Child Development – The Cross Crawl

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Crawling is such an important stage in child development and yet many parents are not fully aware of the benefits crawling has for their child.

Crawling is a major milestone and plays a vital role in development as not only does it help to inhibit some of the primitive reflexes it also helps develop the brain, muscles, balance and visual skills.

The Cross Crawl

The Cross Crawl

There are a number of different types of crawling which you may be familiar with, such as the commando crawl, bum scooting (or bum shuffling) and even rolling to get around. However if at all possible we should do what we can to encourage the traditional “Cross Crawl”.

This is where the baby bears their weight on their hands and knees moving one arm and the opposite leg together in order to move forward.

Until a baby learns how to crawl they tend to operate homolateral (one sided). For example, right arm and right leg moving together. The cross crawl is the first time that opposite sides of the body work together to perform a deliberate task on purpose. The cross crawl helps and encourages crossing of the mid-line. The mid-line is the invisible line that runs down our centre and divides the left side from the right side of the body. Crossing of the mid-line is very important for further development and also for the two hemispheres (sides) of the brain. It indicates that the left side of the brain is working with the right side of the brain and vice versa. This development allows for more complicated process to evolve as the child develops.

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Moving one arm and the opposite leg together to move forward.

We continue to use this cross-crawl movement when we walk, run and swim. It is this movement that builds the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain allowing information to flow between the two.

Because of this it is important to encourage your baby to use this style of crawling. You can encourage crawling by getting down on the floor with your little one and doing crawling movements that they can mimic. You can play games on the floor with their favourite toys and create obstacle courses for them using pillows and blankets. If you have fun, they will have fun.  Try to remember that slippery or cold surfaces may deter baby from wanting to crawl.

It is also important to keep in mind that babies develop at different rates and if your little one was a premature baby they may reach this and other milestones a little later than their peers. However, if you have any concerns at all about your little one arrange a visit with your public health nurse or your little ones doctor and they will be able to discuss your concerns with you.

#BabyBrain: Building Baby’s Brain

5 ways to promote neurological development

Have you ever heard a parent proudly state ‘Oh my child didn’t need to crawl, they went straight to walking!’?

Well, when I hear this statement my heart sinks. As a Neurological Developmental Therapist I know that skipping a crucial stage in development actually does nothing to benefit the child. In fact, it may well result in learning or behavioural problems.

Neurological development is how the brain develops and builds connections throughout the body, going from basic brain stem functioning to the more complex higher brain functioning. This process is sequential and from the moment of conception the brain is being constructed. However in order to have good healthy brain development each stage must be transitioned before moving on to the next stage.

I always say that building the brain is like building a house. The foundations must be firmly established in order for the rest of it to be stable and successful.

Remember, there is a reason for every stage of development. Every movement has a learning function for the child and helps to build their brain in preparation for the next stages yet to emerge. Movement is the key to learning.

What does this mean? Well, to give an example of this, and one that we are all familiar with, when an object is placed in the palm of an infant they will immediately close their fingers around it and grasp it. This movement helps to ‘wire’ the brain. Doing this many times allows baby to understand and learn how to control the muscles in their arm and hand.

The closing of the fingers and grasping of the object is caused by a ‘reflex’. A reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus. Developmentally, there are two main types of reflexes, primitive reflexes and postural reflexes.

Primitive reflexes begin to develop at nine weeks in utero. They are the survival reflexes and should be fully finished with by the age of twelve months. They help baby to go through the early developmental milestones by causing movements in response to certain stimuli.

Once they are inhibited (switched off) the Postural Reflexes emerge. Once these reflexes emerge it is said that higher brain functioning has begun. The postural reflexes allow for control over the body and are long term retained reflexes. We need these for day to day functioning such as; playing sports (kicking, catching, throwing, swinging etc.), riding bicycles, running, writing, reading, balance and many more activities. However, these cannot form correctly if some primitive reflexes are still present or if they were never developed properly in the first instance.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here