By Brett Klika, CSCS
Crawling- it’s not just for baby’s anymore!
One of the most rudimentary human movement patterns just happens to be one of the most effective exercises in helping kids (and adults) improve core strength and stability, coordination, and a whole host of other essential aspects of physical development.
Many clinicians are also using crawling patterns as interventions to improve behavior, focus, and even emotional regulation with kids.
Whether you want to employ crawling exercises as a fun physical challenge or a serious clinical intervention, integrating a little creativity not only makes this exercise more engaging, it can open new doors for fitness and physical development!
Try these beginner, intermediate, and advanced crawling patterns and activities with your kids and adults!
For all of these activities, try either a 6- point (baby) crawl (knees on the ground) as the most basic version, or the 4- point (bear) crawl (knees off the ground) for the most advanced version for each. For all crawling patterns, reinforce the contralateral arm/leg pattern.
Whenever performing a large volume of crawling activities, preferably use a soft surface such as grass or a mat to pad the palms of the hands and knees. Examine the area beforehand to make sure there are no hazards or sharp objects. When in grass, be sensitive to individual allergies and scan the area for thorns or other sharp undergrowth.
- Cone Course:
This activity allows participants to experience all of the different directions and body orientations involved with crawling.
Set up a series of cones that have to be navigated in either the baby or bear crawl position. Create situations for forward, backward, sideways, narrow, wide, and other body orientations.
For example: Set up cones in a “W” formation with a line of cones afterward. Starting at the tip of the W, crawl forward to the first cone, backward to the second, and so on. Once through the “W,” crawl sideways over the line of cones.
- Imaginary Animal Crawl:
This activity helps kids draw their own “mental map” of how to orient their limbs in a crawling position in a variety of different ways.
Call out either a real, or imaginary animal and have participants cross a grid, or move around in a space as their interpretation of that animal, maintaining a crawling locomotion pattern. To make it more fun, have them add their animal’s sounds as well.
- Crab crawl:
This activity helps balance the strength, mobility, and coordination of the front and back sides of the body resulting in better posture. This is particularly important for kids that spend growingly more time slumped over computers.
Starting in a seated position with hands and feet on the ground, raise the hips and instruct participants to move across a grid, or in a space, keeping the hips as high as possible.
- Cheetah crawls:
This crawl variation integrates power production and control from the lower body to the upper body.
Starting in a bear crawl position, “hop” the feet forward toward to the outside of the hands. Once the feet land, either walk (easier) or “hop” (more advanced) the hands forward and repeat across either a grid or in a designated space.
- Gorilla crawls:
This crawl variation develops tremendous core strength in order to effectively move the torso and lower body in either direction.
Begin in a bear crawl position. “Hop” both feet forward and to one side of the body. Walk (easier) or Hop (more advanced) the hands to realign the body in the bear crawl position. Once aligned, hop the feet to the other side of the body and repeat across a grid, or in a designated space.
- Spiderman crawls:
This crawl variation helps improve hip mobility and strength, in addition to core stability.
Begin in a “bear crawl” position. Begin moving in the crawl pattern, but instruct participants to bring their knees to the outside of their elbows, keeping the hips as low to the ground as possible, while reaching the hands as far forward as possible (like Spiderman).
- Rolling crawls
This crawl variation challenges the core and vestibular system to re-orient the head and torso as the body turns over.
Begin in a bear crawl position. Without touching the knees or hips to the ground, “roll” the body over into the crab crawl position. Without touching the hips to the ground, “roll” the body back over into the bear crawl position, moving in one direction. Continue across a grid or in a designated space.
- Crawl ball
This advanced crawl game is a great team or individual aerobic conditioning and muscular strength activity.
Using cones or other designated “goal” establish a play field with a goal at each end. The playing area should be large enough to allow for all participants to move freely, but small enough so all players are engaged with game play.
Players begin in the bear crawl position, one team with a tennis or foam ball. The player with the ball has a 3-count to pass the ball to another teammate. Each team attempts to get the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
If the ball touches the ground, either team is eligible to reclaim it.
No player at any time can touch their knees or hips to the ground while playing the game. Each game consists of four 60 second quarters. If for any reason, a player touches their knees or hips to the ground, they are out for the remainder of that quarter.
Defensive players cannot take the ball away from offensive players. They must wait until the ball is dropped on the ground, or an offensive player has the ball for more than 3 seconds.
Try these crawling variations either individually, or as a component of games and other activities to develop fitness and physical literacy while having a great time doing it.
For more crawling variations and other research, insight, and information on improving fitness and health for ALL kids, join our weekly newsletter!