A baby boy crawls on the floor at home. He has a big smile on his face.

When do babies crawl? Milestones, tips & safety measures

From the time of your baby’s birth, you’ve been watching them with so much love as they have eaten, pooped, and slept. (Even as YOUR sleep has been a bit less… plentiful.) And then it becomes time for them start moving!

Understanding developmental milestones

Each baby is unique and hits milestones at their own pace along the way. From smiling to gripping objects, from babbling to rolling over, babies are often on their own schedule. 

My first baby walked at 10 months, my second at 12 months, and my third at 16 months. They clearly had their own timetables. As long as you’re checking in with your doctor and your baby is healthy, they’ll hit their milestones in their own time. 

The timeline for crawling: What age is the earliest a baby can crawl?

When it comes to crawling, for example, there’s a wide timeline for when babies begin. 

According to both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the World Health Organization (WHO), most babies learn to crawl on hands and knees by 14 months. The WHO notes that the median age for crawling is just over eight months. Some babies crawl as early as five months and some at 14 months. 

But when they start to move, everyone’s world changes! Babies are usually thrilled to be seeing and going new places while you’re watching to make sure they’re staying safe and keeping their hands out of all the things you never thought they’d get into!

Importance of tummy time

The WHO recommends [PDF] that babies under a year be physically active throughout the day including at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day. 

Tummy time can start as soon as your child is born and can begin with very short periods of as little as three minutes. This can be increased as your baby becomes older and more comfortable with the activity. 

Do babies sit or crawl first?

During tummy time, your baby will develop and strengthen the muscles in their neck, shoulders, arms and, when they start to kick, the muscles in their hips and legs. These are all muscles they’ll need to start looking around, rolling over, sitting up, and, eventually, crawling. 

A baby lies on their stomach while their mother lies next to them, with a smile on her face.

Encouraging your baby’s movement: Tips and techniques

To encourage your baby to love tummy time, lie on the floor facing them to keep them calm and happy. When they feel secure, they’re more likely to continue with the activity. 

Place their favourite toys or books at or just beyond baby’s reach. Rattle their toys, play music, or place a mirror on the floor under or in front of them to encourage them to lift their heads, to reach out, and to press up with their arms.

Your child will progress to pushing themselves up, making a move that resembles a push-up. Lie down with your baby to do push-ups with them. They’ll love the company and will want to keep mimicking your actions. 

From there, most babies will get onto their hands and knees and rock back and forward. Again, you can join your baby in this movement. Play some music to make the activity fun. 

Continue to place favourite toys, books, or other objects a few feet away to encourage your baby to move towards them. You can also set up a play tunnel, which your baby will be curious about moving through. 

With their muscles strong, their enthusiasm high and their desire to move and roam free, babies will soon be crawling. 

Different styles of crawling

While the classic crawl on hands-and-knees is the one most commonly used by babies, there are other crawling styles that some babies use to move from place to place.

Some babies scoot on their bottoms using their hands to move forwards or sideways. Some do a bear crawl, walking on their straight arms and legs. And some move like a worm, propelling themselves forward on their tummies, like a belly crawl, or army crawl.

Whichever type of crawling they start with, and however your baby moves, this is an exciting time for them. 

Preparing your home for a crawling baby: Safety measures

It’s also a time to ensure your home is safe for a baby on the move. Some babyproof safety measures include:

  • using baby gates at the top and bottom of every staircase
  • fastening furniture and TVs to walls to prevent the heavy items being pulled down
  • putting padding around furniture with sharp edges
  • avoiding the use of long tablecloths to ensure that babies can’t reach up and pull items off of tables
  • covering electrical outlets 
  • moving plants out of reach 
  • attaching child-proof locks for cupboards and toilet seats
  • checking the area where they’ll be crawling for potentially harmful items such as sharp objects or small items they can put in their mouths 
  • watching your baby at all times (including tummy time)

And now it’s time to get ready to watch your little one go, go, go!

Read more about babies’ development:

This post was originally published on September 8, 2023

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