Most babies learn to crawl at 7–10 months. Some babies do not crawl at all. They may go straight to standing or walking around, holding onto furniture. Crawling offers a baby some independence from their caregiver and enables them to explore their environment.

Crawling is an opportunity for babies to exercise some independence. It allows them to move toward something they are interested in so they can explore it.

Crawling skills develop when babies have sufficient muscle strength and coordination, but all babies develop at different rates, and some may skip crawling altogether.

Parents and caregivers may find it difficult not to compare a child to others and may worry if they reach milestones later. However, most children follow a similar development pattern, but the timings can vary.

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Most babies start crawling between 7–10 months. Not all babies will crawl. Some may shuffle on their bottom, crawl along on their belly, or go straight from sitting to standing.

Crawling is one of the baby’s first attempts at independent mobility. Once a baby can crawl, they will continue to move around on hands and knees until they are ready to stand and walk.

Signs that a baby is getting ready to crawl include:

  • rolling from belly to back or vice versa
  • pushing up to feet and hands in a “bear walk” position
  • they can move into a crawling position and then into a sitting position
  • they can use their arms to move along the floor on their tummy
  • they can almost reach the crawling position with one leg in the right position, and the other stuck out straight
  • they can get into the crawling position but may not be sure how to move forward

Learn about when babies sit up.

Typical crawling involves a baby lifting the opposite knee and hand off the floor at the same time. They move forward by alternating the hand and knee movements. However, this is not the only efficient method of moving around. Other ways a baby might choose to move include:

  • Belly crawl: The baby pulls themselves along on the belly using their hands. The baby may also use their feet to propel themselves forward.
  • Scooting: The baby sits on their bottom and uses their legs and sometimes their hands to push themselves along the floor. This technique works best on a hard surface.
  • Bear walk: The baby walks using their hands and feet. This may be a precursor to standing upright.

Some babies might skip crawling altogether and go straight to learning to walk.

Babies crawl when they are ready, but there are some ways caregivers can encourage them, including:

  • doing push-ups to show the baby how to move from their belly to their hands and knees
  • demonstrating how to get into the crawling position, then rocking backward and forward
  • positioning a favorite toy slightly out of reach to encourage a baby to move toward it

Tummy time

Caregivers can encourage a baby to develop the muscles they need for crawling and sitting up by giving them supervised “tummy time.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants under 1 year spend at least 30 minutes on their tummies throughout a day. This should be while they are awake and alert. WHO also advises that babies should be physically active in various ways throughout the day.

Babies can have tummy time from birth. A caregiver can place them onto their tummy on the floor for short bursts, gradually increasing the duration. If the baby finds it hard to lift their head, a caregiver can place a rolled-up towel under their armpits.

Not all babies enjoy playing on their tummies. A person can make it fun by interacting and playing with toys.

Physical activity

Through play, caregivers can challenge babies to move by reaching, turning, stretching and moving to music. Being physically active will strengthen the muscles a baby needs for crawling and walking.

Other ways to encourage a baby’s physical development include:

  • providing opportunities to pull, grasp, squash, shake, or push
  • playing varied games that allow a baby to try different movements
  • letting them lie on their back under a play gym or mobile
  • taking them outdoors to explore a park or the natural environment
  • taking them swimming under close supervision
  • allowing them to explore objects around them as long as they are safe

Safety

Caregivers should supervise babies at all times when they are crawling or moving around. Before babies reach this stage, it is a good idea to baby-proof the home, paying attention to objects that a baby could reach for.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides advice for using safety devices in the home that help prevent accidents.

Below are answers to some common questions about crawling:

When should I worry if my baby isn’t crawling?

Infants reach milestones at different times. Some babies may avoid crawling and go straight to walking. Some take a little more time to learn the skill. If a baby achieves most of their milestones and crawling seems to be the only skill they have not yet achieved, then there is nothing to worry about.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that a person talks with a doctor or nurse if a 9-month-old baby shows signs of developmental delay. This includes when they:

  • are missing milestones
  • do not bear weight on their legs with a caregiver’s support
  • cannot sit up with help
  • do not babble
  • do not play any back-and-forth games
  • do not respond to their name
  • do not recognize familiar people
  • do not look where their caregiver points
  • do not transfer toys from one hand to the other

“Well-child” visits are an opportunity for pediatricians to check that a child’s growth and development are on track. A child should have seven well-child visits between the age of 1–4.

Do babies crawl or sit up first?

Babies usually learn to roll over first, followed by sitting up and then crawling.

According to a 2015 study, most babies can sit upright independently from about 6 months. Balancing on their bottom and using their legs for support enables a baby to find new views, increasing learning and exploration. This allows a baby to have their hands free for reaching out, grasping, and learning about the properties of objects.

Do all babies crawl before walking?

Although most babies crawl before walking, not all will go through this stage. Some go straight to cruising, holding onto furniture as they walk along.

Babies develop at different speeds but usually follow a similar pattern.

A 2022 longitudinal study concluded that crawling before walking is linked to a range of health benefits in children aged 7 years. In the study, children who crawled before walking were likely to have better body composition, cardiovascular system, lung function, motor skills, physical fitness, and general health.

Babies usually learn to crawl at 7–10 months, but some babies bypass crawling altogether. There are several ways babies can move around, and not all of them crawl in a typical way.

Caregivers can help babies learn to crawl by engaging them in varied physical activities that help strengthen their muscles and improve coordination. Caregivers can also demonstrate how to crawl and play games that motivate babies to move.

If a caregiver has concerns about a baby’s development, they can talk with a healthcare professional. A developmental screening check can assess a baby for developmental delay.