In kids of all ages, studies have shown the connection between physical activity and cognitive development. In that train of thought, crawling is traditionally believed to be important for developing babies’ gross motor skills and contributing to early brain development. And when an older child exhibits signs of learning disabilities or ADHD, some people believe that these challenges may be the result of not crawling enough during infancy.
Different approaches have been developed to help kids with learning disabilities or ADHD. One of my four kids was regularly disruptive in class and unfocused in his earlier school years. Thankfully, we met some fantastic aides through the school district who introduced us to crawl therapy as one way of helping him through these learning struggles.
What is crawl therapy?
Crawl therapy is simply a physical routine that you can go through with your child. It involves basic crawling motions that infants do in their developing stages. Children who walk early and skip the crawling stage or don’t crawl much as infants may exhibit learning difficulties later in life. This lack is sometimes attributed to an immature symmetric tonic neck reflex (STNR) or, in other words, the reflex that helps your baby to bend and extend their arms and legs.
Studies have suggested that cross-crawl therapy, and other similar movement exercises, can help children of all ages by jump-starting the brain synapses that were dormant during development.
Some long-term benefits of early crawling include:
- Making new neural connections in the brain
- Improving hand-eye coordination and body awareness
- Strengthening the core, back, shoulders, hips, and hands
- Enhancing reflexive movement and strength
- Engaging both sides of the brain at once
- Helping to reset the central nervous system to relieve body stress, aiding in reducing hyperactivity, and improving focus
Although my son did crawl in infancy, it was suggested by the aides we met that I try crawling with him around our home for a few minutes a day to help him focus and have more success at school. I made crawling into an active game and we soon found out that my son was a very bright child who got easily distracted. After a combination of crawl therapy and a change in his diet at home, we noticed our son flourished at school.
How you can use crawl therapy to help benefit your child
Even if your child doesn’t have learning difficulties, they can benefit from movement. We found it to be a terrific way for everyone to help reset their brain, build strength, and bond together as a family.
By crawling with your child for only five minutes after school each day, you might just notice a decrease in body stress, and your kids can shake off any nervous energy they might have been holding onto during school hours. We also found that just a few minutes a day helped with eye-tracking movement in reading, memory, and attention.
So how can you introduce crawling to your school-aged child?
Start with basic crawling. Try crawling around on your hands and knees with your child as an infant would. Use the opposite hand to leg movement, such as left hand forward, right knee forward, then alternate.
Introduce bear crawling. This style is more intense than basic crawling since the knees are off the ground and only the hands and feet make contact. Some versions of the bear crawl require you to use opposite movements, where one side of the body is fully extended while the other side is not. This video is a great visualization of a bear crawl.
Crawling alternatives. The crab walk or crawling backwards can also be fun ways to incorporate crawling into your child’s daily routine.
Any form of crawling movement can help develop the brain synapses needed to reset the central nervous system. This can benefit your child throughout the day.
Try crawling with your kids to see how much fun it can be to get back to the ground!