Your Child’s First Step Toward Higher Learning
Most infants first learn to move by crawling. This important developmental phase is first characterized by babies dragging their tummies across the ground and ending with the infants moving proficiently on their hands and knees.
Researchers have described this phase as being made of specific stages; each stage a triumph over gravity on the way to upright locomotion:
- lifting the head and chest off the ground
- pivoting in circles
- pulling forward with the tummy dragging along the ground
- hopping forward with the tummy alternately on and off the ground
- rhythmically rocking on hands and knees
- creeping on hands and knees
- and crawling on hands and knees1
The mechanics of crawling stimulate different areas of the brain – areas that are critical to future learning.
At birth, the brain contains billions of nerve cells. Simplistically put, the infant brain is an unwired circuitry board. “It has been established that through movement, especially the repetitious act of crawling, these neurons are stimulated, organized and our electrical system is switched on. This allows our brain to control cognitive processes such as comprehension, concentration and memory.”2 Movement moulds the circuitry and repetition makes it efficient.
The development of neural networks is the first step to higher cognitive learning.
“Myelin is a dense, fatty substance that helps neurons send and receive messages
faster and more clearly so that motor pathways in the brain, brain stem and spinal chord become better at controlling and coordinating the movements necessary for sitting, crawling and walking.”3 At birth, newborn infants do not have very much myelin. The better the child becomes at motor skills, the more finely tuned the brain connections become.”Crawling is key to developing motor skills and therefore also crucial for myelination.”4
Gross Motor Skills include all the major muscle groups. Included in this skill set are hand/eye coordination, strength and muscle tone. “Crawlingstrengthens the trunk and link muscles, both crucial for the development of Gross Motor skills.”5
When an infant crawls, it visually determines where it wants to go, and physically moves in that direction. The infants’ hands become the guides and the child’s first test of hand/eye coordination becomes established. This skill set is used in later life for reading, writing and sports activities. Well developed Gross Motor skills enhance the Near Senses. The child will be more physically confident.
Fine Motor Skills encompass the small muscles especially hand control and the muscles around the mouth. Mouth movement and the palms of the hands are located on the same neurological loop, therefore, it stands to reason that sharpening these areas will affect language development, handwriting and finger dexterity (written and verbal communication).”Crawling refines these muscle groups by strengthening them. Stimulation of the palms triggers the language centers of the brains.”6
When the baby crawls and grasps, its fine motor skills are enhanced; key abilities when the child is old enough to feed himself or hold a pencil.
“Crawling allows for the integration of sensory information, giving the baby a complete picture of his/her environment.”7 When these senses are stimulated, the child will acquire balance, develop space perception (proprioception) and depth perception (which are the Near and Far Senses).
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While crawling, the baby starts to understand where they are in the grand scheme of their environment. “This serves as an anticipatory and preventative measure as they learn to avoid obstacles in their world.”8Understanding where they are in their environment stimulates abstract thinking skills, another essential skill which, when developed, will assist them with tasks such as mathematics.
Crawling stimulates the inner ear or the vestibular system especially through the infants’ head movements which will affect the child’s overall balance.
Tactile stimulation during the crawling process stimulates the kinaesthetic process giving the baby a sense of themselves, choosing what they like and don’t like by exploring, and by facilitating confidence in “choice- making” in later life.
A child must look down and focus in the distance when it is learning to crawl thus developing their binocular vision. “We believe when a child creeps, his near-point vision is developed.”9
Reception and interpretation of language is stimulated when a baby starts to crawl as the infant uses both ears simultaneously and develops binaural hearing. “The efficiency of the development of visual and auditory skills establishes dominant input in the learning process.”10
“Educational kinesiologists believe creeping on the tummy and then crawling are particularly crucial because they get both sides of the brain working in concert, creating pathways that can transmit messages from one side of the brain to the other. This message highway, called the corpus callosum, allows the body to coordinate the use of both eyes, both ears, both hands, both feet.”11
Crawling is a cross lateral movement which strengthens both the left side and the right side of the brain, including the corpus callosum. “This enhances learning, as the left brain names, sorts and files information, while the right brain stores it in memory.”12 Communication between the two sides of the brain allows us to share sensory information, by thinking and moving at the same time.
Crawling also allows the left and the right parts of the body to work together making walking and running more efficient. “This integration of the physical and the neurological, helps to establish our learning profile.”13
The crawling process is a critical stage in your baby’s development. Anything that can facilitate this endeavour must be looked upon as a necessary component to their everyday routine.
“These developmental years are not just a chance to educate, they are actually your obligation to form a brain, and if you miss the opportunities you have missed them forever”.14
Crawling begins with the baby having time on its tummy. Recent research has stated the merits of having the child sleep on its back, however, during waking hours, it is important to ensure that the infant has ample opportunities to be placed on its stomach. This will allow the child’s motor skills to be properly honed, and will result in the more rapid development of its cognitive and perceptual abilities.
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