In the first year of your baby’s life, it seems like every day they learn something new. From finding their hands to rolling over, it’s incredible to see them develop right before your eyes.
At some point, your little one will go from rolling around on their play mat to crawling across the room. Crawling is a big developmental step from stationary to mobile, which is a big change for your baby—and also for you.
“Crawling is an important and exciting milestone because it allows infants to explore their environment which is important for their learning and increases motor skills to prepare them for walking,” said Jennifer Norman, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health Clinic in Loveland, CO.
Here we share more information about when babies crawl, types of crawling to watch for and five ways you can encourage your little one.
When do babies start crawling?
Babies typically start crawling between 8 to 10 months, but up until 12 months is considered normal.
“As with all milestones, every baby is different and going at their own pace,” Dr. Norman said. “There is a wide range of ‘normal’ in the timing of crawling and some babies may skip it altogether and go straight to standing and walking.”
Types of baby crawls
Just like your baby has developed their own unique personality at this point, they may also develop their own ways of getting around.
There are a variety of crawling styles. Here are just a few to watch out for:
Classic crawl: With this traditional method, your baby is on both their hands and knees and alternates moving one hand and the opposite knee together in a forward motion across the floor.
Bear crawl: This is similar to the classic crawl; however, your baby is up on their hands and feet with straight limbs.
Belly crawl: Also known as the army crawl or commando crawl, your baby pulls themselves across the floor on their belly.
Crab crawl: Your baby moves with one knee bent and the other leg straight in a forward, backward or sideways motion across the floor.
Other alternative crawling methods include bottom scooting, rolling to get where they want to go, or moving straight to pulling up, cruising and walking—skipping crawling altogether.
“All types of these movements are normal and OK,” Dr. Norman said. “The important thing is that your baby is engaged in movement and learning.”
What can I do to help my baby crawl?
Your baby will learn to crawl naturally as they develop strength and coordination to become more mobile, but you can play a role in the process.
Here are five things you can do to encourage your baby to crawl:
1. Schedule tummy time
“The best way to prepare your baby for crawling is lots of floor time or tummy time,” Dr. Norman said. “This can start as soon as the day you bring your baby home from the hospital.”
Tummy time is a short period of time when your baby lays on their stomach. Time on their belly will help your baby strengthen their neck, arms, shoulders and torso. This helps them develop the muscles they need to crawl.
It is only safe to do tummy time when your baby is awake, and they must always be closely supervised. Don’t ever leave your baby unattended during tummy time. If your baby falls asleep, gently roll them over onto their back.
[Dr. Norman shares more tips on tummy time in “Get Ready Baby, It’s Tummy Time.”]
2. Entice them with toys
Rewards are always a great motivator. Place baby-safe toys slightly out of reach during tummy time to get them moving. A well-placed crinkle toy, rattle or toy that moves may be just the encouragement they need to get moving.
You can also try a play tunnel or tent and play peekaboo on one end to encourage your little one to crawl through to you.
3. Look in the mirror
Baby-safe floor mirrors are another tool to urge crawling during tummy time. Allow your baby to spend time playing in front of it. Your baby is naturally curious and may want to learn more about this “other baby” looking back at them. As they reach out or move closer, they will begin to develop the necessary movements that lead to crawling.
4. Get on their level
You are your baby’s biggest cheerleader. Help coax them by getting down on your hands and knees and showing them how to crawl. Encourage them with smiles and talk to lift their head up and look at you.
5. Limit positioners and supportive devices
“These aren’t necessary and may actually inhibit your baby’s own movements,” Dr. Norman said.
Gravity is a whole new thing for your baby, and their ability to hold their own weight only comes with practice. Too much time in a highchair or bouncer can slow muscle development.
If your baby isn’t sitting up yet, help them get into a seated position and stay there with your hands or a pillow. If they fall over, it’s okay to try again.
My baby is crawling—now what?
If your baby is on the move, there is an increased risk of them getting hurt. You will need to childproof your home to make sure it’s a safe space for your baby to move around.
Here are some things to consider:
- Block stairs with a sturdy baby gate.
- Store detergents, cleansers and other chemicals in a locked cabinet.
- Check floors regularly for small objects that can pose a choking hazard. Magnets, button batteries that can be found in key fobs, musical books and remotes can be very dangerous if swallowed.
- Use furniture straps to secure furniture like bookshelves that are at risk of falling.
[For additional tips, read “How to Babyproof Your Home.”]
When should I worry about my baby if they aren’t crawling?
As long as your baby is making progress, you should feel reassured your baby is right on track.
However, if your baby isn’t crawling by 12 months or you have concerns about muscle weakness, talk to your baby’s health care provider.
“Talk to your child’s provider if your baby’s arms and legs seem weaker, they aren’t sitting on their own, pushing up on their arms or have uneven movements where your baby doesn’t move one side of the body as much as the other side,” Dr. Norman said. “And remember that you can always contact your child’s provider if something doesn’t feel right.”
Crawling opens a whole new world of activities and learning opportunities for your baby but getting to this developmental milestone may require some help. As their parent, you can help them develop strength and coordination to become more mobile.
If you have concerns about your baby’s development, contact your child’s pediatrician or find a Banner Health provider at bannerhealth.com.