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Learning to crawl

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Babies usually start crawling when they are between 7 and 12 months old.
  • Before they can crawl, your baby has to develop skills like head and arm control, sitting up without support, rolling over, and holding their weight on their arms and legs.
  • Help your baby learn to crawl by playing with them during ‘tummy time’ from birth as part of their daily routine.
  • Babies can have different crawling styles, including hands and knees crawling, ‘commando crawl’, ‘bum shuffling’ and crawling backwards – these are all normal.

Why do babies crawl?

Crawling is an important skill for your baby to learn and is a big milestone in their development. Your baby will crawl when they're ready, with their own unique style. Your baby will love this new-found freedom and will have lots of fun exploring and discovering everything in sight.

Babies usually start crawling between 7 and 12 months old. They are usually able to get into a crawling position on their hands and knees between 6 and 9 months and will probably be rolling around and crawling on their tummies, called 'commando crawling', by around 9 months, though this varies.

How do my baby’s crawling skills develop?

Crawling is a new skill for your baby to learn. Each new skill your baby develops builds on all the previous skills they have learnt, with each one being more complex than the last.

Before crawling, your baby has been busy developing skills like controlling their head, moving their arms, sitting up with and without support, rolling over from front to back and back to front, and holding their own weight through their arms and legs.

All of these things are important for developing their strength and ability to start crawling and, later, walking.

Is my baby crawling normally?

Your baby will probably crawl on their hands and knees, but not all babies crawl the same way, and that's OK. There are some other crawling styles you might notice, such as shuffling on the tummy 'commando-style', sliding along on their bottom ('bum-shuffling'), or crawling backwards instead of forwards.

What can I do to help my baby to crawl?

There are many things you can do to help your baby learn to crawl:

  • Do tummy time together — tummy time is when you place your baby on their stomach as part of their daily play routine. This helps strengthen and prepare your baby's head, neck, back and leg muscles for crawling. Try tummy time in different locations to make it fun for you both, such as indoors on a mat or outdoors on a blanket, and talk and sing while you do it. You can start doing tummy time from birth and increase with age and ability (10 seconds to 10 minutes). Always supervise your baby during tummy time.
  • Play on the floor together — play is how your baby learns and playing with you is fun for your baby. Incorporating movement during your play, such as moving objects from side to side in front of their face or turning pages of a picture book, can help build your baby's physical skills.
  • Encourage reaching — place a favourite object or toy (or even you!) just out of your baby's reach, to get them reaching and moving. Reaching across the midline is particularly good for your baby's motor development.
  • Make your home safe — move any obstacles (such as furniture) out of the way so your baby can crawl around without the risk of getting injured. Move any dangerous items out of reach, such as small toys that could present a choking hazard, cords that could get wrapped round your baby’s neck and hot drinks.
  • Avoid baby walkers — these do not help your baby's crawling or movement and can actually delay their crawling. They also result in thousands of injuries every year in Australia.

When should I seek help?

Not all babies crawl. Some go straight to walking and skip the crawling stage completely. But if your baby is 12 months or older and isn't crawling, or if you're concerned about any areas of your baby's development, you might ask your doctor or child and family health nurse for advice.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022

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