Any parent can attest to the many exciting baby milestones that they look forward to from the moment their son or daughter is born. Bringing a little bundle of joy into the world is no small feat, no matter how little their feet are! But it’s the moments when they start to learn how to use those feet that make all those long nights of crying, burping, and sleepytime lullabies feel so worth it.
Before the talking and walking, babies hit the ground crawling. Most babies typically begin to start crawling between the ages of six to ten months old.
By this time, they tend to have developed enough muscle strength in their arms, legs, back, and neck to facilitate proper independent crawling. There are, however, many different defining elements that play a part in a baby’s development. Some babies start crawling earlier, some start later, and some skip the stage altogether! Every baby has a different development path and every child is unique.
As you await these exciting milestones, we’ll give you the rundown on everything you need to know about baby development toward crawling, the many types of crawling, how to encourage crawling, and everything in between!
- Pre-crawling stages of development
- When do babies roll over?
- When do babies crawl?
- How to encourage baby to crawl
- What is tummy time?
- What are the types of crawling?
- What are the benefits of crawling?
Pre-Crawling stages of development
As a parent, watching your baby grow and develop before your eyes is nothing short of magical. You find yourself scrambling to find your smartphone to take pictures every time your baby does just about anything. So when baby finally starts to move on his own, there is plenty of reason to jump for joy.
As mentioned, many babies begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months old.
As babies begin to relinquish their dependence on support devices like bouncers and swings, they also begin to build up strength in their muscles and brains. Crawling, after all, is a pretty demanding task for an infant. In order to get moving on all-fours, babies must go through three types of development:
- Visual-spatial development
- Cognitive skills development
- Gross motor skills development
Visual-spatial development: When baby begins to understand spatial concepts about the physical world around them, they can also begin to learn how to navigate efficient paths, even if those paths are only a few feet long. Baby’s visual skills with accelerate once they begin to understand how near or far their favorite toys are. This may even incentivize baby to learn how to move on their own!
Cognitive skills: Not only is baby learning something new, but he is teaching himself how to do something on his own. If baby’s incentive to get crawling is to reach the toy bin located around the corner of the sofa, he has the cognitive intelligence to memorize the landscape of the room, and navigate toward his desired location.
Gross motor skills: As a parent, you’ve grown pretty used to watching your baby flail his arms and legs around to express any and every emotion. As baby develops, strengthening his gross motor skills will result in a heightened ability to use the large muscles of his body with intention. These will come in handy for crawling, walking, and running down the road.
To be able to crawl, babies need to be strong, coordinated, and confident enough to piece it all together. This happens in a number of mini-milestones parents can track from the two month mark up to crawling age! Let’s break it down. For a baby that takes about ten months to independently crawl, their mini-milestone timeline could look something like this.
Between 2-4 months: Babies will spend a lot of time on their tummies, and that’s a good thing! Growing comfortable in the prone position while being able to lift their head is the first step you want to see. With plenty of tummy time practice, baby should be able to comfortably turn his head from side to side without any uneasy bobbing. Baby will also be able to support his upper-body weight on using his forearms while laying on his tummy. Parents can help baby strengthen his arms by removing the legs from a baby play table or placing baby in front of a mirror. Curiosity alone may be enough to get baby propped upright.
Between 4-6 months: Using his hands now, baby’s forearms will be strong enough to allow him to bear weight on his hands to get into a propped up position. Baby will be able to lift his entire chest off the ground using his newly developed upper-body strength. Way to go, baby!
In addition to gaining strength in his arms, parents will begin to notice that the Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex tendencies will begin to disappear. This is when baby lays on his back with his head turned to one side, and his arm and leg of the same side straighten out. This position is also referred to as the fencing pose. You want baby to let this reflex fade as they grow and develop toward crawling, and the key to that is practicing!
Between 6-8 months: Within this age range, you want to see baby being able push off their chest and shift their weight from one hand to another. This will enable them to remain balanced on one hand while reaching for a toy. Having integrated the ATNR into their movement controlling habits, baby will be able to lay on their tummy and bend one knee forward to propel themselves forward in a scooting motion.
Parents should also see their baby start to use protective extension to safeguard himself from falling hard whenever he loses balance. This is when baby uses his hands to catch himself before hitting the ground. This response is also an essential piece for baby learning how to transition from an upright position to a hands and knees position. Key stepping stones toward baby beginning to crawl!
Between 8-10 months: At the 8, 9, and 10 month marks just before baby starts crawling, parents should see the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex emerge, this is also known as the crawling reflex. This happens when baby lifts his head, straightens his arms, and pushes himself while bending at the hips. Baby will look like he’s just about ready to get crawling!
Becoming able to support his own weight on hands and knees in the quadruped position, baby will begin to experiment with rocking back and forth and side to side. Getting closer to the big crawling day, baby will be scooting and rolling forward on their tummy, experimenting with the many skills they have taught themselves over the course of the months.
Keep in mind that not all baby development timelines are linear, so if by the 8-10 month mark your baby hasn’t put everything together in the same linear progression, that’s okay! Every baby is unique and every baby learns differently. Keep encouraging your baby to make those big steps forward to get him crawling, walking, running, and jumping sooner than you’d ever expect!
When do babies roll over?
Babies start rolling over as early as their 4 month old mark. Parents will notice that baby will rock from side to side as an early indicator that he is gearing up to a full roll over maneuver. Rolling over from tummy to back typically comes within the earlier 4 month mark while rolling over from back to tummy happens more toward the 5 to 6 month mark. Back to tummy rolling requires a bit more neck and arm strength to accomplish which is why babies tend to take more time with learning this maneuver.
As baby works on all of the big pre-crawling stages, he will also grow more comfortable with supporting the weight of his head and body independently. Around baby’s 3 month mark, he will be able to lift his head and shoulders with plenty of tummy time to help facilitate these movements. Around the 5 month mark, baby will have a stronger grasp on lifting his head and body using his arms and back to begin lifting his chest off the ground. These steps are the building blocks toward crawling.
When do babies crawl?
Babies tend to start crawling between 6 and 10 months. Within this timeline, baby works on strengthening his muscles to work toward supporting his weight on his hands and knees. Baby will also be working on key brain development that will allow him to gain a more comprehensive grasp on spatial and visual awareness.
Bottom line is that baby needs to be strong, confident, and practiced in order to nail down that coveted crawling motion. Fortunately, baby doesn’t have to do it all on his own! There are plenty of ways parents can encourage baby to progress toward crawling, and most are simple enough to practice daily.
How to encourage baby to crawl
Watching your baby’s development is one of the most rewarding elements of being a parent. It’s those little moments that fill your photobooks and decorate your Facebook profile that are the most memorable and cherished. So while you don’t want those moments to simply pass you by, you also can’t wait for the moment baby starts crawling and walking.
Before you can begin playing with baby and encouraging him to move independently, you must make sure your designated baby playing space is totally baby proofed. Baby should always be out of harm's way, so be on the lookout for any hazardous materials or environments that could cause an unnecessary scare.
Tip 1. Give baby lots of tummy time
Even though letting your baby spend a lot of time on his belly may seem to be counterproductive for muscle development, it’s actually one of the most important steps needed to get baby to foster independent muscle strengthening. Even giving baby 10 to 15 minutes of daily tummy time can encourage baby to use muscles he wouldn’t typically need to use if he’s strapped in a high chair or a play swing.
Babies tend to spend much of their youngest months on their backs, so encouraging them to grow comfortable with being on their tummies is a great first step toward developing strength and motor skills. Eventually, baby will have enough upper body stability and coordination to piece together a forward crawl!
Tip 2. Lift baby off the floor
Though a lot of baby’s learning will happen with his own motion experimentation, parents can help facilitate developmental progress by lifting baby off the ground for a mini-leg workout. Pick baby up by the armpits with just enough support to keep them upright, but not so much that their feet come off the ground. This will allow baby to strengthen their legs and you’ll get some much needed one on one time with baby.
Tip 3. Use toys to incentivize crawling
What better way to encourage baby to start crawling than with the things they love most. If there’s one thing babies are grabby about (besides food, of course), it’s their collection of toys. Positioning toys slightly out of reach can inspire baby to independently figure out how he will grab it. Putting a little game of capture the toy in place will get baby moving in the right direction. When there’s a reward involved, it’s far easier to get baby to play along!
Tip 4. Crawl with baby
No, you won’t have to be on all fours demonstrating to your little one how it’s done for this crawling trick. Instead, lie next to baby as he is on his tummy, and place your hand under his chest to support his abdomen. Carrying most of your baby’s body weight, putting him into proper position will set him up for crawling success as he continues to develop. The more familiar this position becomes, the better off baby is when his muscles become strong enough to support himself.
Tip 5. Use a tunnel
Play tunnels are excellent toys to keep around when baby is learning to crawl. Not only are they great for incentivizing forward motion, but they are also tremendous for developing motor skills. Keeping baby’s mind and body active, he will be able to begin understanding spatial awareness and learning how to navigate routes independently.
Tip 6. Give baby more freedom
You want to keep an eye on baby at all times, and that doesn't have to change! Since baby is not yet able to walk or crawl, their limited range of motion typically keeps them strapped into high chairs, strollers, walkers and baby bassinets. Instead of keeping baby confined in supportive devices, give him some independent playtime to work on strengthening his muscles. Too much time spent in supportive devices can actually lead to delayed development that could set back his crawling timeline. You want to give baby the freedom to explore so he can grow physically and mentally!
Tip 1. Wrap baby up
Though this may sound like a nightmare for the average adult human being, wrapping a baby up encourages them to squirm and reposition themselves within the sling or wrap. While doing this, they build neck and arm muscle strength. Be wary of baby’s comfort levels, you don’t want to make him uncomfortable or scared, so be gentle when wrapping!
Tip 2. Encourage playing on all sides
Since babies are still in the earliest stages of physical development, being able to support their weight and understand the splay of their bodies comes with playing on all sides. During playtime, move your baby into different positions. Try placing him on his right side, left side, tummy, and back to cover your bases. The same way you want to cover all parts of your body during exercise, baby needs to do the same for healthy, well-rounded development.
Tip 3. Use a mirror
Nothing quite compares to the curiosity of a baby. Placing baby in front of a mirror may encourage him to creep closer to give himself an up-close greeting. Babies are drawn to reflections and will be so excited to see themselves. Whether he’s inching closer to the mirror or simply reaching out to touch his reflection’s hand, baby will get a mind and body workout in front of the mirror.
Tip 4. Don’t stress
We can’t say it enough— all babies follow different timelines, so if your baby seems be a bit behind developmentally, don’t try to stuff all these tips in on a daily basis. The first year of a baby’s life has a number of variables that are never 100% certain. Just because some babies start crawling at 6 months doesn’t mean your baby will. Be patient and keep it playful, those big baby milestones will come with time and practice!
What is tummy time?
As one of the most important times in a baby’s life, tummy time is essential for parents to practice and to understand. Tummy time is when baby spends time laying on their bellies and learning how to support their body weight with their arms, shoulders and neck strength.
Tummy time can happen on the ground, or it can happen while laying on mommy or daddy’s chest. Tummy time can take place for a few minutes a day and show incredible results when practiced regularly. In fact, a study completed by Michigan State University researchers found that babies who practiced tummy time walked on average 101 days earlier than babies who did not incorporate tummy time into their regular routine.
Tummy time helps promote upper body strength, encourages timely growth, and boosts baby’s ability to use motor skills, which is why it’s such an essential step toward getting baby to crawl!
What are the types of crawling?
Did you know there are six different types of baby crawls? So while you’re wondering when do babies crawl, your little bundle of joy may have already tackled one of these six types!
The cross crawl: Baby will have his weight on his hands and knees, and move the opposite arm and leg simultaneously in a forward motion.
The bottom scoot: Baby will be sat on his bum and use his arms to propel forward while scooting his bum in the same direction.
The commando crawl: Also known as the army crawl, baby will lay on his tummy and pull himself forward using his arms and upper body strength. This crawl requires a lot of belly dragging. Be sure to clear the ground space and dress baby in thick clothes to protect his sensitive skin from scrapes or rug burn.
The roller: Since most babies learn rolling before crawling, this mode of baby transportation will have baby rolling from point a to point b instead of using hands and knees to get there.
The crab crawl: Instead of moving in a forward direction, baby will use his hands and knees to propel himself sideways or backwards when he crab crawls.
The bear crawl: Using hands and feet to get around, baby will lift his knees in the air and move around in a downward dog motion.
What are the benefits of crawling?
It’s exciting to see your baby start moving on their own, but beyond mere parental excitement, crawling comes with a number of development benefits that stretch beyond simple independent movement. For babies, crawling is an incredibly complex activity that takes a number of moving parts, both physical and mental, to get going. It’s the strengthening of these working parts that offer fundamental progression for baby’s maturation.
- Brain stimulation
- Improves vision
- Joint stability
- Stepping stone toward to walking
- Increases bilateral coordination
- Develops motor planning
- Integrates reflexes
Always remember, the first 10 months of a baby’s life are some of the most important when it comes to basic physical and mental development. Though it’s not unheard of for a baby to skip crawling entirely, encouraging them to crawl comes with plenty of added developmental bonuses that keep baby healthy and on the right track.
Answering the question of “when do babies crawl?” is one that is met with a wide range of possibilities. Since every baby develops and grows differently, there’s no putting your thumb on the exact month mark. However, with this wide range of possibility comes the many methods of helping your baby start moving independently. Before you know it, your little bundle of joy will be crawling, walking, and running off to catch the bus to school. Cherish these early moments before your baby takes flight into the big, wide world!