Once a baby can sit unassisted, crawling is the usually the next big milestone. Becoming mobile gives a little person a new sense of independence. It’s so freeing to finally be able to go after a toy that has escaped beyond reach. The world becomes a very different place when you can explore it at your own pace.
Crawling is a great way to get around. Once you learn the basics, it’s pretty easy and gets you where you want to go in no time. It’s now my preferred method of travel when I have somewhere to be.
My journey towards mobility didn’t start with crawling. What began as a wiggle on my tummy has gradually evolved into the much more efficient crawling that I do today. Each baby will figure out their own way to get around. What’s important is getting from one point to another.
There are things parents can do to help their little ones discover the excitement of being mobile. The journey towards mobility can be a great adventure for parents and babies to embark on together. Here is my list of tips for parents who want to help their little ones get on their way.
1. Tummy Time
Before a baby can crawl, we need to be fairly good at tummy time. Many babies hate tummy time but once they are stronger it becomes easier. By the time a baby can sit unassisted, tummy time should not be a problem anymore.
I used to hate tummy time so much that mommy let me roll around instead. That helped me build up some muscle and got me used to the idea of tummy time. Mommy then used the four steps in this post I wrote to help me overcome my issues. I quickly became the tummy time expert.
2. The Baby Zone
You will need to designate a baby zone that is a safe and comfortable space where you can allow your baby free roam to explore. In the early stages of mobility, the baby zone doesn’t have to be huge as your little one won’t be moving around that much. It only needs to be big enough for you, your baby, and some toys, with a bit of space left over for exploration
In those early stages, it is better to make your baby zone just big enough to be comfortable and functional. A smaller space will have fewer hazards that you will need to remove. Once you feel that your baby is outgrowing their space and seems ready for more freedom, expand the space by adding on to it and opening up a new section of the house.
The concept of freedom will do much to motivate your baby to move around. If you are constantly trying to stop your baby from pursuing what interests them, you will be thwarting their progress. Therefore you need to design your baby zone in a way keeps your little one completely safe and doesn’t allow escape.
3. Floor Time
Your baby will need time on the floor in order to learn the art of crawling. It’s a good idea to provide good flooring that will be safe and comfortable for your little one to move around on. The ideal flooring should be easy to clean, provide a stable surface that isn’t slippery, and offer some cushioning for little hands, knees, and feet.
We found that the best option is to buy the interlocking foam floor tiles that are designed specifically for kids and babies. These foam tiles are about 2×2 foot squares and are usually sold in packages of four. They are fairly inexpensive if you shop around. You can start with about eight tiles and buy more as your baby zone grows. My baby zone now contains sixteen foam tiles and I’m ready for another four.
Now that you’re a tummy time expert and you have your baby zone prepared with good flooring installed, you’re ready to begin. For a first try, it’s a good idea to scatter some toys around the perimeter of the baby zone. Some closer to the middle, and some further towards the edges. Then place the little person in the center on their tummy, stand back, and observe.
This is a good way to asses the existing skill set and identify areas that are causing hangups. Maybe your baby is a natural crawler and simply goes for it. More likely, your baby isn’t achieving the desired outcome and is getting frustrated. Also possible, your baby is showing no interest in the exercise whatsoever.
If your baby is moving in any particular direction on purpose, it’s going great regardless of how they are managing it. That’s a very good start and all you really need to do is provide lots of floor time every day so that your baby can practice. They will eventually perfect their technique on their own if they have the will to keep trying.
My journey wasn’t quite as easy. I wanted to get at those toys so desperately. I kept trying but the more I wiggled, the more I moved backwards. It was so frustrating to see my destination only getting further away when I was putting so much effort into it. That was very discouraging.
Mommy wouldn’t let me give up. Every time I felt like it was hopeless, she would find something that I like and put it in front of me but just out of reach. Eventually I managed to drag myself towards it. After that it was just a matter of practice and it got easier every day.
Using objects that your baby likes is a great motivator, but there will be times when you will have to get down on the floor with your baby and show them some support. Just seeing your face at eye level might be the motivation your little one needs. Or they might simply need a snuggle for comfort and reassurance.
Make sure that you celebrate each small victory. Every attempt at obtaining the desired object beyond their grasp is something to be encouraged, even if it in no way resembles crawling. In the beginning, just reaching with all their might is an accomplishment for a baby.
If your baby is getting frustrated, you might want to take a break by playing together. Sometimes learning happens while play is in progress. Don’t be surprised if your baby takes their first lunge forward in the middle of your game.
6. Go With the Flow
Each baby will have their own journey to becoming mobile. Don’t get too hung up on what you expect is going to happen. This is their journey, not yours. Don’t insist that your baby do things your way. Every baby must find their own path.
Some babies prefer to shuffle in the sitting position, rather than on the tummy. If your baby shows interest in the toys you have placed out of reach, but keep getting out of the tummy position and sitting instead, encourage them to move towards the toy in that position. Maybe that’s just their way.
The important thing is that your baby realize that they can move towards something on their own. Your role is to help facilitate this discovery and then support your baby while they practice. Be present and enjoy the experience as your baby discovers how their body works.
7. Don’t Push It
You don’t want to push your baby to the point where they resent the exercise. If your baby is getting upset, it’s time to stop and try again later. There is bound to be some frustration along the way, but overall this should be fun and exciting with more good moments than bad.
If your baby is rolling onto their back, don’t force them onto their tummy. Maybe your little one just needs a break. Play with your baby for a bit and then put them back on their tummy and see what happens. If they want no part of it, try sitting them upright and playing instead.
Remember that repetition cements concepts and ideas in the mind. Repeating good and useful things is a great way to encourage positive behaviours. Repeating bad and harmful things is a great way to encourage negative behaviours. If something isn’t working, stop doing it and try a different way.