Here’s our newest baby apparatus – a crawling track!
If you’re anything like me until about 2.5 months ago, you’ve never heard of a crawling track and can’t imagine why in the world anyone would want one! I read about this when Yirmiyahu was two or three days old, and once I understood the benefits resolved that we would make one for him.
The idea of a crawling track is to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which your baby is encouraged to move from birth (if you have one at that point). Why not the floor? The narrowness of the track allows the baby to move forward, and the sides give him something to push off against. A blanket on the floor would get rumpled and in the way, a mat on the floor doesn’t have anything for the baby to push against to keep him going straight. Also, the track can be lifted on one side at different angles depending on the age of the baby, according to what is needed to help him make his way down the track (higher for very young infants, lower as they get older). Once a child knows how to crawl, they don’t use a crawling track anymore – this provides a place for them to have lots of early opportunity to move and when they can crawl on the floor they won’t need this. The recommendation to use a crawling track comes from the work of Glenn Doman, who has studied the development of healthy and brain damaged children for over fifty years and shares practical suggestions for parents based on his experiences.
What’s the point of encouraging them to move? Very much in brief, there is a direct relationship between movement and learning. Crawling on the belly and creeping on all fours is critical to integrating the primitive reflexes of the lower parts of the brain. The lower parts of the brain are organized in the first year of life through crawling on the belly and creeping on all fours. The more organized movement there is, the better it is for the brain. This is good for any baby, but for a baby with issues like T21 I think this is of even more value in enhancing their physical and cognitive development.
Yirmiyahu below on the track for the first time – one end was slightly raised so that he would be at an incline that would assist in his movements. Edited to add: It’s recommended that a baby go down the track ten times a day – so far Yirmiyahu only goes down it a few times daily but we’re working up to the recommended amount of times.
You can see below how he’s lifting his head and pushing one leg against the floor of the track to propel himself forward.
The next picture was taken just a couple of minutes later – notice how he’s moved forward on the track. It helps to have brothers to cheer him along the way!
These can be purchased in the US for about $450 – not cheap! I knew this was something we could make ourselves but it took a while to make it because I wanted to do it as frugally as possible, and that meant finding materials that I could recycle for this project. A couple of weeks ago, we found something that someone was giving away that looked like we could dissemble for the materials, and brought it home. That was a great find, but the next day, ds10 found something even better, which is what we ended up using. It was just the right width and length for the track and the sides, and was basically a board covered with a thin layer of foam and material (we took this apart so that it could be washed before using it). The track is supposed to be six feet long, and the sides are between 6 – 8 inches high. The foam wasn’t one inch thick, which is what was recommended, but it’s comfortable and firm so it works out just fine.
Though it’s recommended to use vinyl or naugahyde for the top layer, I preferred the soft and velvety material that I used – it’s smooth enough that it doesn’t impede movement, but there aren’t issues of offgassing that vinyl would have. Then again, it won’t be as easy to clean as vinyl but to me that’s a small price to pay for something that is better for the baby’s health, not to mention more cozy. Dh cut each side piece and then affixed them to the bottom piece with brackets. The ten brackets were our only financial outlay for this project – a total cost of twenty shekels ($5). Once he finished that, he left the rest of the project for me. While it took time, it wasn’t difficult, and I was very pleased with how it turned out.
We keep this in the living room and Yirmiyahu goes in as often as we can manage – people like to hold him a lot when he’s awake so this limits his track time. Since babies move so much in their sleep, it’s recommended to put them in this rather than a crib to give them room to move, which we do for naps. At night, he sleeps with me and his movement is limited to him squiggling himself as close to me as he can get. Which I totally love.