Tummy time is a great way to strengthen your baby’s head, neck, shoulder, and back muscles, helping to prepare him or her for crawling. For full-term babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies begin tummy time in the first weeks you are home with your baby. Begin brief, supervised tummy times on your lap while your baby is in an awake and alert state. Aim for 2 to 3 sessions per day lasting no more than a minute or two.
As baby grows you can make tummy time more engaging. Here are some simple ways to make the most of tummy time, helping your baby improve muscle strength and fostering gross-motor skill development.
Between months 1 and 2, your baby is gaining more and more body control. Soon, he or she will begin thrusting their arms and legs during play. Help strengthen muscles by providing a little resistance—hold your open palm against the bottom of his or her foot, and press back gently.
Around 2-3 months, you can begin extending tummy time. Put your baby on his or her stomach and present interesting things to look at, such as high-contrast images or faces. If your baby fusses, try several short tummy-time periods throughout the day. As your baby’s muscles get stronger, extend tummy time into longer sessions.
At around 3 months, you can begin to introduce tummy rolls. These rolls continue to strengthen muscles and improve coordination. Place your baby tummy-side down on a soccer ball or basketball. Hold your baby tightly as you roll him or her back and forth a few inches on the ball.
At around 4 months, your baby will begin exhibiting pre-crawling motions. These motions greatly increase arm strength and let your baby practice his or her coordination. Help facilitate these motions with Pajama Pivots. During tummy time, put your pajama-clad baby on the floor with enticing toys surrounding them. Your baby will learn to pivot to engage with the items.
Prompting a Roll Over
Beginning at around 5 months, babies can begin to roll over, either on their own or assisted. Help your baby learn to roll by supporting his or her neck, shoulders, and back as you gently roll him or her over from tummy to back. Then, roll him or her back to the tummy.
Back-to-Front Roll Over
By 6 months of age, your baby may have mastered stomach-to-back rollovers. Encourage a more challenging rollover from back to stomach by getting on the floor with your baby when he or she is on his or her back. Put a favorite toy just out of reach and encourage baby to roll to grab it.
Want more playtime activity ideas? Learn more about your baby’s gross-motor skills and how you can help foster physical and cognitive development in the ParentPal app.