Many babies learn how to crawl at the same time they learn to sit on their own. Crawling, however, takes longer to perfect than does sitting without assistance. At six months, expect your baby to sit for a second, but balance will come later; also, you will probably notice your baby get into a crawling position, but not know how to proceed after that. Even though 'crawling' usually means progress on hands and knees, many babies use other moves to get them where they're going. Rolling, slithering, 'bottom shuffling' (when a baby pushes around while sitting, using one hand to make the propelling motion), and pulling along on elbows are all maneuvers used instead of the conventional crawling, so don't be surprised if you see those first. Still other babies learn to crawl in the ordinary way, and then figure out that they can move faster on their hands and feet than their hands and knees.
If something is out of reach of a six-month-old baby, you may see that baby pull up the knees under the body, push up with hands and often manage to get the tummy off the floor. For that moment, the baby is in a crawling position, but needs encouragement to actually add forward motion to the mix. By the ninth month, early crawlers start to make some real progress—though it's often backwards, away from the object they're trying to reach! Upper-body control is more developed than leg-control, so a baby tends to push harder with hands and arms than with knees—propelling the baby backwards. Not to worry (and try to reassure your frustrated baby, too!), this is just a short-lived phase.
The biggest advantage baby has when it comes to solving problems is with the development of large and small muscles over the course of the first year, helping various tasks become easier. The two-block stack that will seem too complicated for your little architect one month will become an easy three-block stack just a few weeks later.
When baby starts to focus on lower muscles (around 10–12 months), you might want to put favorite toys on the couch, encouraging your child to stand in order to reach them. This helps build balance and strong leg muscles necessary for cruising, a forerunner to walking. Once a baby solves the problem of how to stand and balance, and how to move one foot in front of the other, watch that glowing smile of accomplishment—your baby is now beginning to walk. Who'd ever thought it would happen so fast? Once you've reached this stage, you know your baby really 'did it'—and your family will never be the same. Talk about an accomplishment you can be proud of!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.