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Newborn and Infant Care

Skipping crawling

12/06/2007

Question:

My baby is 8.5 months. He can pull himself but he moves around everywhere doing the "army crawling"(scooting). He has never crawled on his knees. But someone told me that kids would have problems with athletic abilities and some possible learning disabilities if they walks before crawling on knees. Is this true? I am really worried after hearing this. My baby also cannot sit by himself without holding onto anything. Shouldn`t babies, this age, be sitting by themselves without holding onto any things. Please advice.

Answer:

It's good that you are a keen observer of your child's development! Let me start by saying that every child has their own developmental pace. In fact your child is demonstrating an early form of crawling called the "commando crawl." He will likely move on to crawling on his hands and knees with his belly off the floor in the near future. It is true that skipping crawling is associated with learning disabilities including dyslexia and problems with fine motor muscle use of the hands and finger. Many therapists address these problems in children by having them crawl on the floor.  Skipping crawling seems to mean skipping the development of skill in coordinating the use of both hands and both eyes together on at the same time.

All of large muscle development proceeds from the head down to the feet. The fact that your son can commando crawl means that he has good control in his head, neck, shoulders, and arms. The next step will be control of his lower trunk to allow him to sit without any support. It makes sense that your son cannot yet crawl on his hands and knees because he lacks the trunk control he needs to sit independently. Once he masters this skill, he will advance in his crawling technique to lifting his trunk off the floor in a style of crawling most of us think of when we say a child is crawling around. So I really don't think you need to worry yet.

I would encourage him to advance in his crawling by getting on the floor with him to make tummy and commando crawl time fun. Put toys he likes ahead of him where he has to crawl over to get them (not so far he gets frustrated though). When he gets to the toy, praise him and celebrate before challenging him to crawl a bit further for another fun toy.

It is true that he is a little bit behind in terms of when he would be expected to have mastered independent sitting. This can be as a result of the emphasis on "back to sleep" that has led many parents to miss giving their babies adequate tummy time during waking hours to build neck, shoulder, and arm strength as soon as they could develop. This means that all later skills, such as sitting independently, occur at a later time.

So be sure your son has plenty of time on the floor to sit, crawl and play. Your presence and cheers will make this fun for him and not work. You might want to visit a Teacher's Store or look in the nearest public library for learning activity books for young children. These will give you lots of ideas for learning and development through play, the preferred way for children to learn.

Also avoid use of a walker. This will give him too much trunk support delaying independent sitting and also delaying his mastery of standing and balancing that are necessary for walking.

Large muscle or gross motor development is often delayed in preterm infants, with the greatest lags seen in the earliest born children. Happily, gross motor delays do not mean delays in cognitive growth or mental development. They do catch up in time in their crawling and walking. If your son was preterm, it would be more concerning if he tends to use one side of his body more than another, is irritable a lot, or sleeps more than 16 hours per day. You would want to discuss these behaviors with his doctor.

I hope that this information is helpful and that you have a joyful family holiday season!

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University