Crawling is one of the most exciting developmental milestones in a baby’s life. It not only marks the beginning of their journey into a world of exploration but also independent mobility.
But what if instead of crawling in a linear pattern, you catch your baby crawling in circles? Should you be worried?
When a baby crawls in circles, there’s little cause for concern. Each baby’s crawling journey is unique; your little one
might be crawling in circles to explore their environment or test out their newly-developed motor skills.
So, let’s unravel the mobility mystery.
- The Importance of Crawling
- Normal Variations in Crawling Styles
- Reasons Behind Circles Crawling
- Developmental Milestones and Timeframes
- Tips for Encouraging Healthy Crawling
- When Should You Be Concerned
- Real-Life Examples
Why Crawling Matters: The Importance of Early Mobility
Crawling is a significant milestone in a baby’s physical and cognitive development. It helps a baby develop motor skills and muscles in preparation for walking, running, climbing stairs, and other physical activities as they grow.
Most babies start crawling between 7 and 10 months old, though some begin crawling as early as 6 months or as late as 12 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Some may skip crawling altogether and start furniture walking, though this isn’t always ideal given the numerous developmental advantages of crawling.
Here are among the biggest benefits of crawling:
Strengthens Core Muscles
Crawling encourages a baby to lift his head, push off with his arms and move his legs in a coordinated manner. These movements engage the baby’s multiple muscle groups, gradually building strength for later stages of physical activities like sitting, standing, and walking.
Though seemingly simple, the coordination required for this type of bilateral movement is challenging to both a baby’s body and brain.
Crawling involves the synchronization of various body parts, including the arms, legs, and eyes.
As he assumes an all-fours position, he exerts pressure on the palms of his hands and up his shoulder girdle and receives sensory input on his hips and knees.
To prevent him from falling over, his back muscles and abdominal wall stabilize his body as he propels himself forward with his hands and knees.
This coordination of movements lays the foundation for more complex abilities like running, dancing, climbing, and activities that involve both hands, like using cutlery or tying shoelaces.
Enhances Spatial Awareness
When a baby crawls, he enters a new realm of exploration. He gains a unique vantage point at ground level, letting him perceive the environment in a way he couldn’t while sitting upright or being carried.
This newfound perspective fosters a crucial part of child development: spatial awareness.
Spatial awareness, also known as geometry, is a complex cognitive skill that helps toddlers understand the spatial aspects of their environment. It helps them identify objects that are close together, far apart, or outside other objects, as well as how to avoid obstacles and navigate open spaces.
Babies encounter various objects, surfaces, and textures as they crawl. The exposure to diverse stimuli helps them develop an understanding of the world they’re living in.
It also allows them to adapt to their movements and find alternative paths, which not only hone their problem-solving skills but also help them understand spatial relationships within their immediate environment.
Common Types of Baby Crawls
It isn’t uncommon for babies to demonstrate more than one form of crawling as they develop.
A study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology documented various infants routinely switching from one crawling style to another. The study recorded more than 24 sets of crawling data, which includes various crawling patterns, speeds, and exploration behaviors.
In the data, the most common crawling styles observed include:
- Classic Crawl: The classic crawl is where a baby is on all fours, distributing his weight onto his hands and knees. As he moves, his arms and legs work in tandem to propel his body forward while keeping his balance in check.
- Belly Crawl: As the name suggests, belly crawl is a technique wherein a baby drags his tummy along the surface with his hands, military style.
- Rolling Crawl: This technique is less like a crawl and more like a series of rolls or rotations. The baby moves forward by tucking his head and shoulders and then rolling over onto their back or side.
- Bear Crawl: The bear crawl is reminiscent of the classic crawl, except with straight knees and elbows. With this crawl, the baby would appear as though he’s doing push-ups.
- Crab Crawl: The crab crawl is a technique wherein the baby pushes himself forward with his arms. He’ll use one leg for speed and keep the other bent under his body. This crawl has the unintended consequence of sending the baby sideways or backward—just like a crab.
- Bottom Scoot: Also known as the monkey crawl, the bottom scoot is where a baby moves his arms forward while in a sitting position.
Reasons Why Babies Crawl in Circles
Though it might appear concerning, parents shouldn’t worry about their baby crawling in circles.
Most experts agree that circular movement is a natural part of a baby’s unique developmental journey. Here are the potential reasons why:
Crawling is hard work. Not only does it require the coordination of various muscle groups—shoulders, arms, core, legs, etc.—it also needs continuous adjustments in balance and spatial awareness.
As with the bottom scoot and the belly crawl, it’s possible that circle crawlers have yet to develop the balance and muscle fortitude for the classic crawl.
They’d experiment with their weight and coordination and change directions as they go, making them appear as though they were aimlessly crawling in circles.
As their muscles develop, they’ll naturally transition to a more linear crawling pattern.
On their hands and knees, babies experience a world they’ve never seen before. As a result, their curious nature makes them want to explore and discover the environment around them.
Crawling in circles allows babies to see as much of their surroundings as possible. Babies use a lot of their brain power to explore, so it’s often difficult for them to crawl in a linear pattern while digesting their surroundings.
Testing Hand-Eye Coordination
Crawling is intricately linked to the advancement of a toddler’s hand-eye coordination—the ability to perform movement with the hands while being guided by the eyes.
Hand-eye coordination develops naturally as toddlers explore their environment through crawling.
Babies are fascinated with all kinds of colors, objects, and textures, and they’d take any opportunity to crawl toward the item that catches their eyes.
This visual tracking is an essential component of hand-eye coordination, as it allows them to locate and reach out to the object of interest.
But here’s the thing: babies don’t have a one-track mind. They’re easily captivated by the slightest noise, movement, or color. They might be crawling towards a green object one moment, and drawn to the red the other.
This might explain why they’re crawling in circles; they want to grasp, play, and touch various intriguing objects in their surroundings.
Developmental Milestones and Timeframes of Baby Crawling
As with most developmental milestones, there’s no fixed timeframe for crawling. Babies progress at their own pace; some start crawling at six months, while others begin crawling past nine months.
Babies must also learn how to hold their weight on their arms and legs, which can take months of practice.
Belly time is an excellent way to achieve these requirements.
Here’s what to expect during this exciting stage in a baby’s development:
1 to 2 Months
With the help of tummy time, a baby will start lifting his head and turning it from side to side while on his belly. He won’t have much control of his body at this age, but he’ll gradually gain strength and coordination with each passing day.
3 to 4 Months
At around three to four months, a baby will start pushing himself up when placed on his stomach.
He’ll be able to comfortably turn his head from side to side without uneasy bobbing.
He’ll also be able to lift his head and shoulders with the help of his arms, and roll over from his tummy to his back.
Parents can encourage rolling by placing toys on one side while on his tummy.
This activity not only strengthens the muscles he’ll later use to crawl but also help him learn to shift his weight to reach an object just out of reach.
5 to 6 Months
At this stage of a baby’s development, he’ll be able to roll over from his back to his tummy. He’ll likely still struggle with sitting, so he’ll need the support of a baby seat, a pillow, or you. He’ll wobble a bit, so make sure to stay close and supervise as much as needed when he’s sitting up.
7 to 8 Months
Now comes the exciting part—at seven to eight months, you’ll notice your little one sitting up all on his own!
He’s now strong enough to hold his head up and look around, and bear his weight on his hands to get into a propped-up position.
He’ll also be able to lift his entire chest off the ground with his newly-developed upper body strength.
As the baby inches closer to eight months, he’ll display the ability to push off his chest and shift his weight from one hand to the other while reaching for a toy.
Furthermore, he’ll be able to transition from a belly position to a crawling position by bending one knee and propelling himself forward.
During this period, the baby’s reflexes sharpen as he develops the ability to use his hands to catch himself before hitting the ground.
This ability is still in its early stages, so parents should start using protective carpeting and extensions to prevent him from hurting himself when he loses balance.
9 Months and Beyond
At the nine-month mark, the baby develops a crawling reflex known as the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. This reflex allows him to easily transition from laying down to getting up on his hands and knees while bending at the hips.
He may also master cross crawling, an advanced technique that involves moving one arm and the opposite leg together when he moves forward, instead of using an arm and a leg from the same side.
After that, practice makes perfect. Baby will begin to experiment with rocking back and forth and side to side, scoot and roll forward on his tummy, crawl in circles for exploration, and utilize other skills he’s taught himself over the months.
Tips for Encouraging Healthy Crawling
To encourage healthy crawling in babies, follow these crucial tips:
- Keep up with tummy time. Babies benefit from having two to three short tummy time sessions each day, three to five minutes each.
- Pick your baby up by the arms or armpits just enough to support their body weight, without their feet leaving the ground.
- Place your baby in front of the mirror to stimulate his natural curiosity. He’ll want to investigate his reflection, leading to him crawling and reaching out toward the mirror.
- Strategically place toys a short distance away to motivate your baby to crawl.
When Should You Be Concerned
Delays in crawling are one of the biggest warning signs of a problem.
Crawling isn’t a universal milestone, and some babies reject crawling in favor of other locomotion. But if a baby isn’t making progress with any locomotion by 12 months, it’s wise to consult with your pediatrician.
The same is said if the baby shows evidence of poor control on one side of the body or muscle weakness.
Real-Life Examples and Testimonials
Crawling in circles is a hot topic among parents in baby forums. One concerned mom talked about how she often catches her son doing laps when going for a toy.
Another user shared the same concern; she finds it cute, but she’s worried that it might be a sign of autism and a similar developmental disorder.
In most of these forums, pediatricians and fellow parents offered the same reassuring response: it’s normal!
When babies crawl in circles, it’s often attributed to practicing and building up muscles and brain connections for each new skill they’ve learned.
The only concern raised is the risk of the baby topping over due to dizziness.
Crawling in circles is a normal and relatively common behavior among babies during their crawling stage.
Most of the time, babies crawl in circles as a way to explore their environment and test out their various newly-developed motor skills.
If your baby is otherwise healthy and happy with no obvious developmental delays, there’s no need for concern. If you’re still worried, it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or child development specialist.