Baby physical development: crawling, creeping and brachiating
There have been so many questions and discussions regarding crawling, creeping and brachiating, that I thought it deserves a separate article.
In Glenn Doman’s book How To Teach Your Baby To Be Physically Superb, there are few chapters devoted to these activities.
The first one is crawling. Doman recommends building a special crawling track for the baby, where the little ones can crawl during their sleep and during the day. Pretty much all day long.
We didn’t have a crawling track for my older son. We discovered the book when it was too late to build one. We were doing the other exercises with him and spent nearly 2 months agonizing over frustrated backward crawling baby. On his 6th month birthday he started crawling: like a little monkey, on all fours (without ever descending on his knees), he was finally enjoying his mobility – he was EVERYWHERE! Boy, he did finally give a scare to my cats, who were used to stealing his toys or lounging right outside of his reach! Now every inch of the floor surface was IN his reach. Now he was very happy and content. Until 8 months: at 8 months my older one started walking and climbing, so now every inch of the house (both horizontal and vertical) was within his reach. He was as happy as it gets. My cat’s happy days of undisturbed catnaps were gone forever.
I was very looking forward to getting a crawling track for my second baby. Building was out of the question: we are constantly out of time… so we purchased a track from Gentle Revolution. It is a foam based track, it measures 19″ (49 cm) wide / 6.7″ (17 cm) high / 46.5″ (109 cm) long. The good thing is – it folds, the surface is perfect – not hot, not cold, not too slippery, but still slippery enough for the baby to slide slightly in the inclined position – helping him with a forward motion. The bad thing is – it is very unsturdy and greatly overpriced. The Velcro straps snapped off quite fast, so my husband attached a metal piece underneath (we couldn’t fold it any more, but at least it was more sturdy). Still not sturdy enough: as the baby got bigger, he was obviously scared: the track would slightly concave under his weight as he was moving down; the track would wobble a bit. After a few months of trying to convince the baby it wasn’t such a bad idea afterall, we finally placed a board under the track, stabilizing it. I don’t know if our baby just reached some developmental pivotal point, or the board under the track made all the difference, all of a sudden the baby fell in love with the track and was very happy to crawl/slide down 10 times a day or even more (as opposed to 2-3 times a day in the best case scenario in the previous months).
I was never too keen on the Doman style evaluations (some parts seemed quite cruel to me), but evaluating his movement in a crawling track was even harder: at first my son was just pushing with his legs, slowly sliding down. Eventually he started working with his arms. “Yey, that’s the beginnings of the cross pattern, and creeping will follow soon!” – I proudly announced with a all-knowing smile. By “cross pattern” Doman books man “comando” style crawling on the belly, where opposite hands and feet are moving at the same time: right hand, left knee; left hand, right knee… Well, my little one quickly wiped that silly smile of my face: instead of developing cross pattern movement, he learned how to push with his hands. At 4 months he could crawl even on straight surface – on a floor, on a rug, but only an inch or two. At 5… he finally took off! Crawling track did help him a great deal – I do think it was a terrific invention, though making one is probably more worth it then buying it. “Frustrated back-crawling baby” syndrome never happened in our our house with this gentleman.
The only thing is… since he couldn’t read at 4 months, he wasn’t aware that he is supposed to develop cross pattern crawling. So he continued “swimming” on his belly across the floor. Quite fast. Quite efficient. He would continue row-push with his hands and just drag himself where ever he wanted to go (usually – under something – and the harder it was to squeeze into, the more attractive the object became!). He was still rowing at 6 months. That ridiculous smile was long gone – no cross pattern wasn’t even showing up on the radar. Neither was “creeping” – that’s how Doman books calls movement on all fours, or on hands and knees. Finally, at the end of the 6th month, all of a sudden, my son defeated gravity! He figured out that he can raise his belly off the ground!!
I was so proud. “Now the cross pattern creeping will begin,” – declared I with the same all-knowing smile. I was secretly hoping he would opt for the same “hands and feet” approach as my older one – it was kind of unusual and cute. This smile was wiped off just as quickly. I guess he did develop some kind of “cross-pattern”, but in a very funny way: my son was standing on one leg, similarly to my oder one… and had the other one bent on the floor, like normal hands-and-knees creeping babies. Neither here, nor there. Go figure.
I am not sure if it was a very comfortable way to crawl. I guess, it wasn’t, since he didn’t use it for too long: at 7 and a half months he just got up and started walking. At eight months he could easily walk from one room to another, holding an object in his hands, without falling. And I always thought that he was behind my older son in physical development… who knows? Now he doesn’t stop walking all day long. From one room to the other, back and forth, and again… like a little energizer bunny. A little wobbly bunny with an adorable pot belly and huge blue eyes is marching all over the place, marking his territory with fountains of wet “raspberries” and ear piercing squeals of delight.
While my little one is busy walking, my older one is really in love with another piece of Doman’s equipment: brachiation ladder. We didn’t follow the directions precisely, but somewhat built it into the walls of our room. I wish we did follow the directions: we can’t adjust hight, so for our son, reaching complete independence on this ladder took a little longer then we expected.
I think my son was ready to brachiate independently before the age of three, but our ladder was quite high and he wasn’t feeling secure enough. I was hanging different objects for him to retrieve, and he did (with me spotting him), but without great enthusiasm. Sometime after his third birthday, a few older boys came over for a playdate (6 & 7 year olds) and they fell in love with a ladder – they were going back and forth the whole playdate! My son looked at them for a while and… started brachiating all by himself as well! “Mommy, I don’t need any help. Stay back.” He LOVES it every since. He wants to go on it every day. It’s his greatest treat.
We did the balance beam and the trapeze as well. Not too much trouble and well worth it! Trapeze is lots of fun for the kids – even my 10 month old absolutely adores it! We hang our trapeze in the middle of the ladder, so my son loves brachiating to the trapeze, then sit and swing at it a little, and then brachiate towards the hanging rope to slide down.
His other favorite is a high bar – he can do forward rolls on it for hours and hours. I wish I had as many hours for his exercises! Time and money – why there is never enough?!
Now we are dreaming of double bars – I think he would find it fun too… but it looks like too much of a project to build and too expensive to buy…
Good luck and please share your little one’s own physical development journeys, favorites and achievements!