By: Mallory Bushee OTR/L
I’m sure you all would expect to hear this advice from a physical therapist but as an occupational therapist, I’m going to take my time to say it too: crawling is important!
Here are a few of the unexpected benefits of crawling for children:
- Big muscles for fine motor skills – When crawling, a child is bearing a good portion of his/her body weight into the arms. Supporting this weight lends for the opportunity of strengthening the bilateral shoulder joints. Additionally, core strength is activated for movement of upper and lower limbs and for holding head up in movement. This proximal strength at the shoulders and core is necessary for postural control and further development of the more intricate tasks of fine motor skills with the hands.
- Grasp strengthening for fine motor skills – Bearing weight into the upper arms also strengthens the smaller muscles of the forearm and hand. Pushing into the wrists and hands can lengthen the tendons and muscles from forearm to finger tip necessary for fine tuned manipulation skills. Bearing weight into open hands helps develop the arches of the hand and separate the two sides of the hand. The ability to separate the hand into its two sides (one being thumb, index, and middle finger and second being ring finger and pinky) is necessary for fine motor skills such as: using pencils, buttoning buttons, cutting, tying shoes.
- Coordination for body awareness and motor skills – Bilateral coordination is when we are using opposite sides of the body to work together. Crawling is a prime example of these contralateral movement patterns in use – the left arm moves as right leg moves and vice versa. These movement patterns activate a portion of the brain (the Corpus Callosum) which helps the left and right hemispheres of the brain communicate with each other. Communication between the two hemispheres in necessary for building more complex coordination.
Here are some fun ways to incorporate crawling into play (obstacle courses are an all time favorite of mine):
- Crawl through tunnels
- Crawl under benches or chairs for spatial awareness
- Crawl over pillows or cushions for added resistance or deep pressure (proprioceptive) input
- Crawl on fun textures for some fun sensory play
- Crawl across safe but unstable surfaces for body awareness
- Crawl like various animals – the internet can give you some ideas but sometimes kids can create some of the best animal walks themselves