Teaching Children to Crawl

Crawling is a motor milestone that requires strength, coordination and motor planning. As children practice Tummy Time they begin to weight bear more through their arms. As they push up and explore the environment around them, they will develop more dynamic control. You will first notice the child reaching out one arm at a time to grab at objects, pushing up into a quadruped, and rocking back and forth on hands and knees.

Motivating objects or people can help to encourage the child to move forward, first on their belly using mostly upper body strength to pull themselves along, then arms and legs in an army or commando crawl pattern and finally in a true reciprocal pattern alternating moving arms and legs in a coordinated and efficient manner. Once your child masters crawling there is no stopping them!

Crawling Milestones

  • Prone Position Pushing Chest off Surface Weight Bearing through Hands: 4-6 months
  • Prone Position Pushing Up and Shifting Weight to One Hand to Reach with Other Hand: 6-8 months
  • Belly Crawling: 7-9 months
  • Maintain Quadruped Position: 8-9 months
  • Commando Crawling: 8-9 months
  • Independent Reciprocal Crawling: 9-11 months

All milestones exist on a continuum as each child builds upon their motor development as a foundation. Motor Milestones, such as crawling, may develop earlier or later based on the child’s unique developmental sequence, strength, coordination, motivation and opportunities for practice.

Tips to Encourage Independent Crawling
                 crawlEncourage Tummy Time

While playing on their stomach, children develop strength in arms, shoulders, upper back and trunk. All these muscles are necessary for crawling! For more Tummy Time Tips and Tricks read our post here!

       motor milestones 7-12 monthsEncourage Upper Body Weight Bearing

By allowing child opportunities to push up through arms, we can help develop strength and stability of shoulder girdle. We can also facilitate tactile and proprioceptive input into hands, and allow the child opportunities to explore their environment with more control and independence.

crawl reach

Encourage Reaching

Placing desirable objects within reach, allows the child opportunities to lift hands off support surface and manipulate objects. This will allow for weight shifting which is essential in the development of crawling. We can continue to challenge the child by moving objects farther from their reach, encouraging movement towards objects and facilitating independent mobility.

crawling tips

Encourage Transition from Sit to Quadruped

Try using foam roller for assistance to allow child to practice transition from sit to side sit to quadruped! Child can push back to return to sitting too. Great tool to promote fluidity of movement!

quadruped ramp

Promote Quadruped Position

By facilitating weight bearing through arms and knees we can promote stability and control in quadruped. Using bolster or incline ramp can encourage dynamic stability in quadruped and facilitate motor learning in a fun manner.

crawlChange Up the Environment 

Bring child to park, to a friend’s house, to an indoor play space. New environments, different floor surfaces and novel sensory experiences may help encourage development of motor skills.

crawl tunnel

Ensure Obstacle-Free Space to Explore

As parents and caregivers we are always mindful of ensuring the environment is a safe one. Once we begin to think about a child’s mobility we need to reevaluate each new space we expose them to. Make sure the floor is free from any obstacles or objects that can be potentially dangerous. A play tunnel can be a great safe space to promote crawling!

Crawling Red Flags 

It is important to contact your Pediatrician or a Pediatric Physical Therapist if you notice the following by child’s first birthday:

  • If child does not seem motivated to move independently
  • If child is unable to bear weight through hands and/or knees
  • If child seems to drag one side of body when crawling
  • If child is not making incremental progress in motor milestone acquisition 

Learn about Teaching Children to Stand!

Read more about further motor milestones and Teaching Children to Walk!

Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!

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  • It’s great to use bolsters and wedges but what about using play with a caregiver? It’s fun for everyone! Having baby pull over your leg while playing on the floor is a great way to encourage 4-point or just lie on the floor and watch the magic happen! Kids can’t resist crawling over their favourite people!

  • Hi,
    I’ve been following your posts on the major developmental milestones and have been implementing your suggestions, which have all proven very practical and useful.
    I’ve noticed that my baby crawls with her knees wide. I’ve tried helping move her knees under her hips but after more than a month of crawling, it still has not improved. She also sometimes transitions into sitting from tummy by doing the splits or bringing her knees up to her sides. Might this be caused by tight hip abductor muscles? Would you have any suggestions on how I can improve her crawling posture? Thanks in advance.

    • Thank you for reaching out! Tall kneeling (at vertical surface, low stool or even which couch cushions placed on floor) is a great activity to promote a narrowed base of support, weight bearing through knees and activating trunk musculature all which are needed for crawling. Sitting on foam roller or peanut ball is a great way to target trunk strength, promoting hip adduction as those muscles are needed to maintain postural control. Feel free to email me directly at info@dinopt.com if you have any further questions. More than happy to help!

      • Thanks so much for your reply! I’ll definitely give those suggestions a try and will let you know if I have any further questions.

  • From PT March 25, 2017, at 12:14 PM:
    Thank you for providing great ideas to encourage Independent Crawling. I particularly like your suggestion to use play tunnel to promote crawling!
    Using bolster, wedge or therapy ball helps to facilitate crawling.We also incorporate child’s favorite toys (1-2-3 Crawl Along Snail, Move and Crawl Ball) and caregiver play to make learning fun.