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What it Means If Your Baby is Scooting Instead of Crawling

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

If you hear the words “creepy, crawly things” and think “babies” instead of “bugs,” then you might be a parent.

Before babies walk, they typically creep, scoot, or crawl. (Not always, of course, since some kids actually skip this stage altogether.) It’s how they begin to explore their world in yet another way.

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And you can’t really predict how your baby will choose to start moving. We tend to think of the traditional crawling method on hands and knees, but lots of babies have their own ideas about the best way to crawl.

For many, scooting is their preferred way to get around — and that’s perfectly OK.

What is scooting?

Scooting is one (adorable) way some babies get around when they first start moving independently. It’s a prelude to traditional crawling for some babies, but others prefer scooting to get around and may stick with it until they’re ready to start pulling up and try walking.

Your baby may prefer one style over another, or you might see a baby who scoots along on their bottom in many different directions, essentially combining a couple of styles into one.

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Here’s what you might see:

Bottom scooting

Some babies scoot along on their bottoms from a seated position, using their arms to propel them. They might go forward, or they might go backward.

Sideways scooting

Some babies even scoot sideways on their bottoms, scuttling like a crab on the beach.

Belly crawling

Others flop down on their bellies and use their arms to drag themselves along with their legs just along for the ride. You may have heard this called “combat crawling” or the “army crawl.”

Rolling
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Why not just roll with it? That’s the attitude taken by some babies who prefer to roll on the floor to get to where they want to go.

When does scooting generally start?

Most experts will tell you to start watching for the first signs of creeping and crawling after your baby hits the 6-month-old mark. Once your baby can sit unassisted, it’s time to start anticipating some attempts at scooting or crawling.

Most babies begin scooting, creeping, or crawling between 6 and 12 months. That may seem like a pretty big range to you, but it’s actually the normal span of time. Some babies get moving really early, while others take a more leisurely approach.

It might take your baby a little while to develop the confidence to shift from sitting to crawling. You might anticipate some attempts at scooting or crawling if you notice your little one getting up onto their hands and knees and rocking back and forth a little. This is often a precursor to some movement.

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Then, you might hear a howl of frustration when your baby valiantly tries to move forward toward that shiny toy, only to find themselves scooting or creeping backward. This early backward movement isn’t uncommon for babies still trying to figure it all out.

Extra precautions to take now that baby is on the move

It’s hard to really grasp how fast babies can move until you actually see them do it. They can get into all sorts of mischief once they’re mobile. So, if your little one is showing signs of scooting or creeping, don’t wait to babyproof your home.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Bathroom. You can install locks for the toilet, medicine cabinet, and under- sink cabinets, especially if you store household cleaning products, toiletries, or cosmetics there.
  • Kitchen. Make sure those kitchen cabinets have latches to keep their contents out of reach. That includes not just kitchen cleaning supplies, but also spices, oils, and other ingredients that might be easier to open than you anticipate. An oven door lock is also a good idea.
  • Living areas. Studies show the dangers of unsecured televisions and furniture, which can tip over and harm a small child. You can buy anchors or drywall screws to fasten dressers and other furniture to the walls. Mount your TV to a wall or piece of furniture.
  • Dining area. Be careful with long tablecloths, as babies can pull on them, and table contents (including sharp utensils, plates, and hot foods) can fall down.

You may want to buy safety latches for drawers and outlet covers in bulk, as you’ll want to make sure these have been secured before curious little hands can reach them.

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You can also install protective guards on sharp corners of tables and furniture. And be sure to watch out for electrical cords and fragile items.

There are also special safety precautions to take with regard to swimming pools, garages, and outdoor spaces, so add those to your list if they apply.

Once these safety items are in place, it’s important to check them periodically to make sure everything is still secure and functioning properly. If you have additional questions, chat with your child’s doctor.

How to encourage crawling

You don’t want to force your baby into crawling in a different style if they’ve already shown a preference for scooting or belly crawling. Babies tend to have their own minds about things.

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But scooting, creeping, and crawling are important ways for your baby to learn about the world around them. So, you can gently encourage your baby to give crawling a try.

Make sure you give your baby plenty of chances for tummy time in a safe area. Put a favorite toy or object just out of reach as an incentive for them to wiggle their way toward it. Remove any obstacles that might get in their way so that they don’t get prematurely discouraged.

Consider giving them extra free time to work on their scooting and crawling. The more time they spend cooped up in a stroller, swing, or crib, the fewer opportunities they have to practice.

What’s next in terms of milestones

Sometimes, babies will progress from scooting or rolling to crawling in the traditional method, on their hands and knees with their bellies off the floor. But they might not, and that’s fine too.

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It’s important to remember this: YBMV. Your Baby May Vary. Some babies scoot. Some babies roll. Some babies crawl. Some crawl early, some crawl later, and some just go straight to cruising and walking.

Similarly, the age at which babies start walking varies. Some babies are walking at 9 or 10 months of age, while others might not walk until they’re 16 or 17 months old.

When to worry about baby’s movement

If you’ve ever had someone tell you, “Don’t worry,” you might have grumbled something like, “Easy for you to say.” The truth is, when you become a parent, you’re going to worry about stuff. Sometimes it’s warranted, and sometimes it’s not.

But when it comes to your baby scooting or crawling, you really don’t have to worry about their age, especially if your child is hitting all the other normal milestones.

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However, you can let your child’s doctor know if your baby doesn’t seem to show any interest in trying to scoot, creep around, or stand by their first birthday. It might be totally fine, but you might feel better if you talk it over.

And it’s definitely a good idea to tell your pediatrician if you notice that your baby is dragging one side of their body or they’ve been trying for a long time to move forward but can’t. Taking a video of any concerning movements and showing the doctor is helpful.

The bottom line

Your baby might be a scooter, a roller, a creeper, or a crawler. Their chosen method of getting from point A to point B is just a matter of style.

As long as you have made your home as safe as possible and your baby is meeting developmental milestones in the normal range, it’s all fine. But if you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to bring them up with your child’s doctor.

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