When Do Babies Crawl?

Eager to see your baby get around on their own? Find out when babies crawl and what this milestone means for their physical development.

baby boy crawling with dad
Photo: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Whether you're pushing your baby in a stroller, toting them in a carrier, or holding them in your arms, their only means of transportation so far has been other people. Soon, though, they'll learn how to crawl, and they'll be able to make it from point A to point B on their own.

Getting around independently gives your baby a sense of power and accomplishment, which is a huge boost to their self-esteem. It also opens up their world to new discoveries and leads the way to more complex movements, such as pulling up to stand, walking, and eventually running.

Here's more information about when babies start to crawl, with tips for helping your child achieve solitary movement.

At What Age Do Babies Crawl?

Babies typically begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months. But keep in mind that every baby develops at a different pace. Some skip the crawling phase altogether and go straight to pulling up, cruising, and walking.

No matter what age your baby starts crawling, know that the feat is a big one. "Crawling is a huge milestone for babies because it's the first step toward independent mobility," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year.

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Crawl

You'll know your little one is almost ready to crawl when they start doing mini push-ups, lifting, or propping themselves up on their arms during tummy time. From there, they'll learn to lift themselves up on both arms and knees. Then they'll begin to rock forward and backward. Eventually, they'll realize that if they push off with their knees, they can move on their own!

Here are some actions that indicate your baby might start crawling soon:

  • Doing push-ups during tummy time
  • Sitting without support
  • Rolling over while lying down
  • Looking around the room, even at distant items, during tummy time
  • Rocking forward and backward on all fours
  • Trying to move forward with their arms while on all fours

How Crawling Impacts Your Baby's Physical Development

Crawling is a tough job that requires a baby to use both their mind and body, says Dr. McAllister. It relies on gross motor skills, visual-spatial awareness, cognition, problem-solving, balancing, and more.

In order to start crawling, the muscles in your child's back, neck, shoulders, arms, and core must be strong enough to support their weight and help them maintain balance. Their vision also plays an important role, since they rely on both eyes together to focus on one target (called binocular vision). They go back and forth between looking off into the distance and looking at their hands, which helps build depth perception.

What's more, "crawling babies develop navigation skills and memorize facts," says Dr. McAllister. "For instance, they'll learn that they have to go around the coffee table and beyond the recliner to get to the basket of toys," she says.

Types of Crawling Styles

When we think "crawl," we tend to imagine babies crawling on all fours, but infants will test out several different styles, including scooting, crab crawl, and classic crawl, among others.

Types of Crawling

When your baby starts to crawl, they might rely on one of these crawling styles.

  • Classic Crawl: Moving one arm and the opposite leg together at the same time to push forward
  • Scoot: Dragging their bottom across the floor
  • Crab Crawl: Moving with one knee bent and the other extended, either forward or sideways
  • Commando Crawl: Lying flat on the tummy and using the arms to move forward
  • Backward Crawl: Moving in a backward direction while crawling

Fortunately, odd crawling methods usually don't mean anything is wrong. "The crucial thing is that the baby is engaged in self-locomotion," says David Elkind, Ph.D., author of Parenting on the Go: Birth to Six, A to Z. Try getting down on all fours and showing them how classic crawling is done, and your baby may just pick up on the traditional technique.

How to Help Your Crawling Baby

Parents and caregivers can take some steps to help a baby start crawling. Here's how to encourage the important physical milestone.

Give them tummy time.

Help your baby get ready for their crawling debut by giving them lots of supervised tummy time. This allows them to lift their head to look around, which builds strength in the neck, shoulders, arms, and trunk. When they kick their feet while on their tummy, it strengthens the hips and legs. Some babies don't like being on their tummy, so make it interesting. Place a favorite toy just out of their grasp, lie down in front of them to engage their attention, or place them tummy-side down on your chest and play with them.

Babyproof their surroundings.

Once your baby starts crawling, expect them to explore anything and everything within their reach. Although you already did the whole baby-proofing thing, it's important to do a second, more thorough, round before they make a move. If you don't have carpet, purchase a few non-slip rugs or colorful floor mats so your baby's little knees get a break from the hard surfaces. If your home has wood floors, make sure there aren't any uncovered nails or loose splinters that could hurt your baby.

Practice patience with your crawling baby.

Give your crawling baby positive encouragement and patience. As your baby makes their way through the house, expect them to go through a range of emotions: excitement when they discover something, disappointment if you remove it or take it away, and confusion or frustration when an obstacle blocks their path.

Be an active participant.

You can look forward to engaging in a near-constant game of "follow the leader." Anywhere you go, your baby will be right on your heels! With more crawling practice, they'll begin to pick up the pace (and try to beat you the next time they spy a goodie) and they'll start climbing up and over things, like pillows, sofa cushions, and stairs. Always keep an eye on them, and put up a safety gate for the stairs.

My Baby Hasn't Started Crawling—Now What?

Some babies skip crawling altogether, and this can be completely normal. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics says skipping a milestone "isn't necessarily something to be concerned about" as long as they're meeting their other developmental milestones.

But if your baby hasn't shown any progress in becoming mobile (whether it's bum scooting, rolling to their destination, or crawling) by 12 months, or if they tend to drag one side of their body while crawling, it's best to consult the pediatrician. Also let your health care provider know if you're concerned about your baby reaching their milestones.

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