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From the moment babies are born, they are working towards the moment where they can start to support their own bodyweight. Crawling is an exciting milestone, because it’s the point at which your baby learns to navigate their environment on their own.
But for all the fun of seeing your little one scampering across the floor in pursuit of their best baby toys, it’s actually important for the development of many key skills. Crawling starts to build core strength and coordination in your baby. Strengthening those muscles is super important for standing and walking later on, and developing coordination and awareness are all crucial factors that build towards eventually being able to get up and walk.
It also helps them establish their spatial awareness. Crawling is when they really start to explore spaces on their own, often after they have outgrown their bouncer and are keen to escape it in a quest to move around more. However, as they wriggle around their surroundings, there’s the chance that they may encounter hazards around the home they haven’t had access to before - babyproofing is essential to creating a safe environment for them to move around in.
Most babies will crawl in their own time, and you shouldn’t worry too much about crawling in particular if they’re hitting all their other developmental milestones. Nonetheless, if you’re wondering how to encourage a baby to crawl, there are a few fun and easy ways you can help them along. We scoured the Mumsnet forums - home to the largest UK network of parents - and investigated suggestions from childcare development experts to bring you all the info you need to get your baby on the move…
When will my baby start crawling?
Crawling typically happens when your baby is anywhere between six and 10 months old.
At around six months old, babies will start to rock backwards and forwards on their hands and knees. This is one of the precursors on the way to crawling. By around nine months, babies will typically begin some form of crawling. Some babies begin with a kind of commando crawl on their bellies, pulling themselves along. Some even start crawling backwards!
What are the different methods of crawling?
The classic crawl (the one you most likely think of when the word 'crawl' comes to mind) involves your baby bearing weight on their hands and knees and shuffling them forwards to move.
Belly or commando crawling sometimes precedes traditional crawling. This is when babies pull themselves forwards with their arms, keeping their bellies on the floor.
Bottom scooting is like commando crawling except instead of pulling themselves on their stomachs, babies sit on their bums and use their arms to shuffle along.
Crab crawling is when babies use their hands to move sideways or backwards like a crab.
What’s involved in learning to crawl?
The stages of learning to crawl are about your baby developing the strength needed to support themselves when they move on the floor independently - they need to be able to support their weight - particularly in their arms and legs. They also need coordination skills to get themselves going too..
Generally, babies begin by rolling over between three and five months. Rolling onto their left and right sides is the beginning of their developing the muscles needed to crawl and eventually walk.
At around six months, babies start rocking back and forth on their hands and knees. The coordination of these different muscles is what needs to happen to get them scooting around on their own. Your baby will figure it out in their own way and they’ll soon be manoeuvring around their playpen or on the floor with ease!
How can I help my baby learn to crawl? 8 tips to encourage them
1. Make sure they get tummy time
Tummy time is one of those phrases you hear constantly in the early stages of your baby’s development, and is a key way to encourage your baby to crawl. For many babies, it can be quite unpleasant to spend time on their fronts because they can’t lift their heads to see what’s going on around them. When they lie on their tummies, they practise lifting their head up, strengthening their muscles and getting their arms, legs, back, and neck moving.
Research has shown that the amount of time babies spend on their tummy does actually correspond to the time it takes for them to reach their key motor milestones: rolling over, belly crawling, crawling on hands and knees and sitting up. Try and get your baby on the floor for a few minutes a day. You can make tummy time more fun by offering a variety of different playing positions: on their sides, on their backs and on their fronts. You can also try laying down on your back and having your baby face down on your chest or incorporate one of the best tummy time toys to make it more fun for babies.
Only ever do tummy time when your baby is awake and you are supervising though - young babies should only sleep on their back.
What Mumsnet users say
“I did lots of floor play with [my seven-month-old], rolling her onto her side to play, encouraging her to hold her feet and ‘teddy rolling’ her, encouraging her with toys etc.” Wifflywafflywoo
2. Use playtime to get them on the move
Your baby is already going to want to start moving around on their own, but a great way to encourage your baby to crawl is to get some extra motivation involved! Giving them something to reach for can be an exciting way for them to start to string together the kind of movements involved in crawling.
Try putting one of the best sensory toys for babies on the floor, just out of their reach, and resist the temptation to help. They will work out a way of getting to their favourite thing - and using those muscles to help them reach it will encourage them start crawling. Our guide to the best toys for nine-month-olds has plenty of options suitable for babies at the typical crawling age too.
What Mumsnet users say
“Place favourite toys just out of reach… Physically, they just have to get there on their own. Mine crawled for about five minutes, pulled up and walked off! Be careful what you wish for.” elQuintoConyo
3. Get on the floor with your baby
An excellent way to encourage your baby to crawl is to get down there with them. Their favourite toys alone might provide them with the motivation, but they may still be lacking the ability to execute a crawl. If you or an older sibling show them how, chances are they might copy you and get crawling.
4. Show your baby their reflection
A great way to encourage your baby to crawl is to get them curious about something. Get them on the floor and set a mirror up in front of them. Seeing their reflection can get them motivated to scoot, and gradually crawl towards the object.
5. Time spent out of bouncers and walkers
Babies need to spend time on the floor to get used to supporting their own weight. An important way to encourage your baby to crawl is to get them out of baby seats and bouncers. Although they are a good way of keeping your baby safe and confined, having them on the floor really encourages exploration and movement, two key ingredients to getting a baby to crawl. Experts warn against the use of seated baby walkers too as they can hinder development.
6. Give them a good surface to practise on
Hard floors can actually be helpful to encourage your baby to crawl if a little less comfortable. A slippery surface might help them scoot along - encouraging them to keep trying to move. On the other hand, if it’s not working on a hard surface you might want to mix it up, give them a chance to try on a fluffy carpet or a cushioned play mat and see what your baby prefers.
What Mumsnet users say
“Can you try moving [them] round the house to try out different floors? … The other day I had to sort out [a] room which has really thick carpet, and that seemed to really help [mine] to get her bum shuffling skills sorted, and now she can do it on any floor surface.” Findahouse21
7. Create a comfortable crawling space
A bit of enticement never hurt anybody. A great way to encourage your baby to crawl is to make the floor a super comfy and interesting place. Several people noted that dogs and cats are can be a useful bit of encouragement to get your baby going. But not everyone has pets that can help out! Sometimes it’s as simple as getting the environment right. Make a crawling mat for your baby with space to kick and roll around.
What Mumsnet users say
“Get a large mat on the floor, and let [them] kick and roll to encourage crawling.” naomi83
8. Take your time, it will happen… (some babies go straight to walking!)
If your child is yet to crawl, it’s important not to panic or push them too hard before they’re ready - this can actually slow down development, so relax, breathe, and let your little one take their time.
Babies are all different, and there’s a big window in when they may start crawling. In fact, some skip crawling all together and go straight to pulling themselves up, standing and walking. So if your baby is taking their time, and they are hitting their other development milestones, and not crawling in a concerning way using only one side, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
What Mumsnet users say
“No tips from me, apart from they will do it in their own sweet time. They have to figure it out themselves; my little boy didn't walk till he was 18 months old, did a few steps… then just got up and walked off one day.” crazycatbaby
“None of mine ever crawled. All bottom shuffled in various ways or went from lying to cruising around furniture to walking without crawling in between.” Crumbs1
Should I worry about my baby not crawling?
The window for crawling is a pretty large one, typically between six and 10 months (although this could happen anywhere between five and 13 months), but some babies don’t crawl at all and go straight to pulling themselves up and walking.
If your child is hitting all their other key developmental milestones, then you shouldn’t be too concerned. As long as your baby is showing interest in their surroundings, they will most likely have the motivation to figure out how to move around.
However, if your baby is slow to reach key milestones, or is only using one side of their body to crawl and move, or is not making progress in their ability to move around, then you should raise it with your doctor.
How to childproof your home for crawling
Childproofing your home gives your baby a safe environment to explore in and reduces the risk of injuries. It’s not easy to keep track, especially when they start moving independently, so thinking ahead and trying to minimise hazards is really important.
You can do this by inspecting your house, room by room, and trying to assess where the hazards are. So if you want to encourage crawling without stressing about where your baby is going, you might want to consider these things:
Fitting safety mechanisms on doors and windows
Installing stair gates for stairs but also things like fireplaces
Secure heavy furniture to stop it from falling over
Cover sharp edges and corners
Moving harmful substances like cleaning products out of their reach
Assessing electric plugs sockets and wires and identifying hazards