Should Your Child Crawl Before They Walk?

Baby Crawling

Baby Crawling

Developmental milestones, specifically crawling before walking, has become a topic of debate among pediatricians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and so on. I was working on crawling recently with a client when the topic came up. Why do they need to crawl before they walk? There’s evidence it may not matter and that if they skip crawling, your child can still function regularly within their environment.

Is it necessary for development? Not sure I can answer that one…However, I can name a few things that come to mind with the importance of crawling and how it may make a difference if your child skips this motor milestone.

Reasons Why Crawling Is Important:

1. Strength:

Of course a PT would put this listed first ;). Crawling helps strengthen the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders because they have to maintain activation to support the weight of their body. Supporting their body weight allows the ligaments in the wrist and hand stretch and develop so that the natural arches of one’s hand can develop which are essential for fine motor skills. It also requires core strength to maintain balance in that “hands and knees” position. OTs may argue that non-crawlers may have more difficulty with handwriting, climbing, or pulling. Also, to keep their head up, they must activate trunk extensors and neck extensors to lift their head against gravity and maintain while on hands and knees. What does that translate to down the line? POSTURE. If they have weak extensor muscles or limited endurance in those muscles, they will typically present with poor posture when they are upright in sitting or standing.

2. Coordination:

Crawling is so important for the development of coordination and it is the very first opportunity to practice bilateral (both sides) coordination. BOTH sides of your brain must be activated to perform this task and they must be working together to perform the reciprocal movement of crawling itself. It is also a significant step for hand eye coordination. A child sees where they want to go and then coordinate their way to the target with their hands. These types of skills learned during crawling can translate for reading, writing, dressing, and self-feeding.

3. Spatial/Visual Awareness:

What this means is that crawling helps improve the child’s awareness within their environment. Crawling can help things such as depth perception, navigating obstacles, and their problem solving skills.

As far as short term is concerned, studies show that crawling is not a predictor for other early motor milestones. So, what that says is babies who do not reach the crawling phase aren’t necessarily going to be “behind” in their milestones and vice versa. Long term effects of skipping this milestone are only now beginning to be researched.

What IS important to take out of this?

TUMMY TIME. There is no debate about that. Tummy time is SO important for strengthening those head and neck muscles and for interaction with their environment. Its likely your child/baby will highly dislike being put on their stomachs….I actually still have yet to find a child who enjoys the position…BUT it will help avoid other issues down the road such as weakness and poor posture.

If you want to find out how this relates to your child specifically, call or email me at 631-348-0959 or

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Christine Astarita