As was talked about in ‘To Crawl or Not to Crawl…‘ I don’t feel that crawling is essential as a form of mobility. There are many other ways for children to get around. One of these forms is scooting, generally on their butt (a.k.a. tush, bum, bottom, etc.). Many times parents want to know if this is a ‘bad’ way for their child to get around. The article Super Scooters states that based on research (although their sources are not named, and I was unable to find my own) scooting as a form of locomotion has little to no developmental consequences.
Before I continue, a general definition of scooting is when a child moves around, primarily in a sitting position, using their legs and/or arms to propel themselves. Now that everyone is on the same page as to what scooting is, I don’t think scooting is bad, however based on my experience I feel that there are some things that can become problematic.
The first is if they are primarily using only one side of their body to propel themselves around. This can cause uneven development by disproportionately increasing the strength on one side over the other side. It can also cause decreased weight bearing on the side that isn’t being used which can affect your child’s hip development. Lastly it can increase the risk of scoliosis by using an uneven posture for extended periods of time.
The second is a little subtler. I have noticed with many of my kids that scoot, that they have a harder time isolating and activating just one leg at a time for activities such as pulling to stand and stepping up onto a height. They will generally quickly pull their other leg up so that they can push with two legs rather than just one. Many of you may be scratching your heads as to what I am talking about so I will attempt to create a visual through words. When a child pulls to stand they are supposed to hold onto a support surface while in a kneeling position, then bring one foot forward so it is resting flat on the floor and then using a combination of pushing with their leg and pulling with their arms they raise up into standing on the front leg and bring the back leg along until they are standing on two feet. See pictures to help with the visuals:
With a child who scoots a lot they have a harder time pushing up on just one leg so they will hold on for dear life with their arms and bring their back leg up so they are in a squatting position and then push to stand.
Third, your child may have decreased trunk/core strength if they scoot rather than crawl because they are not getting to work on their abs against gravity. This can affect their balance when they start standing and walking.
Lastly, children who scoot sometimes have a harder time weight shifting onto one leg and then the other when they begin to stand and start cruising or walking. This is because some types of scooting do not require weight shifting side to side.
So, do I think it’s okay for kids to scoot? Yes. I think it provides them a means of mobility and a chance to explore their environment as well as develop some independence in mobility. That being said, I would also begin to encourage them to learn how to crawl in order to get the benefits of using their arms and legs in a reciprocal (one at a time) pattern, as well as the other benefits they can get from crawling. The only time I would discourage my child from scooting is when they are doing it asymmetrically, or using one side primarily and not the other side. You want to nip this in the bud early so that they can grow and develop evenly without risk of further complications!