The Importance of Developing the Crawling Reflex

In response to my post on Contralateral Movements, a reader asked a question about his infant son learning to crawl. I thought I would share my response as a new post since this information is valuable to parents and anyone working with babies.

Hello Kevin,
I am very glad you read this particular post. As a personal trainer, I know you get the value of purposeful movement to achieve results. I was a fitness instructor for 20 years teaching, both in the gym and in the water. I am glad that you have asked about your son’s crawling. Learning to crawl is such a critical movement made by infants as it stimulates the Cerebellum and sets the child up for so many cross-lateral movements.  

It is critically important you get your son to push off from his toes with his left foot. This is so important for walking, developing laterality later in life, and improving his ability to focus. I have been very fortunate to train with Dr. Harold Bloomberg, a psychiatrist and Rhythmic Movement Specialist. Just this summer, I became an International Rhythmic Movement consultant, so I know with 100% certainty how to help your son.
First, you need to practice the crawling movement with your son; it wouldn’t hurt you any either to practice this movement to make sure it is fully integrated in you also. We always need little tune-ups and to also help us appreciate all the hard work involved in crawling. My daughter was exhausted after a short segment of crawling!
You might want to start with a gentle foot rub to make sure the toes have no tension and gently roll the hips from side to side to release tension in the hips. This is best done lying on your stomach.
  1. Have your child lay on his stomach resting his forehead on his hands like resting forehead on a pillow.
  2. Take the right leg (the stronger leg in this case) and bend the knee out to the side, bring the right foot up to the level of the left knee.  (You might want to put a soft cushion under the stomach to raise the hips to make this movement easier.)Both heels should be point up to the ceiling during the whole exercise! All toes of the foot should have 100% contact with the floor when pushing away.

  3. Press the right toes down into the floor or carpet as you gently guide the right foot down the straight left leg until the right foot is flat and both legs are straight.It is really important to have the toes fully extend and push until the foot is flat.

  4. Repeat with the other leg. 
This exercise involves the hip to a large extent and could cause strong emotional reactions and/or dreams.
Kevin, you should continue to direct your son’s foot with full extension of the toes, as often as you can, until your son engages his left foot and toes in the crawling process. It is best if you can guide your son’s foot until he is able to do it on his own.  You can also take his left foot and have him push off in your hand.  Curl the toes and have him push through until his foot is flat. For whatever reason, he apparently doesn’t as of yet have the sensation of pushing off with the left foot and this is a very important developmental step.
I work on several adults who have not fully integrated the crawl or have it active and who need practice to re-integrate it.  The crawling reflex is so important in helping integrate the Amphibian reflex, Babinski reflex and Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR reflex).  I will talk about these more in upcoming posts.
I will include videos of younger children in future posts.
Let us know how this works out for all of you.
All the best,
Liz JT


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