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My son is almost 9 month old right now, but he still cannot crawl. All he can do is creeping when he want to get anythings in front of him. It seems that he will skip his crawling stage. Or maybe I'm too early to judge it ?

On the other side, I heard from my neighborhood story about one of their children who skipping his crawling stage too that somehow his writing is very bad compared to their others two sons. They thought that this is caused by skipped crawling stage by their 2nd child, so that the brain development is not as good as their sons who are not skipping the crawling stage.

What I want to ask are :

  1. Is it true that when your son is skipping crawling stage means their will some differentiation in their brain development compared to the son who is not skipping the crawling stage? and how bad is the effect?

  2. If it is true, how do we minimize those negative effect to the brain development?

Any good studies/references will be appreciated.

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Related question from Skeptics.se –  Beofett Jun 25 '12 at 12:40
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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Apparently this is a common theory. There's a similar question on another site.

Skipping crawling has become widely acknowledged as developmentally normal. In every reference I have seen on developmental milestones for babies it mentions that many babies never crawl. See WebMD for one example. This article from babycenter on crawling talks about the alternatives these babies often develop - bottom scooting, rolling (not just tummy to back or back to tummy, but as a means of movement from place to place), or slithering on the stomach. From the perspective of many the important thing is coordination and the desire for locomotion.

This Scientific American article cites studies which show that in some cultures babies are actually discouraged from crawling to prevent them from contracting diseases spread by ground pathogens.

Yet not all doctors think that skipping crawling, scooting, or dragging themselves (all are seen as equally valuable) is a good thing. Parenting magazine has an overview of the debate, which is significant in the pediatrics community. This study in Pediatrics noted that back sleepers do attain physical milestones such as crawling later than stomach sleepers, but all walk around the same time. The study did not look into fine motor skills required for tasks such as holding a pen to write. Another overview of the studies can be found in the New York Times. Note that no doctors are worried about "brain development" as you state, but rather fine motor development and muscle tone. As the NY Times article states, the best indicator of developmental delays is a lack of language acquisition. Also do note that many back sleepers will crawl, but later than the milestone guidelines (developed when tummy sleeping was the norm) state is normal. This is true of rolling as well.

If it is the case - and evidence seems to favor it not being the case - that crawling/scooting/dragging helps fine motor skills and coordination in an essential way, the fix would be to encourage children to learn to use those skills with other physical tasks. For example encourage fine motor skills by working on different kinds of grasps. Encourage coordination with early gymnastics, ballet, or other physical activity.

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I was able to find a lot of speculation that skipping crawling is bad, but very little actual evidence. Instead, I found studies that showed the opposite: there is no real difference between children who skip crawling and those who do not, at least in terms of other major developmental milestones.

I'm posting my answer from the related Skeptics.se question, which asked about specific claims that crawling allows children to develop past the symmetric tonic neck reflex, and that failure to do so could result in retention of this reflex, which could inhibit later development and motor coordination:

I was not able to find evidence supporting this theory. The closest I could find was a reference to a study in the same book cited in the article you linked:

The book "Stopping ADHD" cites a study by Dr. Miriam Bender that found that at least 75 percent of the learning-disabled people surveyed had an immature symmetric tonic neck reflex contributing to their disability.

It is impossible from this statement to identify any positive causality between lack of crawling and ADHD.

This paper suggests that it is lack of "tummy time", rather than crawling, that leads to retention of STNR, and that insufficient "tummy time" makes learning how to crawl more difficult and frustrating for the infant.

This paper suggests that the link between reflex retention and ADHD is not specific to the STNR, and that most of the typical ADHD symptoms are more likely to be associated with retention of earlier-stage reflexes (primarily the Moro reflex).

The number of children skipping crawling seems to be on the increase, and this is likely due to the movement away from allowing infants to sleep on their bellies in an effort to reduce SIDS (LINK). Note that a study referenced in that article found that there was no difference in other developmental milestones for the children who either learned to crawl later or skipped it altogether:

A long-term study of child development, intended to follow nearly 15,000 infants from birth until adulthood, began in 1990, just as Britain began its Back to Sleep campaign.

Dr. Peter Fleming of the University of Bristol, a director of the British study, said that at first doctors and parents were wary about the new advice, and many doctors suggested that the babies lie on their sides. But gradually, as their fears were allayed and data accumulated tying sudden infant death syndrome to sleeping on the stomach, virtually all doctors began urging parents to keep their babies on their backs. The British study tracked this change. In the early 1990's, when most babies slept on their stomachs, they turned over and crawled when the books said they should. Within the last five years, as parents uniformly began putting babies on their backs, more and more babies did not roll over or crawl on schedule, and increasing numbers never crawled.

But, Dr. Fleming said, the babies were normal by every other measure. ''In medicine, whenever you introduce something new, you worry that it might cause problems,'' he said. But, he added, that did not happen. ''When the cohort was 18 months old we looked again at developmental milestones and there was absolutely no difference in these children's development,'' Dr. Fleming said.

Furthermore, this article suggests that crawling may have become a common developmental milestone only relatively recently, as leaving a child to crawl on the ground was frequently either unsafe, unsanitary, or both.

There seems to be little to no supporting evidence for the theory that crawling is a crucial process for moving past the STNR, and the problems cited in conjunction with late retention of the STNR seem to be correlation without causality. This is supported by the similar correlation with late retention of earlier reflexes, as well as the study showing changes in crawling milestone achievement did not impact other milestones.

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That first paper link on tummy time is fascinating. –  justkt Jun 25 '12 at 13:48
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I am a mother of 3 sons aged 6 and a half, 3 year old and 7 months. Well my eldest sat at 8 and a half months, started crawling at 7 months, walked at 1 year 5 months and said his first word at 1 year 7 months (Mummy). My second son sat down at 4 months and started saying his first words at 5 months. He never rolled, never crawled. He was standing at 8 months and started walking before 1 year. By 1 year he used to speak about 50 words and even in groups.by a year and a half he could hold a full conservation with people. My youngest has just started sitting by himself and does not say any words. With regards fine motor skills, i disagree that those children who skip crawling have difficulties with motor skills. Well I used to lock certain doors so that my second son would not enter the rooms. He could open the doors very easily while his elder brother (4 years older) could not. The same applies to opening bottles. Also, the second one likes to write and draws without going out of the lines. My middle son is the only left-handed in the family though. Do not know if this has anything to do with his left-handedness.

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An observation I made is that children which are mainly raised in houses without carpets skip the crawling and creep instead. I have my own theory about it: The slippery ground makes it harder to coordinate knees so they stick to the more "stable" position of creeping.

Until now I couldn't observe any differences in developement of these children compared to children crawling.

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Good morning,

With regards to your question , it's early to tell. I will provide you with some hope. Out of our two, both crawled "late" to the gen pop , tap on walking to that list too. Our first, crawled a couple if weeks (if that) prior to walking( more like stumbling lol). She's 1 month shy of 4 years old and it smart as a whip. That consensus is based off of the numerous statements/comments my husband and myself receive from different people interactions she has. I do a basic pre-school program with her Monday- Thursday. Conclusion: Time will tell. Give them time - after all , it's one of our many jobs as parents to teach patience

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