Tips to make tummy time more enjoyable

We know that tummy time is important, but many babies don’t like it at all. Who could blame them really – it must be like trying to do a push up while someone’s sitting on your back!

It’s recommended that babies have some tummy time each day from birth, a few times a day, to build up their head, neck, and upper body strength. It’s also a great way to prevent flat head syndrome.

As parents, we often dread it because it can lead to some tears. It can feel like we’re being cruel, can’t it? We don’t want you to stress about it anymore, so here are some simple tips to make it more enjoyable from day one.

Tips to make tummy time more enjoyable

For newborns…

Start slow

In the first few weeks, aim for 1-2 minutes a few times a day. When your baby is ready, slowly build up to 10-15 minutes several times a day.

Follow their lead

If your baby starts to communicate that they’re unhappy on their tummy, respectful parenting expert Janet Lansbury recommends that you tell your baby that you can see they’re getting tired, and offer to pick them up. Watch for any sign of a response. If there is one, let them know you’re going to pick them up. Give them a little rest in your arms and tell them gently that you’re going to place them back on the floor. If you think your baby needs a nap instead, there’s no need to push tummy time for now.

Tummy to tummy time

Get comfortable lying down on the couch with your upper body propped up a little with cushions. Place your baby awake on your chest. This absolutely counts as tummy time, and is a lovely bonding opportunity. Make eye contact, and chat to one another. You might like to use this time for some skin-on-skin contact (here are the wonderful benefits of doing this).

Aeroplane baby

Cradle your baby with their tummy across your arms, and go for a walk, chatting about what you see along the way.

Bouncy ball

If you have a yoga ball, place your baby on top of it (you might want to put a blanket under them). Keeping a firm hold on your bub, gently and slowly move the ball backwards and forwards, and from side to side, chatting or singing to them.

Go nappy free

After a nappy change, or bath, pop your baby on their tummy on their change mat or a soft towel on the floor. You’ll then get some bonus nappy-free time as well! Read the benefits here.

From 6-12 weeks…

Use props on the floor

After the first few weeks, you can put your baby on the floor for some tummy time. Rather than putting your little one flat on the floor, use a nursing pillow, or a rolled up towel or blanket, and place it under their chest and armpits. Place some toys or yourself in front of them to keep them entertained.

Use your legs

To mix things up, you could use your outstretched legs as the prop on the floor. Sing, rub their back, use gentle movement, and chat to your baby to reassure them and keep them close for comfort.

Vary the entertainment

Now, you can start to provide a variety of fun things to keep them entertained during tummy time. Rather than always placing familiar toys in front of them, try:

  • A mirror. Babies love looking at faces!
  • A water mat that’s filled with water and little floating toys
  • Moving some fabric in front of them
  • Wrist rattles can be fun
  • Make a wall of books around them, particularly those with high contrast black and white images

From 3-4 months…

You can start to add in some fun sensory play, such as:

  • Make some easy sensory bottles or bags – find out how to here
  • Do some tummy time finger painting. You’ll find a simple two-ingredient edible recipe here for babies who have started solids.
  • Make a sensory tray filled with household objects to explore. Things like hair brushes, wooden spoons, sponges, and teething toys.
  • Place a shallow tray of water and floating toys in front of your baby (as long as they can hold their head up well).
  • Play peekaboo, or hide and make toys appear for some giggles and fun.
  • Use a hula hoop to make a tummy time ring. Simply tie to a hula hoop some fabric, ribbons, bubble wrap, big pom poms, faux fur, and basically anything safe and tactile. Pop your baby in the middle of it for lots of sensory fun.

Reminder: Tummy time should always be supervised at any stage of development. Enjoy! 

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