Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crash Course on the Necessity of Crawling

My infant son had a pretty big milestone this past weekend where he began crawling.  While my wife and I were "baby-proofing" the last few days, I realized that his milestone would be the perfect opportunity for me to expound on why this is not only a good way for babies to maneuver around, but it's also essential for their development on a few different levels.

I'm sure that the majority of the population views the crawling stage as simply another stage that a baby goes through.  However, I can't tell you how many times I've heard or even witnessed a baby who doesn't go through that crawling stage.  And it's a little bigger deal than you may think to go straight to walking or to scoot on their bum instead of crawling.  Crawling is an essential stage that babies should go through because it helps develop their motor skills, brain development, and spinal curve formation.

When babies are crawling around, they use new muscles that they haven't used previously.  Muscles in their arms and upper back and muscles in the hips and legs allow them to propel forward.  They are also using muscles in their abdominal region and "core" to keep up their belly and support the weight of their midsection.  Also, they are using tiny muscles throughout their body to help steady themselves while moving and to provide balance.  Crawling helps to coordinate these muscle movements and prepares them better for the walking stage.

A large part of the crawling stage is the brain development of the baby.  The "cross-crawl pattern" is very essential to developing the child's brain.  This pattern is when a child moves one hand forward while moving the opposite leg forward.  This process helps stimulate communication between the right and left hemisphere of the brain through a structure called the corpus callosum.  This structure is the main communication link between the two sides of the brain.  It's essential to make the connections as strong as possible and one of the best ways to do so is to have your baby crawl.

Finally, the last essential of the crawling stage that I'll address is the development of the spinal curvature.  When babies crawl, their heads need to be up and their bellies will sag a little bit.  When a baby looks up, it helps to develop the cervical curve (neck curve).  This curve is crucial because it helps support the weight of the head throughout the rest of that child's life.  The sagging of the belly help to develop the lumbar curve (low back curve).  This curve is essential because when the baby starts to walk, it better supports the weight of the whole body.  Curves help support weights much more efficiently than straight lines.  Just look at bridges; most bridges have a curve underneath or above to help support the weight of traffic.

So, if you have a child that doesn't seem to want to crawl, get down on the floor and show them how.  It's more important than you may have thought.

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