Motor Skills



Motor Skills

May start as early as

6 to 7 months

May end around

19 to 21 months

May peak around

9 to 11 months

Skills that come first

Standing, sitting, walking

Related skills

Tummy time, head control

Crawling opens the door to a new phase of exploration and movement for your baby. Once they learn to crawl, they can act on their own initiative to get a toy they see—or attempt to chase the family pet 🙃 You may see your baby explore several different variations on crawling as they learn how their body moves, from scooting on their belly to crawling on hands and knees.

In this article:

When do babies start crawling?

Babies begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months of age, but as with many aspects of your baby’s development, there’s a wide age range that’s considered typical for this skill. Studies find that about half of babies crawl by the time they’re 8 months old.

While some babies skip crawling altogether, research shows that crawling is helpful for your baby’s development. “Crawling is important for many reasons, including hand-eye coordination and learning to coordinate movements where the two sides of the body are doing different things,” explains Rachel Coley, pediatric occupational therapist at Lovevery.

How will I know my baby is ready to crawl?

As your baby builds strength and balance, you may begin to see signs they’re about to crawl. Here’s the progression of pre-crawling skills to look for:

Scooting backward on their belly (about 7 to 8 months)

At around 8 months, your baby will likely start scooting backward with their belly on the floor. Backward scooting usually comes before forward scooting, partly because your baby’s upper body is stronger than their legs at this stage. 

During tummy time, your baby relies on their upper body strength to hold up their head and push up with their arms while on their belly. They have more practice pushing than pulling with their arms at this point—so when they do this on their belly, they’ll likely move backward.

Scooting backward on their belly comes before crawling for many babies.

Babies are constantly experimenting, and most will eventually figure out how to crawl forward on their own. You can help by putting your hand behind your baby’s feet to let them push off of it. Bring one of their knees up under their tummy and put your hand against the sole of their foot so they can push through your hand and move their body up and forward. With a little practice, your baby will soon be scooting forward instead of backward ❤️

Scooting forward on their belly (8 to 9.5 months, on average)

The classic forward scoot is another sign your baby may be getting ready to crawl. Here’s what it looks like: While on their belly, your baby will move forward by pulling with their arms and pushing with their legs. You can help them get a better grip by putting them in short sleeves and a diaper with their bare legs on the floor. 

Entice your baby by holding a toy just out of reach and see if they are able to move toward it. On average, babies start moving forward on their bellies somewhere between 8 and 9.5 months.

Entice your baby to scoot forward on their belly toward an interesting plaything. In video: ‘Things I See’ Texture Cards from The Inspector Play Kit

On hands and knees, with their belly off the floor (8 to 9 months on average)

Somewhere between 8 and 9 months, your baby will likely be able to get into the hands and knees position with their belly off the floor.

Once your baby learns to support their weight on their hands and knees with their belly off the floor, you may see them begin to rock back and forth. Rocking back and forth isn’t just for fun—it also serves a purpose. Research suggests that your baby may do this to help them figure out how to balance while they’re in motion.

“Crawling is not an easy skill and takes much coordination and strength. Your baby must learn to keep their head up, arms straight, knees and hips bent, and core activated—and then, plan how to move an opposite arm and leg forward.”

Giselle Tadros, pediatric physical therapist

How can I help my baby learn to crawl?

Encourage your baby to crawl by letting them practice pre-crawling movements and positions, like scooting on their belly. Remember, though, that each baby’s developmental path is unique. There are many factors that can influence how and when your baby begins to crawl.

Different play positions may also support the development of the muscles required for crawling. Here’s what pediatric therapists recommend:

1. Pushing up onto their hands
If your baby is scooting but not yet getting into the crawling position, you can help them learn to put weight through their hands with straight elbows.

Place your baby belly-down on a firm pillow or rolled-up blanket tall enough to lift their belly up off the floor and straighten their arms. Give your baby opportunities to feel different textures with their hands while they’re supporting their weight. Place a toy that makes noise, like the Spinning Rainbow, on an elevated surface—this encourages them to lift their chest and extend their arms to see the plaything.

2. Reaching and turning on their belly
Place your baby’s favorite toys on either side of their body just beyond their arms’ reach to encourage reaching and turning while on their belly, a helpful catalyst for crawling. If your baby rolls as they reach, you can gently help them shift their weight in the opposite direction. For example, if they reach for a toy on their right, you would gently lift their right hip off the floor.

3. Playing on all fours

Playing on all fours builds muscle strength for crawling. In photo: Drinking Cup from The Inspector Play Kit

Place the Soft Book or Framed Mirror on the floor and position your baby on all fours over your legs with their hands on the book or mirror. To introduce this new movement, choose a toy your baby can’t easily pick up off the floor, since they may not be able to support their upper body with just one arm. Gently bend their knees under their hips and rock them backward and forward, holding the toy to prevent your baby from picking it up. This will strengthen your baby’s arms as they push up from the floor, and get them used to bearing weight on their knees.

4. Sidesitting
Sidesitting is excellent for developing core strength for crawling. Position your baby so they’re sitting with one leg bent in front of them and the other bent behind. Then, give them something exciting to reach for. This helps them shift their center of gravity and put one or both hands on the floor for support, getting them closer to an all-fours position.

Watch developmental expert Rachel Coley demonstrate six play positions that help your baby build muscle strength for crawling:

Sidesitting, tall kneel, and other play positions can help your baby build muscle strength and balance for crawling.

5. Low kneel
Place a couch cushion or pillow on the floor with a plaything, like the Things I See Texture Cards, on top. Position your baby in a kneel, with their knees touching the cushion, their body leaning forward, and hands in front. You can gently use your hands to keep their knees tucked under their hips. This helps them put weight through their knees and build their core strength. The low kneel can be a challenging position, so keep sessions short and give your baby regular opportunities to practice. Reminder: Never leave your child alone with blankets or pillows.

6. Tall kneel
Kneeling engages your baby’s trunk, pelvis, and spine to help them stay upright. A “tall kneel” is when your baby’s bottom is lifted off their heels, working their core muscles and helping them practice balance.

A tall kneel also requires your baby to bear weight on their knees, which is necessary for crawling and for transitioning from the floor to standing. To encourage this, place a toy on a low surface, like a couch or coffee table. Starting in a low kneel, help your baby reach for the toy and shift forward, lifting off their bottom and into a tall kneel. 

Here’s how to use the Ball Drop Box from The Inspector Play Kit to help your baby play in a kneeling position:

7. Tummy time
Studies have clearly shown the benefits of tummy time for crawling development, and research indicates that babies who spend more time in the tummy-down position tend to crawl earlier. Tummy time can start as early as the first week of life—try laying your baby on their tummy for short periods of time and gradually work up to longer stretches of tummy-down play time. Keep your baby engaged during tummy time with high-contrast images, or interactive playthings like a toy mirror or rattle.

Tummy time doesn’t always have to happen on the floor: Your baby may enjoy bonding time with you as they experience tummy time on your chest or lying across your lap.

RELATED: Parent Course: Tummy Time Course Pack

How can I keep my baby safe while they learn to crawl?

As soon as your baby shows signs that they may be crawling soon—for example, scooting or holding in a hands-and-knees position—it’s time to think about babyproofing. 

Any area of your home that your baby has access to should be babyproofed carefully. Safety measures could include things like:

  • Locking or latching cabinets that contain chemicals
  • Installing baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs
  • Using covers on electrical outlets
  • Tying up cords on blinds and curtains
  • Putting away any small toys or items that could be choking hazards
  • Anchoring large furniture such as bookcases or changing tables so they cannot be pulled over

Try creating a babyproofed play area in your home that’s a designated “yes” space for your baby, with playthings, board books, and other safe items that encourage movement and exploration, like the Play Tunnel. Having this “yes” space will encourage your baby to try out their new crawling skills in a safe environment.

What are the stages and styles of crawling?

As your baby becomes more mobile, they may experiment with different types of crawling. Studies find that babies often use a variety of crawling types, sometimes even switching between types within a relatively short period of time. So don’t be surprised if you see your baby army-crawling one day and switching to a bear crawl or even a scoot the next. Your baby may crawl differently depending on the surface they’re moving across, or the clothes they’re wearing.

The types of crawling described below don’t represent “stages” along a developmental path. Instead, think of them as different variations your baby may use as they explore mobility in their own unique way. Regardless of how your baby gets from point A to point B, their newfound independence and motivation to move on their own is a milestone to celebrate. 

The classic crawl

The classic crawl, in which your baby bears their weight on their hands and knees with their belly off the floor, is what most of us imagine when we think of crawling. In this crawl, your baby moves one arm forward as the opposite knee moves forward. Like almost all forms of crawling, the classic crawl helps your baby practice balance, coordinate the two sides of their body, and build strength.

While most babies do the classic crawl at some point, it isn’t universal. Some babies use a variety of other forms of crawling first, or skip the classic crawl altogether. If your baby does learn the classic crawl, they’ll typically develop the skill between 6 and 11 months of age.

You can help encourage your child’s classic crawl through practice and play:

Bare their legs: Put your baby in a short-sleeved onesie without socks so they can use their skin against the floor for better traction. Fun fact: babies don’t need knee pads because their knee caps are actually cartilage tissue, and haven’t ossified into bone yet.

Smooth the way: Let your baby practice crawling on a smooth surface rather than a rug or blanket.

Give them challenges: Encourage your baby to crawl over your leg while you sit on the floor. Crawling over obstacles encourages your baby to lift their tummy off the floor, bearing their weight on their hands and knees. Once your baby is on the move and crawling with their belly off the floor, you can create an obstacle course of pillows to help build their muscles and challenge their new skill. Remember never to leave your child alone with blankets or pillows.

Entice them to reach: You can use the Stainless Steel Jingle Keys to encourage your baby to reach forward in a hands and knees position. Start by placing your baby on all fours. Jingle the keys at your baby’s eye level to encourage them to reach forward with one hand while putting all of their weight on the other. Once they can maintain hands and knees while reaching and touching the keys, try increasing the distance to the keys slightly to see if they’re ready to explore forward movement.

Pediatric physical therapist Giselle Tadros demonstrates how to use a toy to help your baby reach forward on hands and knees.

Explore more ideas and activities for your baby’s exact developmental stage with the Lovevery App. In video: Stainless Steel Jingle Keys from The Explorer Play Kit

The bear crawl

The bear crawl is a variation on the classic crawl. Instead of putting their weight on their hands and knees, your baby puts their weight on their hands and feet. Their elbows and knees stay mostly straight, and they end up walking on hands and feet like a bear.

As with other forms of crawling, babies typically begin bear crawling between 6 to 11 months of age. Different types of crawling can often develop at the same time, so you might see your baby bear crawl one day and scoot the next.

If your baby is only effectively moving by bear crawling, you may want to reach out to a pediatric physical therapist and your pediatrician. In some cases, consistent bear crawling may be an indication of tightness or weakness in the hip joints. Your provider will be able to offer specific strategies for increasing mobility.  

The scoot 

Some babies prefer to scoot on their bottom, also known as a “bum shuffle.” In this crawling variation, your baby uses their trunk muscles with their legs out in front of their body to propel themselves forward. Many babies prefer bottom scooting while they’re still building the strength in their arms and core for crawling.  

You can set up purposeful play activities that will encourage your little scooter to try crawling.

Start on their tummy: Place your baby on their tummy to play, which encourages them to practice moving from their belly up into a seated position. This helps babies who prefer to scoot build core strength for crawling.

Hands and knees play: Position your baby on their hands and knees with an interesting toy in front of them, like the ‘Things I See’ Texture Cards. Gently hold their hips so they’re encouraged to stay on hands and knees. You can even help them rock back and forth to get used to the feeling of bearing their weight on their hands and knees. 

Kneeling walking: Position your baby on their knees with their upper body supported on a tall box in front of them—like the Lovevery box. Slowly push the box forward a few inches to encourage kneeling walking, which engages the same muscles as crawling. Give your baby time to tuck their knees toward the box with each push, or assist them if needed.

Obstacle crawling: Set up obstacles, like your leg or a rolled-up blanket, to encourage your child to crawl over and grab a toy they like.

If your baby is only effectively moving by scooting, you may want to reach out to a pediatric physical therapist and your pediatrician. In some cases, consistent scooting may be an indication of weakness in the core and upper body muscles. Your provider will be able to offer specific strategies for building strength and increasing mobility. 

The commando crawl or “army” crawl

Another common form of crawling is the commando or “army” crawl, in which your baby lays on their belly and uses their arms to move forward. Research suggests that as many as half of babies use this crawl, often before moving on to the classic crawl. While your baby is still building the arm strength to put weight on their hands, the army crawl lets them keep most of their weight on their belly. This also helps them solve the issue of balance, since keeping their belly on the floor helps them maintain stability. 

Although this type of crawling may not seem very efficient, studies show that this type of crawl has some benefits. Research suggests that babies who commando crawl are more efficient later at classic crawling than babies who don’t do some form of belly crawl. Commando crawling may help your baby coordinate the movement of their arms and legs.

A variation on the commando crawl is sometimes called the “inchworm” crawl. This type of crawl is similar to the commando crawl in that your baby is on their belly. In an inchworm crawl, your baby lifts their upper body to propel themselves forward, heavily relying on their arms, but without alternating their left and right legs.

Your baby may be more interested in trying the classic hands-and-knees crawl after getting some practice putting weight on their knees. To encourage them to get onto all fours, try placing a couch cushion on the floor with a toy like the Ball Drop Box on top of it. Then place your baby in a kneeling position against the cushion where they can play with the toy on top, which helps build your baby’s core strength and encourages your baby to put weight on their knees. “This can be a challenging position for an army crawler—you may need to prevent their knees from ‘frogging’ out to the side by gently keeping them together,” notes pediatric physical therapist Giselle Tadros. Be patient with your baby, start slowly, and stop when they’ve had enough.

The asymmetrical crawl  

Your baby may try a form of crawling in which they primarily use one knee and one foot to move forward. This style is called an asymmetrical crawl, since your baby is using one side of their body more than the other. You might also hear it called the crab crawl, the hitch crawl, or the one-legged crawl.

Sometimes babies use asymmetrical crawling for a short period of time and then progress to a more traditional form of crawling. If you see your baby continuing to use asymmetrical crawling after a few weeks, you may want to consider speaking with your child’s pediatrician to get your little one evaluated by a licensed pediatric physical therapist. There can be many reasons why your child may prefer to crawl this way, and an evaluation will offer insight into whether your baby may benefit from specific activities. 

How to encourage symmetrical crawling

Pediatric physical therapists like to encourage symmetrical movement patterns because they help your baby’s motor coordination and strength develop equally on both sides. There are a few techniques you can try to encourage your baby to explore symmetrical crawling styles, which help them learn to put their weight more evenly on both sides of their body:

Crawling over pillows: Pediatric PTs recommend pillow crawling for many babies, even those that aren’t doing an asymmetrical crawl. Simply lay some throw pillows on the floor in a pile and encourage your baby to crawl over them. This will strengthen and stretch both sides of their body. Reminder: Never leave your child unsupervised with blankets or pillows.

Kneeling: Encourage your child to play in a tall kneeling position, with their bottom lifted off their heels, by placing their toys on an elevated surface like a removed couch cushion or a step. You can help your baby maintain this position by lightly placing your hands behind their knees. Once your baby gets comfortable in this position, you can try “kneeling walking,” an alternative way to encourage bearing weight on both knees. While your baby plays in a kneeling position with their upper body supported on a tall box in front of them, slowly push the box forward a few inches at a time. Give your baby time to move their knees toward the box with each push, offering assistance if needed.

Playing on hands and knees: Place your child on their hands and knees over your leg to encourage them to play in the crawling position. This will help them get more comfortable on all fours while you give them a little extra support. 

When will my child stop crawling?

Once your toddler starts walking, they will probably crawl less often—although they may crawl faster than they can walk at first. 

Even after your toddler learns to walk, it’s helpful to continue to encourage some crawling during play. Crawling has many benefits for toddlers. When your toddler crawls, they:

  • Build upper body and core strength
  • Engage in complex movement that requires both sides of their brain to work together 
  • Receive deep-pressure sensory input and feedback on their hands, feet, knees, and legs 
  • Learn how their body interacts with their environment 

If your child skipped the crawling stage, they can still gain all these motor skill benefits through crawling during play time. Here are some activities to encourage your toddler to crawl:

Tunnel time: The Play Tunnel can be used in so many ways, especially to encourage your toddler to crawl. Place a puzzle piece at one end and the puzzle base at the other. Your toddler has to crawl through the tunnel to put the puzzle piece in its place. You can also have your toddler sit in the tunnel and play a game in which you pass a ball in and out of the tunnel. They can try using their crawling motion to move the ball through the tunnel.

Crawling over: Play a simple game with your toddler where you encourage them to crawl over your outstretched legs while sitting on the floor. You can try adding a pillow or two to make it more challenging.

Developmental concerns with crawling

Developmental milestones are based on averages, and each child develops on their own unique timeline. While many babies begin crawling around 8 months of age on average, this skill can develop anywhere from 7 months to 11 months of age. If your 8-month-old is not crawling, they might just be taking a little longer to get the hang of it.  

Although most babies crawl, some babies skip the crawling stage and go straight to walking. In fact, in 2022 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) removed crawling from the organization’s “official” list of developmental milestones. But while crawling is no longer an official motor milestone, developmental therapists continue to encourage babies to crawl because of its many benefits. Crawling is a unique opportunity for your baby to learn how to move their body to get to where they want to be and explore their environment on their own. Similar to walking, crawling helps your baby develop critical motor and cognitive skills and requires both sides of your baby’s body to work together, which builds pathways between the left and right sides of their brain.

Watch for physical movements that can be precursors to crawling. Are they scooting forward or backward on their belly? Does your baby try to put their weight on their hands and knees, or their hands and feet? If your baby is showing signs of typical motor development in these other ways, and has developed a form of independent mobility, there may be no cause for concern.

If your baby regularly only uses one side of their body to propel themselves or push up, or doesn’t show any signs of self-initiated movements, discuss it with your pediatrician. They can assess your baby’s developmental path and recommend a physical or occupational therapist if needed. You may also reach out to your state’s early intervention program to see if your baby is eligible for services.

Posted in: 5 - 6 Months, 7 - 8 Months, 9 - 10 Months, 11 - 12 Months, Motor Skills

Meet the Experts

Learn more about the Lovevery child development experts who created this story.

Amy Webb, PhD
Amy Webb, Associate Writer at Lovevery, is a child development scholar and researcher who holds a Doctorate in Human Development and Family Sciences.
Gabrielle Felman, MSEd, LCSW
Gabrielle Felman, founder of Felman Early Childhood Consulting, works with children from birth to age 7 to support social, emotional, and cognitive learning.
Giselle Tadros, PT
Dr. Giselle Tadros is the founder of In-Home Pediatric PT of NJ and Milk Matters PT. She has been helping babies and families in her community for over 20 years.
Maral Amani, PT, DPT
Maral Amani is a licensed pediatric physical therapist certified in early intervention who works with children living with disabilities, delays, and neurodivergence.
Rachel Coley, MS, OT/L
Rachel Coley is a pediatric occupational therapist and child development expert, and founder of CanDo Kiddo.
Zachary Stuckleman, PhD
Zachary Stuckleman is a researcher and child development expert who holds a Doctorate in Developmental Psychology and is the Lead Content Researcher at Lovevery.

Research & Resources

Adolph, K. E., Vereijken, B., & Denny, M. A. (1998). Learning to crawl. Child Development, 69(5), 1299-1312.

Adolph, K. E., & Robinson, S. R. (2013). The road to walking: What learning to walk tells us about development. In P. D. Zelazo (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of developmental psychology (Vol. 1): Body and mind (pp. 403–443). Oxford University Press.

Lobo, M. A., & Galloway, J. C. (2012). Enhanced handling and positioning in early infancy advances development throughout the first year. Child development, 83(4), 1290-1302.

Robson, P. (1970). Shuffling, hitching, scooting or sliding: some observations in 30 otherwise normal children. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 12(5), 608-617.

Størvold, G. V., Aarethun, K., & Bratberg, G. H. (2013). Age for onset of walking and prewalking strategies. Early human development, 89(9), 655-659.

View More References

Keep reading