Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
Parents get very excited when a baby takes those first steps. As they should. It’s quite the milestone. But all the fuss about walking can diminish the very real benefits that come from babies moving themselves around their world before they can walk.
There are, in fact, many developmental benefits of crawling, including the obvious all-around opportunities for motor development. Developmentalists detail all kinds of advantages including optimizing sensory processing and integration. Relatedly, there are cognitive benefits that should not be overlooked. When babies are crawling, it gives them a chance to explore their environment and platforms them to manipulate objects. This kind of controlled and active discovery is the stuff of brain development. In the laboratory setting, babies who have more experience crawling are more apt to explore and extract information from objects – and are more advanced at later ages in terms of cognitive development. Babies need that time to take in and integrate their sensory information, and use all their senses (touching is especially important) to formulate the abstract principles that fuel cognitive development. For example, babies who have experience manipulating three-dimensional objects will be more likely to “know” that three dimensions exist when tested in the laboratory setting – their eye movements will continuing scanning images for “hidden” dimensionality in objects that other babies will miss.
All of this may sound rather “academic,” but the intention here is deliberate. It’s very easy to be thrilled seeing a baby walk. It’s not so obvious that a crawling baby is doing all kinds of highly sophisticated cognitive processing (which is more detectable in the laboratory than every day life). What’s the point of all this? Simply put – don’t be in a rush to get your baby to walk. Don’t go out of your way to promote walking when they should be crawling. Babies walk when they are ready to walk. Some do it earlier, some do it later. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is going out of your way to let your baby crawl, and to be able to find safe and interesting objects to explore. There’s a reason babies crawl before they can walk.
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