Tummy time is an essential component for babies to promote sensory, visual, and motor development. You can begin doing tummy time with your baby as soon as you leave the hospital. For a newborn, start small with a few minutes of tummy time a day. By three months, try having your baby doing tummy time for a total of one hour. Don’t worry, that hour can be broken up into small sessions throughout the day.
For some babies, tummy time is not their favorite activity. Your baby may cry while on his/her tummy—it’s completely normal. Your baby just feels uncomfortable trying something new. If your baby seems distressed try tummy time at another time during the day. Preferably after a good nap and a full belly!
The Benefits Of Tummy Time
Your baby should continue tummy time until he/she begins to crawl sometime between 7 to 9 months of age. By placing your baby on his/her stomach, it will build the necessary muscles to begin crawling.
Tummy time benefits your baby in the following ways:
Helps build neck, back, and core muscles
Builds muscles to help a baby reach milestones like rolling, sitting, crawling, and eventually walking
Baby develops his/her tactile sense (sense of touch) during tummy time
Increases body awareness as baby shifts and adjusts his/her position during tummy time
Helps develop baby’s sense of balance and movement when he/she is placed into different positions
Develops hand and eye coordination
5 Tummy Time Activities To Try
1. Face-to-Face: This activity thrives on closeness with your baby. Start by laying down on a couch with your upper body slightly inclined, then place the baby on his/her tummy against your chest. Baby will lift and turn his/her head to see you. You can encourage your baby to lift his/her head by making kissing sounds or singing a song.
At first, your baby will only be able to lift his/her head for a couple of seconds. But over time, the length of time will increase as muscles are being built. Remember, practice makes perfect! This tummy time activity can be modified in difficulty when you see your baby doing well at a slight incline.
Simply, lay yourself flat on the floor and place your baby on your chest tummy down. This is a much difficult position for your baby. Always remember to keep a hand on your baby to prevent him/her from rolling!
2. Water Play: Place your baby’s upper body tummy side down on a nursing pillow or boppy. Take a baking or sheet pan (with edges) and put lukewarm water in it. Don’t worry you don’t need it too deep. Just add enough water to keep your baby entertained. Then add ball pit balls or small rubber duckies. I’ve found ball pit balls work the best for this activity because they are extremely light and will float. This activity will help keep the baby calm during tummy time, plus increase your baby’s sense of touch and vision.
3. Sensory Bags: Sensory bags are amazing for tummy time because they lay flat. To make a sensory bag for tummy time, take a gallon size Ziplock bag, and try some of the following combinations:
Clear hair gel with large buttons
A piece of white craft paper with 5 to 6 drops of paint. This allows your baby to mix colors without the mess!
Vegetable oil, water, and food coloring
Since baby’s don’t see an array of colors until between 4 to 6 months of age, try using contrasting colors.
4. Reading Time: Tummy time is the perfect time to read to your baby. Instead of reading to your baby sitting up, place your baby tummy down on a nursing pillow, and lay in front of your baby. This will help your baby turn and leave his/her head to see what story you are reading.
5. Black and White Books: Because babies do not fully see an array of colors until 4 to 6 months, contrasting colors like black and white are attention-grabbing for a baby during tummy time. You can make your own black and white images or purchase a baby book made up of black and white images. These are simple images of everyday objects like apples and boats. Many contrasting color books are designed to be folded out so every page is visible to your baby. You can either place the black and white images on the floor face up or place the images or book standing up. This will help your baby strengthen his/her neck and back by lifting the neck to focus on the images.
Don’t forget to have fun with tummy time! When babies first start tummy time, it can be uncomfortable for them because they lack the neck and back strength to keep their heads up. But with more practice, a baby will gain the strength to keep their head up longer to meet essential milestones. Thankfully, tummy time doesn’t have to be a struggle for your baby. It can be fun when adding in these entertaining tummy time activities into your baby’s everyday life!