In last weeks column we looked at rolling and how important this fundamental movement pattern is to our development. We also discussed why rolling is an important skill to maintain throughout our lives. I thought this week would look at another very important movement milestone - crawling.
One of the amazing things about our developmental milestones is that we are working on the different movement patterns simultaneously and each helps the other. Last column we noted that we begin rolling at 3-4 months and achieve the ability to roll both directions by about 6 months. Between 5 and 10 months we are learning to sit supported and unsupported, stand with support, and pull ourselves into standing. The strength we developed from rolling helps with learning to stabilize our little bodies against gravity. Crawling movements begin to develop around 7 months.
Crawling is an important movement pattern as it develops hip and shoulder mobility, trunk stability, shoulder and shoulder blade strength, weight shifting, balance, and reciprocal movements. The movements challenge our nervous and musculoskeletal system to work together.
Crawling develops the foundation for our ability to walk and run. The movement constructs our systems in such a way to perform a reciprocal or contralateral movement pattern. This type of a pattern teaches us to move opposite sides of our body in sync with each other. It requires our neurological system and muscles to operate in union across the body. It teaches the left and right sides of our brain to work together in a coordinated fashion. Crawling is a whole body movement that requires mobility, stability, strength and coordination of all of these pieces pulled together to create synchronized movement.
A traditional crawling pattern is movement of the opposite upper and lower limbs together - the right arm moves forward with the left leg. This creates one side of our body being long and the other side being short. We alternate this pattern with left arm and right leg moving next, thus propelling ourselves. Some things to be aware of is that the arm and leg should move the same distance and at the same time.
We crawl as babies, however once we learn to walk we tend to stop crawling. Yet crawling movements have many practical applications. We get down on our hands and knees to look or move under something, or to lower our center of gravity while moving on an unstable surface.
Crawling is a great way to refresh your nervous system. It challenges the brain to efficiently communicate between the left and right hemispheres and creates a reset button for the contralateral movement pattern by uniting our systems - neurological, sensory and musculoskeletal.
Try this recommended crawling practice for a quick system reset:
Start on your hands and knees. Bring your RIGHT knee up close to your RIGHT wrist. Note that the RIGHT side of your body is short and the LEFT side is long. Move your RIGHT hand forward with your LEFT knee. Be careful to move your hand and knee the same distance. Note your LEFT side is now short and your RIGHT side is long. Next move your LEFT hand and RIGHT knee forward the distance. Repeat the sequence 5-10 times. Be intentional with your crawling such that you are moving hand and knee simultaneously, moving them the same distance, and setting them down at the same time.
Once you feel comfortable with forward crawling you can challenge yourself with backward crawling.
Please note that you do not have to get on the floor to practice crawling. You can practice on your bed. You can also practice reciprocal movements in a sitting position if you are unable to get on your hands and knees. You won’t get quite the same input to your system however practicing the simultaneous movement on opposite sides of your body will connect your systems. Sit at the edge of your chair. Lift your RIGHT knee and raise your LEFT hand over your head. Remember to coordinate the timing and distance travelled by both the hand and the knee. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Getting back to our basic fundamental movement patterns is a great way to improve mobility and stability, and to help reset our nervous system. These are not just movement patterns of a baby, they are the basic movements that are practical throughout our lifetime.