When Do Babies Start Crawling? 9 Expert Tricks To Help Baby!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 03/22/22 •  11 min read  •  Baby » Baby Development

Crawling is a major milestone that signifies the start of your baby’s future mobility!

And before now they’ve been happy to lie, wiggle and roll…

But soon they will be up and about, exhilarated and energised with their newfound freedom!

Let’s dive in!

What Is A Crawl?

When we visualise a baby crawling we usually imagine the classic hand and knees crawl. 

But the definition of a crawl is simply: the phase of movement before your baby learns to walk. 

And there are many ways in which babies can crawl too… 

The 5 Methods Of Crawling

There are several different methods of crawling and your little one may opt for one or a mixture of the following!

  1. Hands and knees crawl. This is the classic crawl we all think of when someone mentions a crawling baby. In this technique, your baby will move along using the palms of their hands as they shuffle along on their knees, shins and tops of their feet.
  2. Bear crawl. This crawling method is when your baby has straight arms and their knees are off the ground. They then hold this bear-like pose as they move. 
  3. Crab crawl. In this technique, your baby will crawl backwards and sideways propelling themselves with their hands.
  4. Bottom shuffle. The bottom shuffle is another common crawl. Babies will use their arms to move themselves forward while they stay sitting on their bottom.
  5. Commando crawl. The commando crawl is when your baby pulls themselves along the floor military-style using their arms and pushing with their feet but keeping their belly prone to the floor.  This is often the pre-runner to the conventional crawl on hands and knees.

What Are The 6 Stages Of Learning To Crawl?

So how does your baby get ready for crawling? 

Well, first they have to develop strong neck and upper body muscles then they have to work on balance and coordination… and then, most importantly, they have to practice!

Building up to crawling actually starts at birth when you first put your little one on their tummy and hold them in your arms.

6 Stages Of Learning To Crawl

1. Tummy Time

From the very early days, you can start putting your newborn on their tummy for a couple of minutes at a time several times a day. 

Gradually increase the amount of tummy time your baby is having and make their time more interesting by providing tummy time toys, books and activity mats.

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If your baby is struggling with tummy time, read my tummy time post to learn more.

2. Rolling

Between 4 and 6 months, your baby will start to roll over during tummy time. They will normally roll from front to back then back to front. 

This is another fundamental developmental milestone towards crawling, as they gain more control of their body and strengthen their arm and leg muscles, as well as their neck and shoulder muscles.

3. Sitting Up And Pivoting

When babies learn to sit up from lying down, they are gaining an all-important sense of balance.

Sitting also strengthens their lower back, core and spinal cord. 

Together all of these things are necessary for them to develop the strength, control and stamina in their arms and legs required for crawling. 

During this phase, you may also notice that your baby starts to pivot and swivel whilst on their tummy!

4. Rocking And Planking

Next comes rocking and planking. 

As your baby practices rocking back and forth on their hands and knees or pushing themselves into a plank position, they are learning the muscle memory necessary for crawling and refining their balance in the crawling position.

5. Commando Crawl

The commando crawl is the last stage before proper crawling that your baby will go through. 

As I mentioned above, this is when your baby actually manages a forward movement in the form of a belly crawl, pulling with their arms and pushing with their feet!

6. Hands And Knees (maybe)

Finally, your baby will start to put all the stages of muscle memory, strengthening and balance that they have been practising together and start crawling!

Here’s a beautiful video to help you visualise the stages your baby will go through when learning to crawl!

How To Teach Baby To Crawl

There are so many things you can do to help motivate and encourage your baby to learn how to crawl. Here are my top 9 tricks to try!

9 Tricks To Help Baby Learn How To Crawl

1. Offer Lots Of Tummy Time

It goes without saying that ensuring your baby has age-appropriate tummy time is the best way to start them on the road to crawling. 

2. Utilise Play Gyms 

Play gyms allow your baby to practice reaching up, grabbing and swiping while lying on their backs. 

All of these actions are ideal for strengthening the upper body and arm muscles in preparation for crawling.

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3. Get Down To Their Level

If your baby is struggling to enjoy tummy time or playing on their own get down to their level and talk and chat to them. 

You are their favourite plaything in the early days and having you down there with them will give them focus and encouragement!

4. Give Them Space To Roll

Give your baby plenty of space in a safe place to reach and roll. 

Rolling is a great exercise for your pre-crawler and a play mat is a wonderfully soft and entertaining place for your trainee crawler to practice their skills.

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5. Dress Your Baby Appropriately

Make sure your baby is dressed in loose-fitting comfy clothing that allows them to move unrestricted. 

Some babies don’t like the feel of certain surfaces on their bare skin and will prefer to have their legs covered as they move closer to crawling, while others don’t mind at all.

Dungarees and coveralls are ideal for your baby once they are moving more.

6. Stay Barefoot

Making sure your baby is barefoot when they are learning to crawl means that they can get a better feel of the surfaces beneath them when they push up in the plank position or propel themselves across the floor in a belly crawl.

Being barefoot also strengthens the feet, ankle and leg muscles and movements required for learning to walk down the line!

If your baby has to wear shoes to stay safe when out and about, opt to wear barefoot shoes, leather or super flexible baby shoes to offer protection whilst still allowing your little one’s feet to move and flex as naturally as possible. Like these Clamfeet Organic Cotton Vegan Baby Shoes!

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7. Baby Yoga

Baby yoga exercises are a fun way for your baby to strengthen the muscles necessary for crawling and it is fun for you too!

If your baby is not keen on tummy time this is a great complementary way for them to develop those all-important upper body muscles.

8. Practice Sitting

Sitting teaches balance and allows your baby to learn how to lean forward and sideways while supporting themselves with their arms and then pushing back up to sitting. 

Give your baby plenty of opportunities to play with toys while sitting and help them to gain balance by putting toys where they have to lean and reach for them, with you at hand to catch them if they lose their balance.

9. Practice Makes Perfect

Playing simple games with your baby as they start to crawl will help them achieve the developmental goals necessary to become expert crawlers.

  1. Place toys just out of reach to motivate your baby to move.
  2. Roll a ball towards and away from your baby and encourage them to reach and crawl after it.
  3. Put your baby on different textures and let them experience how it feels to roll around on it.
  4. Allow baby to squirm and crawl on play mats, bubble wrap or different fabrics to understand that the world isn’t all hard floor and carpet!
  5. Crawl with them!

What To Avoid When Teaching Baby To Crawl

Giving your baby as many opportunities to use their bodies to finally be able to crawl is vital but there are certain things that should be avoided as they may inhibit your little one’s crawling development:

Things to limit or avoid include:

Of course, one slightly tight jumper for a special occasion or a few minutes in a bouncer will not harm your baby…

But by being aware that extended exposure to these behaviours may cause baby some crawling inhibitions, you will be ensuring baby gets the most out of every day!

Baby Proof Your Home For A Crawling Baby

Baby proofing your home in preparation for a crawling baby is also hugely important. 

As soon as you think your baby’s mobility is around the corner you should do the following:

Your baby will become mobile a lot quicker than you think.

So if you get the feeling that they may start moving soon, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get your home baby-proofed!

Should You Be Concerned If Baby Is Not Crawling?

As we are always saying, all babies reach developmental milestones at different times. 

Some babies may skip conventional crawling altogether and go from bottom shuffling to pulling to stand and talking their first steps.

You should also consider that your baby may not be moving towards crawling because they have not been given enough opportunity to practice… 

However, if you feel that despite you offering all the necessary opportunities for them to learn to crawl and they are not doing what is expected, then you should seek medical advice. 

4 other signs of concern to look out for which may indicate there is cause for concern are:

  1. Your little one is not kicking and moving their legs 
  2. Your baby is not trying to reach out or wriggle towards objects
  3. Baby does not wriggle or become physically animated when you go to pick them up
  4. Your baby is not using their legs to support themselves when held by 6 months of age.

As parents, it is important to remember that our babies are individuals and will develop in their own time, at their own pace and in their own style. 

It is also important that we remain well informed and do our very best to make sure that our babies have all the age-appropriate play opportunities required to develop to the best of their ability and capabilities!

If you enjoyed this post about ‘when do babies start crawling’ and know of any other parents who would find it useful, be sure to give it a share!

Thank you for reading and until next time, with love and support…

Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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