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Baby Crawling: How Important It Really Is

Written by Bernardo R. Sañudo Diez, DC   
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00
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There is nobody in the world as busy as a one-year-old baby, possibly the most productive year of his entire life. So numerous and so different are all his experiences; he goes up and down and touches, smells, feels, and tastes almost everything that comes into his grasp.

His brain needs to put some order to the myriad of experiences he is coming in contact with; it needs to “file” and organize the areas where culture, beliefs, ideas, and knowledge will be stored along all the life of this being.

The baby is too busy: without his knowledge he is growing and his nervous system is maturing. He accomplishes this by performing many activities, including resting to replenish his strength, doing happy but unarticulated movement of his hands, and kicking the air with his little legs.

As time passes, he is able to hold his head and observe the world that surrounds him with a more horizontal and vertical point of view. After accomplishing this task, he will no longer be satisfied by just lying down—he will enrich his world by remaining upright, gaining perspective and depth of spaces and objects.

This tri-dimensional world floods his brain with stimuli that have to be reorganized, learning and re-learning all the time. Consciously he does not know what he is seeing or touching but this miraculous organism will store it and file it anyway. He is so fascinated with all that surrounds him, he is not aware that his spinal column is strengthening. Around six months of age, he is able to sit by himself and gain strength and liberty for his arms, giving him more options in movement and activities to enrich his world.

The joy of playing—throwing and reaching for objects and toys which are farther and farther away from him makes him crave for more and this is how he first discovers “rolling” and then finally, starts to crawl.

Virtually all parents accept that crawling is a milestone all babies must master, but in spite of this, not many realize why it is so important, or how to motivate their babies to accomplish and get the most benefits from this skill. It is very common to hear some parents say that their baby did not crawl or did not want to crawl. In many cases this is because parents do not have time to properly stimulate their babies to develop this skill. Also, because in our busy schedule we need babies to walk in a very short time, we cut them short of a major stage in their physical and neurological development by putting them in a walker or forcing them to walk early.

Crawling not only means a new way of locomotion: as he moves from one side to the other, a lot of very exciting things are happening inside his little head. More and more studies show that crawling has a paramount connection between the physical and neurological development of the baby which, in the future, will be of major importance in his academic and extra-academic performance.

Crawling allows babies to create connections between both cerebral hemispheres. When the baby coordinates his movements to move in one direction, he mostly first moves the right arm and the left leg and then the left arm with the right leg in a reciprocating motion; this is called cross-crawl patterning. Motor nerve impulses to the extremities originate in each side of the brain cortex and cross in the brain stem in an area called the corpus callosum to supply required motor activity to the opposite extremity. This means that when the baby crawls, both hemispheres must communicate and interchange information very fast. What makes this incredible is that these same patterns, or 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.