So I’m on the Disney Cruise for the 4th time (highly recommended)……And one of my favorite activities is watching the babies crawl in the Jack Jack race. It involves parents volunteering their crawling babies (I’m thankful there still are some), and plopping them on a start line and encouraging them to crawl to the finish line to a stuffed animal Jack. There are several heats, and the parents can entice their pride and joy with stuffed animals, binkies, snacks, etc. The only rule for the parents is that they cannot drag them over, pull them over, or push them to the finish line (the announcer really announces this to crowd), lol. I love this race…….In the photo above you can see the boy on the top is winning….and he won….by a landslide. the reinforcer? His binky. That mother had his binky flapping in the air, and he hauled down that line! Granted it was more of a commando crawl rather than a full quadriped crawl. lol. I digress.
So I’m thinking back to my early intervention days, and how I strongly impressed it upon families to get their babies to crawl! crawl babies crawl! It does not ever impress an occupational therapist when we hear “my baby skipped crawling.” It’s like me saying “oh I just let my 16 year old son drive a car without him ever sitting behind a wheel.” Crawling………it develops the following: hand arches, the thumb side of the hand for grasp, the sides of the hand, shoulder strength, co-contraction of the shoulder and hip joints, proprioception (joint awareness), visual tracking/scanning, linear vestibular input (linear movement forward and backward), and also convergence of the eyes, which is needed for guess what? reading!!!!!!! yes reading!!!!!! So with this, it is quite evident that crawling is pertinent.
Why am I telling this to folks who work with older students/children? ah!!!!!!!!!!! guess what? you may have students who were non crawlers, and missed that stage, or spent little time there. And their consequences can be poor strength, poor grasp skills, difficulty with reading skills, visual tracking, scanning, etc. What can we do? It’s really simple! It is has many benefits! Maybe switch it up once in awhile and have your students work on their bellies (OTs call this “prone”) on the floor when reading or even writing! Do some yoga poses or stretches on the floor that involve being on hands and knees or tummy such as the table pose, cobra, downward dog or quick planks. But really, just laying on their bellies on the floor and reading, or shifting weight and handling pawns or tokens during a math game on the floor is beneficial for grasp, strength, and overall hand/shoulder skills. And the benefits do not end here!!!! Did you know that changing up how or where you do things affects our neurotransmitters? Having students do work on the floor on their bellies as a change in routine stimulates the release of norepinephrine which results in increased attention to task! It’s wonderful. Novelty (something new) stimulates norepinephrine…..that’s correct! And reading specilaists/teachers, forced convergence of the eyes occurs during work when we lay on our bellies, so have your students lay on bellies to read as well! And the forced convergence of eyes in the prone position results in less distractibility to other visuals in the room! win-win!
Crawling…what’s it good for?…………….it’s good for overall development! and we can do some form of belly work or crawling in all stages of life!
“Everytime an infant skips crawling…..an occupational therapist cries.” (okay not really).
Mary Adolf, M.S., OTR/L 🙂