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Crawling more can help infants better identify hazards, study finds

Giving infants the opportunity to be more mobile can help their safety

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Photo (c) FluxFactory - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Otago explored the benefits associated with getting infants crawling and moving. 

The team explained that crawling is an integral part of infants’ development, and the more that they’re able to crawl, the better they are at being able to identify and avoid potential hazards. 

“Caregivers should be aware of the important role crawling plays in infant development and the benefits of promoting crawling opportunities for their infants,” said researcher Dr. Carolina Burnay.

“By touching the floor and looking closely to it, infants learn to distinguish safe from unsafe surfaces to locomote and start avoiding falls… Over-protecting babies by limiting their opportunities to self-locomote does not keep them safe, instead, it delays their development of the perception of risky situations.”

Keeping infants moving

The researchers conducted two studies to determine how infants’ crawling skills impacted their ability to identify and avoid risks. Both studies were focused on how well the infants were able to avoid water, which is one area -- especially in the summer -- where parents are worried about their babies’ safety. In both cases, the researchers learned that infants with more experience crawling were less likely to fall when next to water.

“The main difference between the babies that fell and those who avoided falling in the water was the amount of crawling experience they had,” Dr.  Burnay said. “A very interesting result was that the amount of prior crawling experience they had informed their perception of the risk and behavior even when they were already walking -- hence it seems very helpful for babies to crawl and explore their environment.” 

While safety around water is certainly important for infants, these findings are also applicable to general safety. The more time that infants spend crawling, the better they’ll be at identifying potential hazards or risks to their safety. It’s important that parents and caregivers allow their babies the freedom to move around, as this developmental leap will likely help protect them. 

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