Tummy time. The phrase can strike fear in the hearts of babies and parents alike, albeit for very different reasons. When your precious bundle of joy first entered the world, you probably weren’t wowed by their amazing neck control.
If anything, you were terrified that their wobbly turkey neck offered no support, and you made it your goal to help them build some strength. Until you realized the only way to do that was tummy time.
If your little one is like the majority of squishy-jello-like infants, they probably lay face down and wail during tummy time. It’s not the most fun part of a parent’s day – yet.
We have some great ideas for how to make tummy time fun for both you and your baby! From toys to activities, we’ll cover it all.
Your child’s pediatrician probably has informed you about why tummy time exercises are so important, but we’ll recap.
First and foremost, tummy time is essential for developing some major muscles, including baby’s neck, back, core, and shoulder muscles. They’ll need to strengthen these areas in order to hold their head up unassisted, sit up, and eventually crawl and walk. 
Also, issues can arise if your baby lies on its back all the time. If babies spend a long time on their back, flat spots on their heads can develop.
However, did you know that it’s not only their physical muscles that are being strengthened during tummy time?
Letting them explore with sensory play, take in the world from a new perspective, and figure out how to control their body supports visual, motor, and cognitive development too.
Making sure that your baby is working on both physical and cognitive skills helps them meet important developmental milestones. Engaging in tummy time may also prevent early motor delays and physical conditions.
Though there are some tummy time alternatives, doctors generally agree that this is one activity that can’t be regularly replaced or skipped for your little one’s health (even if they spend most of it face down and wailing).
Many parents wonder when to start tummy time. After all, when you’re handed your floppy little newborn, the last thing you’re probably thinking is that you should set them down on their tummy.
However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), tummy time should start right away. Some parents begin as soon as their return from the hospital, while others wait until the umbilical stump falls off.
It can be a little nerve-wracking to take on tummy time with your newborn. Due to their lack of neck strength, they probably won’t move around much. Sometimes, they’ll lay their face directly down on the mat or blanket.
For these reasons, you should always supervise the baby – at any age. Don’t do tummy time on the couch or lay your baby on plush surfaces, as this could jeopardize their safety.
There are alternatives to the traditional laying baby on their tummy to play that can be suitable for a newborn, such as holding them upright so that they’re facing over your shoulder.
This way, their breathing isn’t impaired, but they’re still working on head control and muscle strength. Laying them belly down on your lap or chest can also keep them more comfortable.
That being said, remember, just because it may be scary at first and your child likely won’t enjoy it, you still shouldn’t skip tummy time.
Experts generally advise around one hour per day by the time your little one’s 3 months old.
That does certainly not mean you should lay your child belly down for sixty minutes straight. It is suggested that the hour of tummy time be broken down into smaller sessions for newborns and younger babies. Generally, you can do a few minutes at a time.
As your child grows stronger and more comfortable with tummy time, you can try longer sessions. Baby tummy time toys like a baby play gym can entertain your child and encourage them to lie on their tummy to play for longer.
There are a few tummy time ideas that can make tummy time more enjoyable for your little one. Introduce it slowly, and use soothing sounds and movements. Lay your child on your lap or chest to start, and talk or sing to them.
When you do transition to a mat, try to make it as safe as possible (meaning no loose fabrics) but also as soft and cushioned as possible. Not laying your little one on their belly immediately after eating is also advised.
Your little one might cry at first. If so, try to carry on with the activity while soothing them and trying to engage them with toys. If you believe your little one is truly uncomfortable, you can pause the tummy time and try again later.
- Tummy to tummy time. Instead of laying your little one down on the floor or a mat, recline back and place their tummy onto your own tummy so their head is laying on your chest. Talk or sing to encourage them to look up so you can be face to face.
- Tummy to lap. Try laying your little one across your lap while you’re sitting. Be sure to hold onto them.
- Vertical tummy time. Holding your little one under their bum as if you were carrying them either standing or reclining back. They should be facing backward over your shoulder.
- Bouncing baby. If you have a large yoga ball or exercise ball, lay your baby tummy down on top of it. Hold them securely and use your lower body to steady the ball.
- Black and White. Newborns love high contrast patterns, usually those using black and white. Try placing a patterned blanket or contrasting Montessori toys for babies in front of your little one during tummy time.
- Wrist or foot rattles. Try a few wrist rattles or sock rattles to encourage your baby to move around during tummy time.
- Sensory scarves. If you’re struggling with why babies cry and how to soothe them during tummy time, try using some silky or sheer scarves. Gently sweep them across your baby’s face to engage their senses and distract them.
- Consider a Boppy. A Boppy or another padded U-shaped pillow like a nursing pillow can help your little one get more comfortable. Just be sure they’re not too plush for your child’s size, which can place undue pressure on their back and neck. Lay on your own tummy to be eye to eye with them.
- Baby gyms and baby teething toys. Baby gyms with attached toys, including teethers, can be an excellent way to encourage your child to move, interact, and get comfortable on their belly. They’re also great if your baby won’t lift head during tummy time.
- Lights and music. Have you seen those toys that pop up or play music and have sounds when your little one engages? These can be perfect for tummy time, requiring that your baby hold their head up and watch to see what happens next.
- Swim sans water. Did you know they make tummy time mats filled with water? Inside are cute floating fish and sea creatures that move when your child does.
- Hey, good lookin’. If you can find a mirror tailored to babies (usually they’re durable and within a plastic holder), place it on the floor for tummy time! Your baby would love gazing down at themselves.
- Track the toy. As your baby gets better at tracking with their eyes, you may be able to tempt them to reach out and try to chase a toy or piece of fabric you pass back and forth in front of them, helping with hand-eye coordination.
- Say yes to sensory. Once your little one is rolling, it can be hard to convince them to continue tummy time. Placing sensory objects in front of them, like fuzzy animals, sponges, or crinkly fabrics, might help.
- Peekaboo. Why not work on object permanence during tummy time with a good old-fashioned game of peek-a-boo?
- Yard exploration. Under close supervision, take tummy time outside, laying your little one on a blanket on the lawn with their upper body close enough to be able to explore the grass.
- Music time. Musical exploration is excellent for the sense; try placing a child’s musical toy keyboard, string instrument, or child’s xylophone in front of your little one during tummy time to encourage them to push themselves up on their elbows and arms.
Many of the above tummy time ideas go perfectly with these favorite toys.
Lovevery The Play Gym is perfect for babies during tummy time, helping them work those neck muscles and core muscles even within the first few weeks. Its soft blanket base and grabbing toys are great for any stage or age.
Play kits are a fantastic way to engage your baby during tummy time. Lovevery The Play Kits are designed for a variety of ages and are developmentally appropriate, whether your child needs to practice lifting, grabbing toys, or working on head control.
We love how portable the Tiny Love Meadow Days play mat is. It’s convenient for brief periods of tummy time or even tummy time on the go. It even includes a mirror that babies love.
While a nursing pillow would work, this tummy time seated support from Infantino is a much better option. Suitable for tummy time, sitting, or just playing, it’s a versatile baby must-have.
We mentioned baby mirrors in our tummy time activities, and this Sassy Tummy Time Mirror is a perfect example. It’s safe, durable, and engaging for little ones of all ages.
Not all babies are fans of tummy time. If your little one cries and you’re struggling with how to do tummy time, check out these fuss-free tummy time tips.
- Avoid tummy time after feeding. Can you do tummy time after feeding? It’s not recommended as a full belly can cause lots of pressure, resulting in an unhappy baby.
- Take breaks. If your child isn’t having it, take a break and try again later. Try new tummy time ideas and tummy time activities to keep encouraging them.
- Change their diaper. Sometimes, it can be something else altogether, making your baby upset. Try a diaper change or burping them.
- Consider a change of scenery. Sometimes, moving to a different mat, a different room, or even going outside can help.
Tummy time is an important part of a baby’s development.
Be sure to include tummy time in your little one’s daily routine to help them develop physically and mentally.
Hopefully, this article provided you with fun activities and helpful tips to make tummy time terrific!
Last update on 2022-08-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API