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Crawling is a very important phase in the development of your child. It's not only physical but also mental training for him. Therefore, encourage your baby to crawl, but never force him to it.

Preparing for crawling

Before your child starts to crawl, he must prepare himself. For a small human being, walking on all fours is a big challenge. He must pull up his bottom and tummy, and set his hands parallel with each other. In addition, when moving his whole body weight rests alternately on one hand and the opposite leg. Therefore, before the time comes, your child trains his muscles intensively for a few months. First he starts to roll, then creep, and finally he moves to waddling, which helps him develop his sense of balance. When he feels sure of himself, he tries to crawl on all fours.

When do children start to crawl?

Children start to crawl at about 9 months, however it's not a rule. Some start to learn crawling earlier, some later. Some children skip the crawling phase completely and start walking at once. This group, however, is a minority. My daughter, Julka, started crawling when she was 10 months old. She loved moving around the room and touching everything that was within her reach. Yet, very soon she wanted to try moving in an upright position and after her first birthday she made her first attempts to walk. For most children crawling is the preceding phase of walking. Walking on all fours is easier for a few months old child, as he can support himself with his hands. This way he feels safer, and at this age his hands are stronger then his legs. You should be concerned if after twelve months of age your child is not interested in first crawling attempts, or isn't able or doesn't want to move around independently. Inability to coordinate moves is also a disturbing symptom. If such symptoms occur, I recommend that you consult your paediatrician immediately. If your child was born prematurely, you should give him more time to master his moves. Remember, that premature babies often develop at a slower pace than their peers (they acquire skills with delay, but catch up thanks to exercises).

What is the role of crawling?

Crawling is very important for your child's proper psychomotor development. It involves practicing the so called cross crawl pattern (right arm-left leg, and the other way around), which stregthens the spine and muscles of the baby's body. Therefore, children who used to crawl for a long time usually have straight legs and correct feet positioning. However, that is not the only advantage of crawling. It is also a great form of training for the baby's brain. Cross crawling helps develop neural connections between the left (logic) and right (creative) hemispheres of the brain.

These, on the other hand, enable cooperation between the hemispheres, which is the condition for proper development, and the future ability to write, read and count correctly. In addition, a crawling baby also gets to know his surroundings, learns to estimate distances correctly, and exercises the sense of balance.

Encourage crawling

Crawling not only gives your baby enormous pleasure by enabling him to move around independently, but it also helps him develop. However, before your child makes his first move on all fours, he has to prepare his muscles properly, exercise his sense of balance and...he needs stimuli that encourages him to take the challenge. In order to encourage your baby to crawl, let him play on the floor on his tummy and let him have more space than in his bed or cot. Place him often on his tummy and stimulate him to move by placing toys around the room. For sure, he'll eventually want to grab one of them and take action. Observe your baby and appreciate his effort. Your smile and appreciation will motivate him to move. By encouraging your baby to independent moving, you help him develop a feeling of individuality. Of course, this will all come in due time. In the beginning, the child will be fascinated by discovering his surroundings, on one hand, and on the other - he'll expect his mum to help him whenever he needs it. However, by giving him the freedom of choice (thanks to such games and exercises), he'll get easier used to not always having his mum around. Even when he's a good crawler, encourage him to move as often as possible. I recommend combining it with playing together. My daughter was very motivated to move when I pulled her favourite bison toy on a string in front of her. You can also encourage your baby to negotiate an obstacle course made of pillows. Remember that encouraging doesn't mean teaching. Your baby will start crawling when he's ready. Also, don't interrupt crawling by putting your baby into a walker too early, by putting him up or walking him around. Crawling should be a pleasure and not a race. It's also good to provide other cross crawl exercises for both crawling and non-crawling children. You can e.g. encourage your child to touch his left leg with his right hand, and vice versa. In order to encourage him to do it, you can stick colourful stickers or cards to your baby's clothes (don't stick them to bare skin). His task will be to unstick the sticker from his left leg with his right hand, etc. You can also gently take his right hand and direct it to the left leg, and vice versa. When you do exercises with your baby, stroke his hands and talk to him softly. If you feel that your baby is resistant, don't force him to exercise.

How long do babies crawl?

Babies usually crawl for about 3 months. When he gets bored with crawling, and his muscles and sense of balance allow him to discover the world in an upright position, he starts to pull himself up on furniture. Finally, he'll learn to stand on his own and soon he'll take his first steps.

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