My son, who is almost eight months old, is making no attempt to crawl yet. Should I be concerned about this and is there anything I can do to encourage him? He sits quite well on his own, but has never really enjoyed being on his tummy.
I appreciate that, once he is crawling, a few changes will have to take place around the home to prevent accidents. What things should I be aware of?
You can find ways to encourage your son to crawl, but only when he is physically ready to do so. Crawling is a milestone, which comes once sitting alone has been mastered, and usually occurs between six and ten months, although some babies may be nearer their first birthday before they learn. Each baby is different and will develop at his own rate. If you are concerned about how your son is progressing generally, do discuss your thoughts with your health visitor or doctor.
Some babies miss out the crawling stage completely, learning to pull themselves up to standing and then cruising while holding on to the furniture. Others may learn to move around in other ways, such as “bum shuffling” and a commando type crawl on their stomachs, using their arms to propel themselves forward rather than the conventional idea of crawling on all fours.
Spending time on their tummies is recommended for babies to help strengthen neck and back muscles in preparation for sitting, crawling and, eventually, walking. It is a good idea to allow your baby to spend time on his tummy on a daily basis from an early age, although some babies do not enjoy this position as much as others. A baby will not normally get into the crawling position from his tummy when first learning this skill; he is more likely to move himself from a seated position on to all fours. He will do this by placing his hands in front of him and gradually learning to take his weight on to them.
Once he has mastered how to get up on all fours, he needs to learn how to move himself forward. To begin with, once in this position, he may rock forward and back for a while until he begins to move. Sometimes frustration sets in, as he instinctively knows that if he could only figure out “how” he would be able to move and get to places he would like to explore.
Some babies may have problems with getting back out from the all fours position for a while, not knowing how to get back to sitting again. Others, much to their frustration and annoyance, may find out how to move their hands and legs only to discover they are going backwards rather than forwards. In time, all these problems do resolve themselves and your baby will eventually learn how to propel himself forward with ease and dexterity.
To encourage your son’s development, provide him with plenty of opportunities to practice and perfect his sitting skills. Place toys to one side of him and a little way in front. This will encourage him to reach out and twist from side to side, developing his balance and continuing to strengthen the muscles in his spine.
Spend a little time each day sitting in front of him and holding out a toy that interests him. Hold it just beyond his reach to encourage him in leaning forwards but still keeping his balance as he reaches out to grab it. Be ready for any topples by playing on a carpeted surface.
Once he has mastered getting on to all fours, you can encourage the next stage by placing a toy just in front of him. Ask him to reach out and get it. By moving the toy slightly out of his reach he will probably attempt to move towards it somehow. This again can be a source of frustration for some babies, but bear with it as the more practice he has, the quicker he will work out what he needs to do. Try short spells throughout the day and then move him to another activity before frustration sets in. While going through this phase your baby may need more attention and plenty of sympathy from you.
Once he has started to move, find one or two toys that will reward him by lighting up or playing a tune when he reaches them. He may also enjoy chasing after a ball rolled in front of him. If you really want to amuse him, get down on all fours and let him chase you. This game is often enjoyed by fathers and can develop into a simple hide and seek behind chairs and doors.
You will need to think carefully about any childproofing measures before your baby is fully mobile. It is sensible to provide him with space where he will be able to explore safely, yet without causing damage or coming to harm. This will mean removing any lamps with trailing wires, covering electrical sockets, removing tablecloths and any light items of furniture that he could pull over on to himself. There are many helpful products available, such as cupboard locks, video and toilet locks, door stoppers which will prevent him from shutting a door on himself and safety film for glass topped tables or glazed internal doors. You will need to consider where to fit stair gates, which can also be used between rooms such as the kitchen and his play area, to prevent accidents happening. By law you must protect any open fires with fixed fireguards. Moving books and CDs to a higher place and putting his own toys and books within reach from the floor will all help him have a safe and fun place to explore once he is crawling.
Crawling is one more stage in your baby’s development towards being independent and it will open up a new world of possibilities for him. And once mobile, your baby will be free to explore his surroundings without relying on you to provide him with playthings.