawl is less about teaching, and more about giving them opportunities to practice the skills they need. Here are five things you can do to help your baby learn to crawl.
1. Give your baby adequate tummy time
While babies should always sleep on their backs, it is good to give them some tummy time every day while they are awake. When your baby spends time lying on their belly, they practice raising their head off the ground, which strengthens their trunk and back and gets their limbs moving freely. Both of these activities help build the muscles they’ll need for crawling.
Some babies don’t enjoy tummy time, especially at first. If your little one screams or protests, try doing it only in short bursts and for just a few minutes at a time. You can also make floor playtime more fun by giving them a few minutes in different positions, including sides, back, and tummy. And finally, try a bonding tummy time by lying down on your back and putting baby on your tummy, so you can look at their face while they practice lifting their head.
2. Reduce the amount of time in walkers and bouncers
Babies who don’t spend a lot of time on the floor may take longer to develop the strength they need to crawl. Although baby swings, walkers, bouncers, and other baby seats are an excellent way to keep your baby safely confined, giving your baby floor time encourages exploring and movement.
3. Give your baby a little extra motivation
Babies already have an instinctive drive toward movement, but you can make it a little more exciting and motivating by giving them something to reach for.
Try putting their favorite toy on the ground during tummy time, but put the toy just out of reach. This will interest them and give them a goal to work for as they’re trying to move. Another trick is placing a mirror on the floor in front of your baby. As babies see their reflection in the mirror, this can motivate them to scoot, and then gradually crawl, to the object.
They’ll probably try some creative ways to get to the toy, like rolling and stretching. You may have a hard time not helping them, but if you can resist the temptation to move the toy a little closer, you might be surprised at how patient they can be as they work to solve the problem on their own.
4. Provide a comfortable space for them to explore
Set up an area on your floor that has interesting toys and things they can safely explore. If you have an uncarpeted floor, you can help your baby start scooting across the floor a little sooner by dressing them in long sleeves and pants. Clothes on a smooth surface will help them move with less friction, which will make it a little easier for them to get started.
5. Get on the floor and crawl with your baby
Your baby may start to crawl sooner if you or an older sibling gets on the floor with them during tummy time. The truth is, even if a baby sees their favorite toy a few feet away, they may not know how to begin scooting or crawling. But if you show them what to do, they may imitate your movement and attempt to crawl toward the object.
Most motor skills are more complicated than they look, and crawling is no exception.
It might seem like moving around is a pretty basic activity for a baby, but in reality, your baby needs to develop two key abilities. A baby must first develop muscular strength to support themselves on their arms and legs. And second, they need to be able to coordinate the movement of their limbs to make movement happen.
Most babies don’t go straight from immobile to crawling on hands and knees. In fact, some babies never learn the “classic crawl” of alternating the right hand and left foot with the left hand and right foot while on their hands and knees.
Instead, many babies get creative with different types of movement. For example, your baby might start getting around with an “army crawl,” by lying on their belly and pulling themselves forward with their arms. They might also use their legs more than their arms, raising their body by straightening their legs and then propelling forward.
They might try sitting up and scooting forward on their bum, using their arms and legs to move forward. Or they might even skip crawling and go straight from rolling to sitting to walking.
For most babies, the skills needed for movement develop around the midway point of the first year of life. You’ll probably see your baby start to crawl between 6 and 10 months.
However, if your baby is bigger than average, it might take them a little longer to figure out how to move around. And if they’re especially focused on other skills, like fine motor skills or language development, this can delay their focus on crawling.
There’s a pretty wide window for when babies normally start to crawl, and what’s interesting is that some babies never crawl. Instead, they go from sitting up, to pulling up, to walking.
Chances are you don’t need to worry about your baby’s movement. However, if you notice that your baby is trying to move, but is only using one side of their body, speak with a doctor. You should also speak with a doctor if you’re concerned that your baby isn’t progressing in their ability to move around. Your doctor can assess whether your baby’s development is normal and on track.