What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is any time spent on your baby's tummy. This can be laying on the floor, or even on your own chest or tummy.
When you are tummy to tummy with your baby, you can encourage them to look at your face to help them lift their head; this will help to strengthen their neck and core. You can also gently sway your baby by supporting under their tummy on your arm and when they get older you can dance with them, moving them around in the air on their tummies.
What is the importance of Tummy Time?
Tummy time is an important time for babies as it allows them to discover what different parts of their body can do.
This means that tummy time will help babies to understand and learn to:
- Put their hands down to steady themselves when they lose balance
- Propel themselves with their toes across the floor
- Be strong enough to roll and draw their knees up to their chest
- Push back with their hands
It also helps babies to strengthen their neck, back and arm muscles which will then help to teach them how to sit up and crawl.
How much Tummy Time is best?
For infants not yet mobile, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day whilst they're awake (as well as other movements such as reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling themselves independently, or rolling over). The more tummy time and time spent doing other movements, the better.
Tummy time may be unfamiliar to babies at first, but can be increased gradually, starting from a minute or two at a time, to help your baby get used to it. Please note that babies should not sleep on their tummies.
Top Tips for Tummy Time
- Get your baby on their tummy as soon as you can
- When they're little, a rolled-up blanket or towel under their chest will help raise their heads off the floor. This will add support and encourages your baby to lift their head
- Try little and often – especially when your baby is young. If they are upset then reassure them with cuddles, but don't be afraid to try again
- Young children have a limited range of sight, so add different textures and larger things to look at, such as something that lights up which will catch their interest
- Make sure the floor is fun. If everything is happening above them they will not want to stay on the floor
- A good way to tell if the floor is engaging is to lay on the floor yourself and get a baby's eye view. If you have just given birth and you have someone that is with you - make sure you let them do it for you
- Socks off! It helps the baby feel the floor beneath them by using their toes so always remember to add interesting textures for curious feet too
- Babies love interacting with others and tummy time is a great time to model play by getting down on the floor with them. A lot of babies struggle with tummy time if they are the only ones on the floor
- By playing with your baby and the materials you have put out for them, you're encouraging exploration as you are modelling play and demonstrating how to interact with the items
- Tummy time does not need any expensive equipment, look around and see what different textures you already have, such as a woolly scarf, a fluffy blanket and towels, a crinkly emergency blanket or outside on the grass
- Add a bit of movement, a water mat or partially inflated rubber ring can be very fun to wobble on and supports core strength
- If your baby has a preference for a type of toy then embrace this and use it during tummy time. For example, if your little one loves anything that crinkles, you could use an emergency blanket, or any crinkly books and toys
- The more tummy time your baby does, the more confident they will get when playing independently
- Anyone can help with tummy time so get the whole family involved!
- It is never too late to introduce tummy time. With older children you can set out a simple obstacle course by tying string around the table legs and challenge them to crawl underneath, tape paper to the floor to draw on or make a tunnel out of sofa cushions
- Tummy time for older children will also help to strengthen their core, help them to balance and sit comfortably for a story or through a meal
- Be mindful of the time of day and avoid tummy time after feeds or if your baby is due a nap
- If they're upset a lot on their tummy and it makes them sick long after a feed, chat to your health visitor as it could be reflux etc.
- Avoid using seats and chairs, such as a bouncer or sit in walker, for long periods of time
- KEEP IT FUN!
Tummy Time Kit
Not sure where to start? By gathering a few bits together, you can create a kit which you gradually add to as your baby grows older. This kit can be useful to quickly and easily grab when your baby is in the mood for a spot of tummy play! Here are some ideas:
- Invest in an emergency blanket: they are very cheap online and in chemists, and are endless fun
- Gather different materials together: such as scarves, an old towel, blankets, fleecy clothing, and a bathmat etc.
- A mirror: babies do not normally notice themselves in the mirror until they are older, but it is a lovely smooth texture for younger babies. Make sure it is appropriate for your baby and is child safe
- Fill old washed out plastic pop bottles and tubs with interesting items to rattle such as pasta or rice
- A rolled-up blanket or towel to support your baby under their chest
- Find interesting toys which crinkle or have light and sound
The above content was created by Katy Harris from Inspired Children.