Learn 8 ways to encourage your baby to crawl. These tips are crucial for babies during their peak crawling stage which is 6-10 months. But, you can start exploring these tips with your little one even earlier!
Babies have an unlimited number of “firsts” ahead of them. Rolling over, babbling, and focusing are all good signs that your baby is learning and developing. Despite its apparent simplicity, learning to crawl requires motor skills that your little one has yet to discover. Once crawling is acquired your baby can open their world to new activities and learning opportunities. But, before they can hit the ground running you may need to show your baby the basics.
In this post we are sharing 8 ways to encourage your baby to crawl. These tips are crucial for babies during their peak crawling stage which is 6-10 months. But, you can start exploring these tips with your little one even earlier!
- Tons of tummy time
Tummy time is a short period of time where your baby can lay on their stomach while awake. Tummy time is a supervised opportunity for your baby to develop motor skills and explore movement. As opposed to laying on their back, babies on their stomachs develop their upper body strength by lifting up their heads or turning.
According to the AAP, tummy time should start when your baby is just a newborn, slowly increasing as they grow older. Three to five minutes per session is a good start and can be done up to three times a day. If you are just starting tummy time you can begin by laying your baby’s stomach down against your abdomen. This is a great bonding opportunity and can encourage your baby to lift their head up to look at you!
After your baby is comfortable with tummy time they may begin to practice standing on all fours. Not only is your baby developing their upper body, but seeing the world from their stomach might encourage them to wriggle and scoot around to explore.
Be aware that tummy time can upset your little one's stomach if done too soon after feeding. Your child may feel discomfort or spit up. The best time for tummy time is after a nap or diaper change. This way they are more alert, awake and ready to play.
- Add some variation
Along with tummy time, you should encourage your baby to change positions and rotate. This may mean picking them up and placing them on their side. Or allowing them to play on their back for short intervals. This variation in positioning can encourage muscle development in the rest of their body.
Learn more from Pediatric Physical Therapy Exercises Amy Sturkey on how to safely roll your baby from side to side.
- Elevate their hands
If you notice your baby bringing toys to their stomach for playtime you may put their hands on a pillow or small folded blanket for elevation. It is more comfortable and natural for your baby to rest their hands on their chest and stomach, but encouraging them to lift their arms helps build up strength. This can even be done at dinner time by placing their hands on their tray or table. Just look out for curious fingers!
- Lift them up
LIfting your baby off of the bed or floor into a standing position can also encourage crawling. This position might seem like a leap if your baby is not yet crawling, but you are helping them strengthen their legs.
Holding your little one up by their armpits will help them adjust to the feeling of standing and help them achieve balance. Make sure your baby’s feet are touching the floor while holding them, and adjust how much weight you are lifting as you feel them support themselves. It is always best to do this and most exercises on a soft padded surface.
- Crawl coaching
Some babies are able to walk without ever having a crawling stage. Other little ones may start crawling in a less conventional way and get around just fine.
To help your baby go further you can help support them by showing them how to crawl. You can do this by laying beside them and placing a hand under their abdomen. Their hands and knees should remain on the floor while you hold their body weight. If your baby is familiar with tummy time you should be prepared to move as quickly as they are.
- Limit the use of supportive devices
We all want our babies to be comfortable and happy, but too much time in a high chair or bouncers can hinder their muscular development. Gravity is new to babies and the ability to support their own weight will only come with practice. Allowing your baby to sit up on their own will improve their core and overall strength. Too much support or time seated might make crawling more difficult for your baby.
Try allowing your baby to sit up on their own on a bed with pillows behind them to recline. Never leave your baby unattended while sitting outside of a supportive device. Your baby may fall over, it is okay to reposition them and try again.
You may find your baby finds crawling easiest when beginning from a seated position. From a seated position your baby may lean forward and begin putting weight on their forearms. Babies may also begin holding themselves up in a “tripod position” with a single arm outstretched as they learn to balance and sit upright. Rocking or holding their body in on all fours may seem silly, but it might also be the starting position for a crawling champ.
- Give them some wiggle room & motivation
In addition to time spent out of supportive devices your child will also need some old fashion floor time. If your baby is already doing well on their tummy time you can push them further with some fun activities. Try placing toys slightly out of reach to get them moving. Alternatively you can also leave toys at a slightly elevated position to encourage vertical movement. A well placed rattle on a play table can be just the right amount of encouragement.
- Mirror time
If your baby isn’t as interested in toys you can also try to encourage them with their own reflection!
If you have a stable floor mirror allow your baby to spend time playing in front of it. Seeing themselves can be quite amusing, and great for cognitive development. They may also move more purposefully to interact with the baby in the mirror. Babies do not fully understand that they are in control of their little bodies, mirror time is great for self awareness and play.
If you don’t have a mirror handy, a parent sitting a foot or two apart from the infant can also encourage movement. Learning to crawl should always be fun, having you by their side strengthens your bond, seeing your reactions can improve confidence and social skills.
Is it too late to teach my baby to crawl?
Babies who are not crawling within the 6 month to 10 month window can still follow these tips and make massive progress. It is never too late to encourage your baby
There is no evidence that babies who begin crawling at 11 months or later will have developmental problems due to their late start. If your child is not moving along you should continue to practice and be patient.
However, if other signs of overall mobility impairment are present you should contact your family doctor. If your baby can not do other basic movements for their age group there may be more to investigate. Crawling is just one milestone, if your baby scoots, shuffles, rolls or drags their body around crawling just may not be their thing.
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