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Gymbaroo - Crawling - 15 September

Crawl your way to the top!

Creeping and crawling do matter. They are more than just a means of getting from A to B - they are important developmental stages in your baby's ladder of life and are essential for stimulating brain connections that help with later learning.

Tummy crawling - when a baby drags him or herself across the floor or ground.

This usually begins between 7 - 9 months, once your baby has developed the strength in their upper body to pull themselves forward.

This new found freedom is important because it gives them the opportunity to:

- Learn about the coordination of body and limbs in preparation for creeping on hands and knees.
- Strengthen the arms and hands, legs and feet and finding out how to use them in preparation for climbing, walking, jumping and hopping.
- Finding out that they have 2 sides to their bodies and how to balance them in movement.
- Stimulating hundreds of touch and position messages that flow to the brain telling our baby about her limbs and tummy and where her body is in space. The ability to be able to move without looking at the specific body part is essential for all later coordination and more sophisticated patterns of movement;
- Visual skills are being developed as baby sees a toy in the distance and moves towards it, having to adjust at varying distances;
- Learning about space and time - how far is that toy and how long will it take to get there?

Creeping - on hands and knees

This is when your baby lifts their tummy off the floor and sets forth on their road to the top!

It is important to realise that infants will sit themselves up when they are ready - this means that their back muscles will be strong enough to hold them in an upright posture and that they can adjust their bodies to balance in this position. This usually occurs around the same time as they begin to creep on hands and knees - the infant pivots sideways and sits.

Creeping is important:

- Our infant will be gaining tremendous muscle development in this position, especially of the hands, so important for the development of fine motor skills such as writing;
- Our babies learn to coordinate the two sides of their body as they move forward, with the hand on one side and the knee on the other hitting the floor at exactly the same time. Body rhythm and timing are important for 'thinking and moving' a basic skill required for written work at school;
- Vision is being fine-tuned. The distance between the infant's eyes and the floor when creeping, is the same distance required between the eyes and book at school age. Our infant learns to focus down at his knees and up at distant objects, making many visual adjustments from near to far and back again, as he will be required to do between the whiteboard and a book at school. As they creep forward their eyes move from hand to hand, this teaches the eyes to 'cross the midline'. This is an essential visual skill required to read smoothly across the page without losing your place.

Encourage your infant to creep and crawl:

- Provide your infant with plenty of opportunity to creep and crawl, especially without restrictive clothing. Try to keep their feet free of leggings and shoes.
- Going up and down a few stairs in a safe environment is an excellent way of establishing the 'creeping pattern of movement'.
- Providing fun obstacle courses, whereby your infant has to creep over, between and under obstacles
- Visits to the park and other large grassed areas, along with a sandy beach provide excellent opportunities to move. Remember to add in some gentle slopes!

Do not be in a hurry for your child to walk, because it is not how early he walks but how much he learns about himself and his world before he walks that will influence the development of his physical, social and academic well-being.

Written by Joanne Looney
Director GymbaROO New Zealand

Smart Start: How Exercise can transform your child's life by Margaret Sasse 2009
Tomorrow's Children For Parents Written by Margaret Sasse 2002
Reflexes, Learning and Behaviour - A Window Into A Child's Mind by Sally Goddard Revised Edition 2005
Why Crawling and Creeping Matter - Dr Jane Williams 2008
McCain, M.N., Mustard, J.F., & Shanker,S. [27].
Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into action.
Toronto Council for Early Childhood Development.