Now that your baby has been able to sit up and reach for toys from sitting, he or she may be trying to move forward. Many children will use an army crawl (crawling forward on their belly), and this is actually very good for strengthening arms and legs as well as their core. This is usually skipped by most children, as they will get into all fours and begin to move forward in this position. Many children will develop odd crawling patterns, and you will definitely hear people tell you that their child did that and turned out alright. I NEVER want a child in any situation to miss out of the correct form of crawling. If for some reason we end up working on upper level skills (there are some circumstances that warrant this that I will not address here), I almost always go back to crawling activities later. I will also use climbing and crawling with walking children. This is an excellent way to continue to get stronger. This being said, let’s talk about what can happen when crawling is either incorrect or just not happening.
Your child needs to crawl if at all possible! The motor benefits are excellent and obvious to most. Did you know that it affects social, cognitive, and speech skills as well? Your child can also develop muscle imbalances that carry through to walking (such as galloping instead of running) and your child can suffer from poor upper body strength for the rest of his or her life by missing out on this valuable tool. The strength also carries over into fine motor skills and coordination. The list goes on and on of why this skill is so important. If your child is already pulling up and walking, get him or her in a tunnel at a local play land or buy a pop up tunnel and encourage him or her to get on hands and knees. It is never too late!
Here are the most common types of “fake” crawling:
1.) Bottom scooting: This is a common cheat for crawling. In this situation, I am talking about those kids who move forward with only their feet and scoot.
2.) Three Point Crawl: These are the kids who move in a “monkey crawl” meaning they keep one foot planted on the ground and lean to the side and use one or both arms to scoot forward.
In both of these situations, your child has some reason for avoiding coming forward on his or her arms. You need to work on strategies to address this. Here are some great ways to do this:
1.) Wheel barrow: Have your child lay across your lap on his or her tummy and read a book that you place on the floor. You can use any toy or puzzle for this as well.
2.) Standing “Timber”: Stand your child (if he or she can) and lower him or her safely forward to the floor and let him or her “catch” with his or her hands. This game can be fun; but go slow and at your child’s comfort level. To advance this, have him or her hold with hands and gently lift up his or her hips into a slight hand stand. This is an advanced form or wheel barrow as well.
3.) Road Block: while your child is occupied with a toy, surround him or her with your legs and then help him or her climb over your legs. It is hard to scoot over a leg! Help by supporting your child at the chest so he or she does not face plant. You can keep this game up by following and saying “gotcha” or “road block” as you catch him or her again with your legs.
4.) Stair climbing: begin working on going up steps or place your couch cushions down so that your baby can get into what we call a puppy dog position or modified kneeling to play and possibly go up. Help him or her climb a couple of steps or up on the couch cushion. The sequencing for climbing is “hands, knees, feet, up”. A PT can help you a lot with this. We are skilled at hand positions for assisting. The safest way to practice is on the soft cushions of a couch.
5.) Puppy dog positioning: Place your child in kneeling and keep his or her knees together by surrounding his or her knees with yours. Put a couch cushion or large pillow in front for your child to place his or her hands on and then place a toy there as well. In this position, your child will learn to come forward onto his or her hands more.
6.) Reach and Return: in sitting, place toys out far enough that your child has to challenge his or her “reaching circle” ( this is a concept I created to explain the range that a child feels comfortable reaching in sitting. Think of a small circle of comfort around your child that he or she feels comfortable with toys in that range). Work on reach and return from the edge of your child’s reaching circle and make sure you do this at a variety of angles. This is particularly important to do toward the opposite side that a child three point crawls to.
7.) Tunnel play: a pop up tunnel is a great toy to have around. If you have one, lure your child through and play some games to get him or her comfortable with it. Roll a ball through or play peek-a-boo from the other end. After they play in it, place a pillow underneath and hold the tunnel to keep it secure. Lure your child through and see if this cures the scooting. It is hard to go over a hump in sitting!
These are just a few ideas. Other ideas can be provided by a pediatric PT. You may also contact me for specific ideas.