Why should my child crawl? Exploring the benefits of crawling on school work.
Written by Elrika Beukes, Occupational Therapist
We often hear the expression that one should learn to crawl before running. Why is this? Crawling is of the utmost importance in a child’s life and is also regarded as one of the most important milestones.
So what happens when your child crawls? Your baby shifts her weight from her bum to her shoulders, arms and hands. This movement improves shoulder girdle, arm and hand strength. Pressure through the hands allows the arches of the hands to develop which is required for fine-motor skills. She must also lift her head to see where she is going, thus her extension muscle group (postural muscles) are being strengthened which allows for proper sitting posture later in life. The act of crawling also encourages bilateral integration, rhythm and gross motor planning as the left hand and right knee needs to work together and vice versa. Bilateral integration encourages both hemispheres of the brain to work together and allows dominance and eye-hand co-ordination to develop.
Navigating underneath chairs, over pillows and around toy boxes makes her more aware of her body. It also encourages her to make use of her visual system, looking and following objects with her eyes. Various visual perceptual skills are stimulated such as finding a toy on a cluttered carpet (visual figure ground), being able to see differences and similarities in toys (visual discrimination), identifying a toy that is hiding behind the couch (visual closure), seeing the ball on top of the toy box (spatial relations) and being aware of the fact that she is underneath the table or that she is sitting on top of the carpet (position in space).
All of the skills mentioned above are required for formal school work. A child needs to use both her hands in a well-coordinated manner for example cutting and tying her shoelaces. She also needs to maintain proper posture at the table for a period of time. This is achieved through good shoulder stability and well-developed flexion and extension muscle groups. She should then be able to hold a pencil with her dominant hand and write between various borders. This is where the fine-motor skills, eye-hand coordination and hand function is very important. Furthermore good visual tracking and visual perceptual skills are required. These skills include writing a sentence from the board (visual figure ground); writing letters without reversals (position in space); writing words that are evenly spaced and equal in size (spatial relations); knowing that a word consists of various letters and being able to finish the word when writing (visual closure) as well as being able to identify the difference between similar looking words and letters (visual discrimination).
It is therefore pertinent to your child’s scholastic performance that she learns to crawl before she runs!
References: “Active baby, healthy brain” by Margaret Sasse; “Occupational Therapy for children with special needs” by Elaine Wilson, “The Wall” by Bunty McDougall.