So many parents ask me how they can help their infants with tummy time play. I’m a mum of 3 (under age 6) and creator of the Baby Brain Connections preliteracy curriculum. Tummy time is usually the last thing to think about during those newborn weeks and babies usually hate being on their stomachs.
The answer is distraction.
Your baby can’t start out playing for 30 minutes on their tummy. It’s a skill that needs to be developed gradually. The best time to give your baby tummy time is just after a nap but before they’ve been fed. Nap time gives them energy to be alert. It’s better to try tummy time before feeding them otherwise they will spew (learn from my mistakes).
Starting out with tummy time
Tummy time is hard work to start out with. It’s pretty much the last thing on your mind with a newborn. It’s great to get into the habit of gradually building tummy time skills for development.
You can start out my placing them on their tummies as a newborn. Some babies get a sore tummy quickly so try tummy time for short amounts of time, frequently. As your baby grows you’ll be able to go from 1 minute tummy time a day to 2 minutes. Gradually work up to as long as they can take.
Use a mirror to develop self identity
Mirrors are great for self identity. It’s best to keep a smash proof mirror in the play area. As a newborn to 3 months have the mirror straight in front of them. As your baby starts to look at rolling place the mirror off to the side. This will help stretch neck and back muscles for upper body muscles and later prewriting skills.
Try using mirrors at different angles. Lay it on the floor or up against a wall.
Rotate your play space to encourage crawlers over to the mirror.
Dancing develops proprioception and vestibular senses
Do you have a gassy baby or a child that spews a lot? This is the best way to give them tummy time. It gets them up off the ground, taking their body weight off their stomach. The change in movement during dances helps burp all those stomach bubbles.
With all the moment and swinging, they are developing their proprioception and vestibular senses:
Proprioception – Awareness of the position and movement in your body.
Vestibular – Balance and the sense of spatial orientation which comes from the inner ear.
Challenging core and upper body muscles on an incline
You can try and support their upper body first having their legs hanging down a cushion or mat. As they grow and need more of a challenge try, put you baby sloping down a mat to strengthen their upper body muscles.
Textiles for touch sensory play
Different textures promote cognitive thoughts. The more these thoughts occur, the less your baby will think about being on tummy time. If your baby hates tummy time, mix up different textures to play with. Their thoughts will turn to developing their sensory motor brain connections rather than building tummy core muscles. It’s a great distraction for tummy time.
Elevating your baby off the floor will help take the pressure off their arms and upper back. You can try placing books around your baby either propped up or laying flat. Place books within reaching distance or just out of reaching distance. I’m not affiliated with Lamaze but I do recommend their tummy time spin and explore toy. They can spin themselves as they get more confident in tummy time.
Distract baby with lights
Distraction is a big part of tummy time. They need to build strong brain connections by focusing on one thought at a time. Babies can be thinking about lights instead of thinking about how sore their tummy is when building core strength.
The goal of tummy time
The goal of tummy time is to build core and upper body muscles. The more you work with your baby on tummy time the easier rolling and crawling will be for their development. Eventually, your infant will be able to hold themselves up off the ground in preparation for crawling.
Crawling is the next brain development stage for a baby. It’s a whole new level of movement and brain connections. It’s important to build strong tummy time skills before this stage, which is usually around 5-7 months.
Written by Sarah Courtney