Crawling is an important milestone that is vital for cognitive and physical development. It is considered the first form of independent movement and helps develop the vestibular/balance system, sensory system, cognition, problem-solving skills, strength, and coordination. These skills are necessary to assist in feeding, coloring, playing with toys, handwriting, dressing and more. But what if it’s skipped?
Many parents are told it’s common and OK if their child never crawls, and while that may be true for some children, more studies are showing its importance. Children who experience trouble with body awareness, balance, and coordination, crossing the midline and core muscle strength tend to struggle with focus and attention in school, for example, and these are all skills crawling develops. However, all is not lost if crawling is not mastered before a year of age. Many activities can be done that mimic the benefits of crawling in older children so that they may catch-up or acquire skills that may be hindered from the lack of crawling.
Listed below are the skills crawling develops and activities that focus on developing the skill past the crawling phase. Click the links to be taken to Amazon to purchase the recommended toys/games/activities:
1. Physical development and strength:
- Use a scooter board and have your toddler lay belly down and pull themselves along the floor, through obstacles, forwards, backward and sideways.
- Simple hanging from the monkey bars or a rope can help grip and upper body strength. Many kids who do not crawl are not able to hang from the monkey bars. Assist your child so they're making effort, but not becoming discouraged.
- Wheelbarrow racing is great to get weight through open palms and into the shoulder girdle (all things missed by not crawling). Hold your child by their feet and have them do a shuttle relay race, timing it if he/she has a competitive streak, or just have them grab items from one end and place in a bucket on the other end in a fun, but challenging game.
- Activities that require over the head arm use are particularly helpful to develop extended neck and shoulder muscles. Have your toddler stick Wix Stix and/or Squigz suction pieces on the wall at and above eye level, making shapes/designs (also great for fine motor and sensory input). Older kids enjoy overhead ball games.
2. Coordination and balance:
- Leapfrog, bear crawl, crab walk, bunny hop, gallop like a horse... all the animal walks are great fun and beneficial for balance and coordination.
- Jump from square to square on floor tiles (add in some sensory input with these fun liquid color ones)
- Jump rope. Stick with the classic types.
- Play hot potato. They adore this game and it's great for eye-hand coordination.
- Twister is a classic for a reason.
- Stand on a Bosu Ball. The travel size ones are perfect for kids. They love them.
3. Spatial understanding:
4. Brain Development (crossing midline, in particular):
- Baseball/T-ball is a fabulously fun way to encourage crossing midline.
- Clapping games. There are a lot of fun ones on youtube. Like "Miss Mary Mack".
- Playing with toys that encourage figure 8 patterns such as train sets.
- Hidden picture books like "Where's Waldo"
- Dot-to-Dot Worksheets
- Word search puzzles
6. Self Confidence:
- Focus on your child's efforts and feelings about his accomplishments (versus your own).
- Assign age-appropriate tasks to help around the house to increase their feelings of competency and place within the family.
- One-on-one playtime that is child-led, not parent-led.
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