As a child, I had a difficult time learning to hold a pencil. I later found out that this was connected to the fact that I skipped that crawling stage as a baby! I sat down with Christine Labeste, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, to get the scoop on crawling. Here’s what she had to say:

More on crawling from Ms. Labeste:

1. What is the importance of crawling?

Crawling is fairly important during development, but having tummy time is even more crucial. It provides many skills for development in the future. When children are on their stomachs, they are receiving sensory information on the whole front side of the body by bearing weight on their hands, wrist and elbows. It gives them information about where their bodies are in space, providing skills for future bilateral coordination and reciprocal movement (left and right working together). It also encourages binocular vision (being able to use both eyes to focus near and then far) since they can look close when using their hands and far when they need to get to an object. And most importantly, tummy time and crawling helps to strengthen the neck, upper torso, shoulder girdle, and the muscles needed in the hands for manipulating objects.

2. How can we encourage our children to crawl?

Since the advent of the “Back to Sleep” campaign due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, babies are spending less time on their stomachs as in the past. Children can first be encouraged to tolerate being on their stomach for at a few minutes as early as newborns using high contract pictures and toys or getting the other parent on their stomach to talk, sing, make silly faces to the child. As they get older, mirrors and toys in front of them while their elbows are propped are great. For babies who have trouble maintaining propped on their elbows, placing a small towel or pillow under their underarm/chest area to give some extra support. Tunnels are a common toy to encourage crawling. Put something appealing at the other end such as a remote control or cell phone!

3. What happens if a child skips the crawling stage altogether?

Skipping crawling may affect a child’s ability to hold silverware or a pencil down the road, since the weight-bearing experience of crawling helps develop arches and stretch out ligaments in the wrist and hand that are needed for fine motor skills.

4. What rumors would you like to dispel about crawling?

That skipping crawling or tummy time won’t affect future development. As a pediatric OT, I see more and more cases of weak shoulders, poor hand strength and manipulation skills, and lots of handwriting problems. I think that if we had more babies crawling and crawling for longer periods of time, we would see a decreased occurrence of these problems. However, there are certainly some children who skip crawling altogether and are perfectly fine today. Overall, I think that crawling and tummy time should not be overlooked and that we should encourage our children to go through all the stages of development.