Lately it seems like I hear about one parent a week proudly tell me that her child never crawled and just went straight to walking. When I hear this, inside I am secretly hoping that their child is fine and doesn’t experience any motoric challenges down the road. In the Occupational Therapy world, it is felt that when an infant crawls on hands and knees they are establishing important foundations for future motor, visual, and learning skills. Crawling strengthens the trunk, arm, and leg muscles, establishing a foundation for the development of higher level motor skills.
As infants crawl, they visually determine where to go, typically looking back and forth between their hands and their target. In doing so they develop their near vision, the ability to shift between near and far vision, and further establish eye-hand coordination.
The weight bearing on open palms is felt to develop the arches of the hand, contribute to separation of the two sides of the hand (skilled and support) and help establish good stability of the thumb joint. This establishes the foundation for the development of mature pencil grip and ease when writing a few years down the road. We are seeing record numbers of children who are struggling to hold a pencil correctly, because they lack the motor foundations to do so.
Infants from birth on need to spend part of their day on their stomachs. Gradually they will develop the neck, back, shoulder muscles to bring their upper bodies off the surface and eventually move into crawling. Infants who spend most of their time either on their backs or propped in sitting often miss out on this important milestone, as they have missed the months of tummy time preparation that allows them to move smoothly into crawling.