I talk about tummy time a lot, but that’s ok because I love it! I know that it is important and I love to talk about the virtues of putting baby on their front (even if it’s just for a little bit) every day, but also because it’s up there with one of the most asked about topics from parents. ‘Why is it essential for my baby?’ ‘How can I make it more fun?’ ‘Help, my baby hates tummy time!’
So here goes, my guide to tummy time – why you should do it and how to make it enjoyable for parents and baby – by the end I hope you love it as much as I do...
Tummy time is essential for your baby’s development because it promotes:
• Healthy development of the central nervous system and brain.
• A strong neck, back and upper body muscles.
• Balance, coordination, stability and postural skills.
• Flat hand development, which increases precision finger and thumb movements.
• Rolling over.
• Visual development.
• Crawling - an essential developmental milestone not to be missed.
However, babies don’t always agree that it’s a good thing! Some like it straight away, but others find it a bit unfamiliar and will get upset when placed on their front.
The key is to build it up gradually - just a couple of times a day and only for a few minutes. Soon it will become part of your baby’s daily routine and they will learn to enjoy playing and practising essential head control movements in this position.
Don’t make it a chore! Instead inject some fun into tummy time with these ten top tips:
1. Keep your baby company on the floor. Coo, sing or make funny sounds to encourage them to lift up their head.
2. Roll up a towel and place it under your baby’s chest, or use a toy like the ‘Say Hello’ Tummy Time Discovery Toy. Extend your baby’s arms forwards. This supported position allows your baby to lift up their head and look around, which improves focusing ability and strengthens neck muscles.
3. Place a safety mirror or favourite toy in front of your baby and call their attention to it. This will encourage your baby to lift their head to get a better look.
4. Shake a rattle or bell to one side of your baby to encourage them to turn towards the sound.
5. Lie on your back and put your baby on your bare tummy or chest. Say your baby’s name to encourage them to raise his head to get a better look at you.
6. Put your baby on the edge of the bed and sit on the floor with your face next to theirs. From this position, you can interact and play together.
7. Put your baby on their tummy over a beach or gym ball and hold them firmly while you gently rock the ball back and forth. Your baby will learn to shift their body weight, which improves balance and coordination.
8. Roll a ball over your baby’s back, legs and arms. It’s a great way to stimulate their skin and relieve tension.
9. Exercise or massage your baby after a bath while they lie on their tummy.
10. Place a ball in front of your baby and within easy reach. As soon as they touch the ball, it will roll away. Your baby will either ‘swim’ on their tummy or lift themselves up on their forearms in an attempt to reach it.
Tummy time is an essential aspect of development because it leads on to crawling. Crawling fires groups of neurons (brain cells) in different parts of the cortex responsible for visual processing, sensory perception, conscious planning and prediction. It also activates eye-teaming, a crucial skill in learning to read.
Crawling is a key period in your baby’s physical and intellectual development and it only takes a few minutes of daily tummy time to start seeing results.
Babies who spend most of their waking hours on their backs may experience delays in developmental milestones. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, see your GP.
Baby Sensory founder, Dr. Lin Day (PhD, M.Phil, PGCE, BSc, Dip Ed, SRN), is one of the UK’s leading parenting experts and a renowned author within the fields of sensory and childhood development.