A PARENT'S GUIDE TO CREEPING AND CRAWLING
As the parent of a young child, you'll know what it feels like to be bombarded with guidelines about your child's fitness.
But what is often forgotten in the midst of all this well-meaning advice is the importance of 'pre-walking skills', like rolling and crawling.
Most children, once they are able, will want to run, jump and climb. However, what the children will gain through practising the 'pre-walking skills' of rolling, crawling and creeping is:
- overall body strength
- better co-ordination
- enhanced stamina, and
- faster performance.
Pre-walking activities also boost a child's brain development, confidence and willingness to persevere, while crawling, in particular, strengthens eye skills and hand-eye co-ordination - vital for reading and writing well.
Before you begin, make sure that you have enough space; that there are no sharp objects lurking on the floor; and that your child is dressed appropriately (trousers pulled up, dresses tucked in and shoes off is best).
Babies begin by waving their arms and legs quite randomly, then progress to catching their toes and putting them in their mouths. They then rock on their bottoms side to side, and finally roll from back to front. Try to give your baby every opportunity to practise these movements, preferably with legs free on a flat surface. Once your babies can roll on to their tummies without your help, they will begin to lift their heads and push up on their hands and arms.
If your child is older, then clear a space so they can practise rolling over and over - as they mature, they will be able to roll with straight arms and legs:
- Place cushions on each side of the area so they have to change direction when they touch the obstacles
- Place bubblewrap on the floor for your child to roll around on until they have popped all the bubbles
- Encourage your child to roll fast and slowly. Which is harder?
A commando crawl is lying on your tummy and using your arms to pull your body along. Babies begin their journey towards mastering this skill by lying on their tummies, lifting their heads and wiggling their limbs. So, place objects just beyond your baby's range to encourage them to lift their heads, reach and grasp.
If your child is older, challenge them to lie on their tummies and commando crawl from A to B, around a table or over cushions. Or make a tunnel using chairs or a big cardboard box.
Challenge your child to:
- go upstairs on their hands and knees, then slide down on their tummies. Make sure you stand at the bottom! Repeat as often as they can as this is great for building stamina
- commando crawl as fast as they can around a table or under a chair. Join in by making a bridge with your body and asking them to crawl underneath
- change direction and creep backwards or round and round
- crawl over different surfaces.
Walking on knees
Walking on knees is fun and challenging for children from about two years onwards. Ask your child to try:
- walking on their knees and touching different objects or surfaces
- changing direction and moving backwards on their knees
- turning around one way then the other
- walking on their knees over a cushion - it's very hard to balance
- carrying a teddy or a ball.
Walking like a crab
Only encourage your child to walk on their hands and feet if you have enough space. If so, then ask them to:
- get into position - with their weight on their hands and feet and their bottom in the air
- move forwards and backwards
- turn slowly
- lift one foot then the other slowly -then one hand then the other
- repeat all three tasks but start with tummies pointing upwards!
The message from experts is encourage your child to creep and crawl even after they've mastered more mature skills like skipping and hopping. The extra practice will mean they will learn other physical skills, faster and better. And always join in when you can.
Dr Lala Manners is a director of Activematters Ltd, which offers specialist training in Physical Development for all those working with young children in whatever capacity and in all settings