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  • Trish Gallant, PT, DPT, OCS

Crawling: Brain Connections to Last a Lifetime

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

In the last two decades, research has shown babies crawl later and later and for less time than ever before. Despite this, many PTs and OTs stress that crawling is one of the most important milestones our children achieve, and for good reason. We now understand that crawling in infancy and early toddler-hood has a tremendous impact on many developing systems in children.

Gross Motor + Preparing for Upright Posture

Crawling is a total-body work out. The entire body of the baby must remain engaged (coordinated “co-contraction” of muscles) as she moves forward in an organized fashion. The midline axis between the joints of the hips and shoulders should rotate opposite to each other while the baby crawls. This causes torsion in the baby’s spine leading to strengthening and modeling of the structures of the spinal column, preparing their spine for correct posture later.

Fine Motor + Function

Crawling supports changes in your baby’s hands, including lengthening the long finger muscles, developing hand arches, and separating the hand into a skill side (thumb and first two fingers) and a stabilizing side (ring finger and pinky). These changes prepare her to use his hands and fingers for endless fine-motor tasks like manipulating toys, writing, and tying shoes.

Vision

Crawling assists in the development of binocular vision, which means that the eyes can work together, which is necessary for correct visual development. While crawling, babies first look into the distance to focus on an object and then back at their hands to start crawling. This requires eyes to adjust and focus at different distances. This further develops cooperation between brain hemispheres and helps the eyes with reading and writing, which later comes into play in the classroom setting.

Brain Development to Last a Lifetime

Most importantly, crawling allows babies to create connections between both sides of the brain. This has implications from improving reading ability to sports performance. Motor nerve signals to the extremities originate in one side of the brain cortex and cross in the brain stem to supply required motor activity to the opposite extremity. This means that when a baby crawls their brains learn how to interchange this information very fast between the two sides of the brain. What makes this incredible is that these same neurological routes are the same that later in life will be use to perform more difficult tasks, such as walking, running, passing one object from one hand to the other, or even taking notes in a class while listening to the teacher.

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