Why is crawling an important milestone for young athletes
Many times young children are given praise by family members, teachers, and community members for walking before they turn 1 year old. I've seen lots of families gleam with anticipation as their 10 month old lets go of the couch for the first time and "WOW!! Little Johnny is WALKING!!" They tell their friends, family, and neighbors. It's a badge of prestige in some circles for children to walk early. This may sound like a great thing, but if you want your child to have good coordination for running, throwing, and hitting for future sports participation STOP them from walking....at least for now!
You see, the real challenge, the real test of stability and strength comes from crawling NOT walking. When children don't want to (hint, hint) crawl, they do the next best thing....they scoot. They scoot either on their bellies or their butts all over the house. Mom's and dad's are busy with work, daycare, cleaning, shopping, and just making sure they keep their kids safe but crawling isn't on the MUST DO list. But trust me when I say it is most definitely a MUST DO. Why, you ask?
There's a ton of development that goes into crawling on your hands and knees as you can see from the middle bottom picture. Everything from hand-eye coordination, to rotational development for throwing and hitting, to alternating arms and legs needed for running, grip strength, arch and ankle strength, hip and shoulder stability for athletic movement, lumbar/core control, the list goes on and on. These developmental steps are cut short and minimized if a child scoots on their bellies or their butts or worse yet rolls over to furniture and pulls up. This may sound weird but I've seen it happen.
If you don't have a pediatric physical therapist near you, here are a few things you can do to help your child get into the hands and knees crawling position at home:
1. Once your child is on their belly playing, grab them under their chest and lift up just enough so they can bring their hands and knees under their body
2. Have them play in this position with a toy placed just in front of them an arms length
away so they have to shift their weight to reach. If they drop back onto their belly immediately lift their chest again and continue playing
3. You can also have the child crawl over your legs to get a favorite toy or play with a family
member. Help them place their hands and knees on the floor appropriately one at a time so they don't lose their balance. Only help if can't do it on their own or they get frustrated easily. This can build their confidence greatly. Don't get frustrated yourself; you're not hurting them. Have fun!
This is not something you set and forget. Children NEED to crawl on their hands and knees for at least 3-4 months BEFORE pulling up to stand and cruising around furniture or walking. So be patient. You'll have to keep reminding them that this is how they should be moving. You'll have to think about it like you would if you're trying to potty train a puppy...consistency is key. Your child's future self with appreciate you for it.
Image by <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flat-design-stages-baby-boy-illustration_14852557.htm#query=baby%20crawling&position=0&from_view=keyword&track=ais">Freepik</a>