In this post we’re going to answer the question – ‘when do babies crawl?’; look at the different types of baby crawling and movement; and find out if there’s anything we can do to help them take their first steps (or crawls or shuffles) on this exciting journey.
Crawling is exciting!
Crawling marks one of the first real steps towards independence. Your little baby has gone from an all-dependent, completely reliant newborn to suddenly being able to move and explore on their own.
This new found independence can be great for their confidence as they are suddenly able to get where they want without anyone else’s help.
Imagine how it would feel, suddenly being able to think “Hey, I want to go touch that shiny thing over there”, and for the first time being able to just do it.
It must be amazing!
A whole new world has opened up to them!
However, that means that us parents have to be more vigilant!
Our little ones will suddenly be able to touch and play with a lot that they couldn’t before so child proofing becomes even more important (a little more on this later).
When Do Babies Start to Crawl?
Babies usually begin to crawl (or show some signs of independent mobility) at around 7-10 months old, with the average being around 8 months.
By their first birthday they are usually pretty confident crawling and exploring by themselves.
Remember though, all babies are different and some can definitely begin crawling before this and some may start after. Some may just skip the crawling stage altogether or move around in different ways such as bum shuffling.
The elements that determine when a child may start to crawl are complex and vary with each child.
It is traditionally thought that it is a combination of physical and psychological factors determine when a baby starts to crawl.
And some researchers have also suggested that the weight of a child may make a difference. They found that smaller, slimmer babies began to crawl earlier than their chubbier, more ‘top-heavy’ peers.
So if you baby’s a little chunk you may have to wait a little longer…
How Will I Know If My Baby is Ready to Crawl?
Before babies start to crawl, they will often begin to display different types of movement.
One study found that, at around 2 weeks before crawling, babies began to show that they were getting ready to crawl by moving in new ways.
Some children moved forward using only their arms; some started doing a commando-type crawl, where they pulled themselves along on their tummies; and some started crawling using both their arms and their legs.
Others moved backwards or in circles with their shoulders raised.
Although these babies displayed different movements, they all had a few things in common – they all showed excellent head control, were able to sit upright on their own and could raise their shoulders using their arms during tummy time.
Another study, which followed 28 babies as they began to crawl, found that 15 crawled on their bellies first, but 13 skipped this stage and went straight to hand and knee crawling.
This study found the children who belly-crawled turned out to be better crawlers than the ones who skipped this stage.
The researchers stated that this belly crawling may come before actual crawling because it’s easier for the babies to do.
As they are on their bellies, the don’t need to be as good at balancing, however they do need good arm strength and the ability to hold their heads up.
They also wrote that motivation played a key part. If there was something the babies wanted they were more likely to crawl towards it. On the other hand, if they’d had a painful experience (such as scraping their belly while crawling), they were found to be more reluctant to move this way.
Types of Crawling and Moving
There are actually quite a few ways that your little ones may decide to get from A to B.
Some crawling styles include:
- The classic crawl – this is the standard crawl you picture when you think of a baby crawling. The baby moves one arm forward at the same time as the opposite leg in order to move forward.
- Commando crawl – as mentioned above, this can come before the classic crawl and is where the baby lies with their belly on the floor and pulls themselves forward using their arms.
- Bum shuffling / Scooting – this is where your child moves in a sitting position by dragging their bum across the floor.
- Crab Crawl – is where a baby uses their hands and legs to move sideways (like a crab). One leg is often bent while the other is extended.
- Bear Crawl – this is similar to the classic crawl except the child doesn’t bend their arms or knees so their limbs are kept straight (think Mowgli in The Jungle Book).
- Backwards Crawl – similar to the classic crawl except they move backwards. They can also do this as a belly commando crawl.
- Rolling – some babies get where they want to be by rolling (sounds fun!).
How to Help a Baby to Learn to Crawl
We all want our children to develop as well as they can so is their anything we can do to help our babies learn to crawl?
At the end of the day, they’ll crawl when they’re ready to but there may be a few things we can do to help them on their way.
Dr. Lin Day, a renowned author within the fields of sensory and childhood development, is a strong proponent of tummy time. She writes that tummy time can be a great way to aid crawling.
Tummy time can help to develop their nervous system and brain as well as help to build muscles in the back, neck and upper body.
It can also help with their balance, stability and coordination.
All of these are skills which can help pave the way to being able to crawl.
If you do decide to do tummy time with your little one, it’s important to ensure they’re fully awake and alert and that you are watching them at all times. Never leave them on their own!
Related If you’d like to know more about when you can start tummy time with your little one, as well as learn about the benefits and find out how you can make tummy time fun check out this post.
It’s also been observed that parental encouragement can play a role.
A study found that mothers who offered verbal encouragement as well as gestures and facial expressions had a positive effect on their child’s movement.
Enticing them with a favorite toy or something shiny and new may also just give them that little bit of extra encouragement they need to move forward and grab it!
Keeping Your Crawling Baby Safe
This new found movement is amazing for your baby, however, it now means that they can get places they couldn’t reach before; touch things they couldn’t touch before; and potentially put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t be!
Because of this it’s so important to ensure anything you wouldn’t want them touching or putting in their mouth is out of reach.
It’s also vital to make sure you’re keeping a close eye on them as they are exploring with their new found crawling skills.
If you want a detailed baby-proofing checklist there’s a great one here.
My Baby’s Not Crawling, What Should I Do?
If your child hasn’t shown any signs of mobility by their first birthday, or if you’re at all concerned about their progress it’s probably best to contact your paediatrician / local Health Visitor or GP.
Remember though, if your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks) they may naturally reach their milestones a little later than other babies.
Final Thoughts on When Babies Start to Crawl
So the answer to the question ‘when do babies crawl?’ is – it varies.
Most children are crawling or independently moving before their first birthday. But when they start or how they move varies greatly from child to child.
What does seem to be important though is to give them plenty of tummy time to help them develop their core strength and coordination.
And as with most aspects of parenting – offer them loads of encouragement!
As they begin to move it’s important to ensure their environment is a safe one and if you have any worries or concerns about your baby’s development contact a GP.
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Thanks for reading and let’s nurture those neurons!
References and Further ReadingClick here for references
- Developmental Changes in Interlimb Coordination: Transition to Hands-and-Knees Crawling
- Handbook of Child Psychology, Cognition, Perception, and Language
- How Mothers Encourage and Discourage Infants’ Motor Actions
- In praise of tummy time
- Learning and Development in Infant Locomotion
- Learning to Crawl
- The Ontogenetic Organization of Prone Behavior in Human Infancy