I do not remember my first steps, but I have a clear memory of crawling on hands and knees up a tall staircase. In the memory picture I see faded wallpaper on both sides, framing the steps with colorful images and faces. In my child mind they feel friendly. At the top a large window allows the sun to cast wide beams of light across the floor. Somewhere in the mists at the edges of the scene I see a wooden handrail at the top and a long hallway.
Once when sitting with family during the holidays discussing our earliest memories, this picture from my past emerged. My parents verified we lived in a house during my early crawling years with a staircase that had clown wallpaper.
Along with the memory of the friendly faces cheering me on, I recall early feelings, a desire to reach the floor with the sunshine at the top, a sense of physical challenge. This movie in my mind ends with the climb.
I wonder what it would feel like to try to crawl up the stairs today, so I set a timer for one minute and try it.
On hands and knees, I cannot remember the physical movements required to shift my weight up onto the next step. Where do the hands go? Which leg and which hand? I wonder if this is harder for children than it looks, or easier because they are shorter and smaller. Seconds tick by and my body has not moved up one step, let alone two or more. My mind analyzes all the ways to shift and support my weight. I finally achieve movement and when the timer buzzes I have slowly and deliberately climbed up four steps.
Now more curious, I crawl around on level ground [i], experimenting with backwards, sideways. I change the order, moving opposite hand and foot, moving the same side hand and foot. The world looks very different from this position. I start smiling and end up laughing. I label this activity fun! [ii]
Set a timer for one minute
- Experiment with crawling on your hands and knees on flat surfaces
- Forward and backward
- Explore crawling on your hands and knees on a staircase
- Just crawl up one step, then stand and walk down
- Crawl up several steps slowly, then stand and walk down
[i] Benefits of crawling for adults.
[ii] Some benefits of play as an adult.