Tummy time is one of the first baby activities that is suggested to new parents. It’s a baby’s first workout and, loved or hated, is an important part of infant development.
Tummy time is as simple as allowing a baby to lie on his tummy for a few minutes. It strengthens his core, arms, neck and shoulders as he learns to push himself up and balance in that position. Because of the recommendations to place babies on their backs while asleep, tummy time also helps to reduce the chances of positional plagiocephaly (flat head). Babies with flat spots sometimes end up needing corrective helmets to reshape their heads. Just a few minutes a day in a different position, on their tummies, can help avoid that issue. As a bonus, tummy time also can help boost motor skills!
The online Mayo Clinic website suggests starting babies as young as newborns in a modified daily tummy time. Laying a newborn across your lap for just a few minutes a day can start early conditioning of his or her muscles in preparation for longer tummy time periods down the road.
As your baby grows stronger, you can then transition him to the floor where toys can be used as an encouragement to keep going. Research suggests that babies who are as young as a few months old can handle up to 20 minutes of tummy time spaced throughout the day. As long as the baby is awake and alert and you are near in case he needs help, tummy time is an easy addition to playtime.
Babies don’t always appreciate the challenge of tummy time, even though we know that it’s for their own good. Shorter periods of tummy time can make the activity more tolerable as a baby learns to use her new muscles, and your smiling face provides a sweet distraction as she works hard to grow into her new position.
Encouraging our kids to learn new skills is something that we have to be intentional about throughout their childhoods. Tummy time is just the beginning of our chance as parents to challenge our kids to grow and learn!
Strategies to Make Tummy Time Fun!
Use your lap, a rolled towel or a boppy for beginning support. Molly Shalz, Blue Springs, suggests holding Baby on an exercise ball and rolling gently back and forth for added balancing practice.
Cynthia Wright, Kansas City, loved using a mirror with her daughter. It’s easy entertainment, and babies enjoy making faces at themselves as they learn to push up on their arms.
Brookside mom Alyvia Elliot uses tummy time to get down on the floor with her kids. Face-to-face interaction helps develop a wonderful emotional bond, as well as encourage the physical growth that is the goal of tummy time.
“Placing toys just within reach helps keep Baby engaged instead of frustrated,” Rachel Holt, Independence, says. It’s a great way to combine playtime with tummy time!
Rebecca Ishum lives in South Kansas City with her husband, Sean, and their 4-year-old quadruplets. She blogs about their adventures raising their family at ABeautifulRuckus.com.