MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT: TEACHING BABY TO CRAWL
Recently we received this question from one of our readers in Texas:
“My daughter is 8 months old. We are trying to help her learn how to crawl. It seems she has the arm strength but will not bend her knees. If we put her into the crawling position to show her, she will straighten out her legs and lay on her tummy. Also, she does the same thing while going from a standing postion when we sit her down the locks her knees. Is there anything we can do to help her? Thanks, I love reading your website!”
This is one of the most common questions asked by moms in classes and through my website. Baby seems to resist putting her knees on the floor when mom tries to put her in the hands and knees crawling position. This mom is not alone with her question! It is wonderful that this mother would like to learn some parenting tips for teaching baby to crawl. Simple activities at home on a daily basis are both a fun form of baby play and beneficial for baby motor skill development. Let’s take a look at three developmental activities for baby.
BABY CRAWLING tip #1: knee joint PROPRIOCEPTION
One of the ways that babies get into the hands and knees crawling positon is by lifting their pelvis up and bending their knees to bring them under their hip joints. The plank positon (or push-up position) is a straightening of the legs by stiffening the knees. This is the opposite action of what baby needs to do with her knees. Before baby can learn to bend her knees and ultimately put them on the floor beneath her hip joints, she must have a clear feeling of the knee joint itself. Gentle proprioceptive activities improve the awareness of body parts for baby. We recommend tapping the knee while saying “This is your knee,” and gently squeezing the knee and holding the squeeze for a moment while repeating “this is your knee.” Observe baby and see if she is paying attention to what you are doing. She will become quiet and feel what you are doing. This is how to improve baby’s awareness of the knee joint for the motor skill development of crawling.
BABY CRAWLING TIP #2: BEND AND STRETCH THE LEGS
Once baby has an improved awareness of her knee joint, you can improve her awareness of the knee joint action which is bending and extending. After the tapping and squeezing recommended in crawling tip #1, put her on her back. continue tapping and squeezing the entire leg while saying, “This is your leg.” Repeat with the other leg. Then hold one leg and gently bend it in toward her chest and slowly extend it toward the straight position. Do not force this movement. If her leg does not move easily, baby’s muscles are stiff. Focus on just the tapping and squeezing for a few days and that will help the muscles to relax. The bending and extending of the legs shows baby that she can both bend and extend the leg. Soon she will soon bend her leg more frequently on her own.
BABY CRAWLING TIP #3: KNEELING AT A BOX
Baby play time can include a fun game of playing a box like a drum. Place a cardboard box upside down with baby on knees in front of it. Gently press her knees down so she feels the pressure of putting the knees on the floor, which you would like her to learn to do on her own. Play the box like a drum with your own hands, pause, then invite baby to drum. Create a call-and-response type of game where your hit the box “rat-a-tat-tat” and then wait until she hits it “bop-bat-dat.” Go back and forth taking turns. This gives baby an experience of being on her knees. She will feel comfortable in this position and choose it more easily, facilitating the development of the hands and knees crawling position.