When do babies crawl?
Most babies learn to crawl between 7 and 10 months old. But some babies skip crawling and use another method of locomotion – like scooting around on their bottom, slithering on their stomach, or rolling across the room. Others don't crawl and move directly to pulling up, standing, cruising, and walking.
How babies learn to crawl
Before any crawling happens, babies need strong head and neck control and good balance. Crawling is a big endeavor for babies and getting there will take months of practice.
Your baby may not like those early tummy time sessions, but this exercise is crucial in helping them strengthen their whole body. Just a few minutes of tummy time several times a day will help your infant gain the strength and coordination they need to eventually sit up and move around – however they choose.
1 to 2 months
All that tummy time will start to pay off, and by now your baby may be lifting their head and turning it from side to side when lying on their belly. They don't have much control over their body yet, though.
3 to 6 months
Beginning around 3 months old, your baby may do a "mini pushup" when placed on their stomach, lifting their head and shoulders high and using their arms for support. This helps strengthen the muscles they'll use to roll over and crawl.
Soon after that, your baby will learn to roll over from their tummy to their back. You can encourage them by putting toys just out of their reach on one side or the other.
Around 5 or 6 months old, your baby will probably be able to roll over from back to tummy, and sit up with help from you, a baby seat, or a pillow. Most babies love sitting with assistance: It gives them a new perspective, and helps them gain better balance. They're still wobbly at this point, though, so make sure to stay close and supervise your baby when they sit supported.
7 to 8 months
After your baby is able to sit well on their own (probably by 8 months old), they'll practice getting on their hands and knees from a sitting position. They're strong enough to hold their head up to look around, their balance is good, and their muscles are primed for the next big event: crawling!
9 to 10 months
As your baby learns to move confidently from a sitting position to all fours, they'll soon realize they can rock back and forth and push off with their knees to crawl. They may master the advanced technique called "cross-crawling" – moving one arm and the opposite leg together when they move forward, rather than using an arm and a leg from the same side. After that, practice makes perfect.
Types of crawling
Crawling on their hands and knees is just one way babies get around. Your baby may choose to move in a number of unique ways. For example:
Cross-crawling (the classic): The classic crawl involves a baby being on their hands and knees, moving the opposite leg and arm in a coordinated act. This is the type of crawling popularized in movies and books and probably the first type that comes to mind.
Bear crawl: Much like the classic crawl, the bear crawl involves being on all fours, but with the knees and elbows lifted off the ground and the arms and legs extended. It almost looks as if your baby is purposely trying to keep their knees from touching the floor.
Bottom scooting: Once your baby is sitting up, they may scoot around on their bottom, using their legs and feet to propel them forward. They may extend their arms to help them balance.
Commando crawl: Babies who prefer this style slide around, keeping their tummies flat on the floor and using their hands to propel them forward. It's similar to how soldiers creep through enemy territory (hence the name). It's also called belly crawling or creeping.
Crab crawl: A baby sits on their bottom or props up on all fours (like with the bear crawl) and uses their hands and legs to move sideways or backward.
Tripod crawl: In this style, a baby sits up and uses their arms and one leg to move forward.
Should you teach your baby to crawl?
Once babies learn to sit up unassisted, they soon figure out how to get around on their own. You don't need to teach your baby to crawl, but you can help them reach this milestone with these exercises and activities:
- Tummy time. Give your baby plenty of tummy time, right from the start. This will help them develop the muscles that they need to crawl. Tummy time also helps your baby avoid getting a flat spot on their head, which can happen when infants spend a lot of time on their backs.
- Practice sitting: Sitting up with assistance is one way to help your baby improve their balance. Around 4 to 6 months, sit your baby upright propped against pillows or with the support of a baby seat or your hands.
- Incentives to move. The best way to encourage crawling – as with reaching and grabbing – is to place toys and other desirable objects (even yourself) just beyond your baby's reach. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also suggests using pillows, boxes, and sofa cushions to create obstacle courses for your beginning crawler to navigate. This will help improve their confidence, speed, and agility. Just make sure to supervise!
What to do if your baby doesn't crawl
Many years ago, there was a theory that babies who didn't reach movement milestones in order were at risk for learning and developmental disabilities. Research proved that this isn't true, but the myth persists and many parents worry when their babies don't crawl by a specific age or choose a non-traditional moving style.
Some babies never crawl, and that's fine. The important thing is for your baby to explore their surroundings and strengthen their body to get ready for walking.
If you're concerned about how your child is moving, bring it up with your pediatrician so they can check for a development delay. Also talk to the doctor if by 1 year old, your baby:
- hasn't shown an interest in crawling
- hasn't figured out how to move their arms and legs together in a coordinated motion
- hasn't learned to use both arms and both legs equally
Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones several months later than their peers.
After your baby crawls, what's next?
After your baby has mastered crawling, the only thing between them and complete mobility is learning to walk. To that end, they'll soon begin pulling up on everything they can reach, whether it's the coffee table, crib rail, or your leg.
Once they get the feel of balancing on their legs, they'll be ready to cruise while holding on to furniture. They'll learn to stand on their own for a few seconds, and eventually take a few steps. Then it's just a matter of time until your baby is walking, running, jumping, and leaping.